What does the future hold for seniors in Ontario?
It’s seems like an eternity ago we learned about Elizabeth Wettlaufer the killer nurse who took the lives of 8 residents of nursing homes between 2007 and 2016. Covid-19 has now claimed the lives of over 60+ residents in nursing homes, yet she remains as one of Canada’s most infamous serial killers.
When the dust settles the question on many baby boomers mind could be: do I want to send my mother or father into Long Term Care or Retirement facility when either of their time comes?
Will home care be the choice for so many as our population rapidly becomes one of the oldest in the Country?
My thought, to be honest, is likely. But as I look into what the future may hold, I wonder just how long will the traditional method of home care be able to operate before the small cracks in its foundation are exposed just as COVID-19 has now exposed them in long term care and retirement homes?
As a private home health care operator since 2012 I could write a book with the challenges that present themselves on a daily basis. Cars not starting, weather not permitting travel, clerical errors, and yes even unethical practices such as theft of money and valuables. In some instances, a care giver might go as far as to move in with their senior client. They might even go so far as to assume power of attorney for those seniors who left it too late and now rely on the goodwill of others to make calls about care, finances and even the family homestead.
Why do we plan our retirement savings, plan for vacations, plan for our kids education, and spend countless hours to plan a wedding, yet we don’t plan for what we all know is coming, growing old.
Since Castle Keep has ceased serving seniors the last two weeks my phone continues to ring with questions about helping folks with their aged loved ones. It’s always a twenty-minute conversation followed by a statement. “I think my parent needs one hour in the morning and one hour at night for help.” Followed by, “but I don’t want that caregiver being with anyone else to reduce my parents’ risk.”
This is how we all think when it comes to health care. Treat the acute need, and hope that the water doesn’t flow over the dyke. But the water always, always flows over, time waits for no man. Death and taxes, all this stuff we ought to know by now is just forgotten when in trying to band-aid fix a crisis.
Back to my initial question, do I think home care will be more popular after this is all behind us? Yes, I do, but I also predict that the traditional home care model must change. If it doesn’t, it will be us PSW’s, striving to improve senior’s quality of life who will be the next group of Typhoid Mary’s, unwittingly bringing communicable disease to those in our care, all one hundred thousand of us in Ontario.
Like Ontario’s needed, yet scrapped, basic income attempt (piloted in my home town of Lindsay) we all need to live with some basic level of income don’t we? Why has our Government not yet figured out that in the face of a healthcare crisis, many of us who could be the hero’s on the frontline with many other PSW’s have chose not to be. Why?
We will make more income safe at home with our families than going to work in some of the most deadly environments in our Country.
This is what we need.
Minimum home care shift lengths must be implemented. Mileage fees for travelling caregivers as the norm, benefits to help us with our back pain, blood pressure, and asthma as we serve the WWII veteran who smokes 2 packs of Export A’s in his kitchen each day.
We need access to Personal Protection Equipment, home life balance, and to be treated like we treat our clients; with respect and dignity.
This should come at some cost to us, like the Spider-Man monologue says, “with great power comes great responsibility.” We should be regulated like nurses so the public can be sure that we won’t push the boundaries without knowing it could lead to future hardships to us and those in our care.
We all should be expected to continue to learn and grow educationally each year, as new procedures, developments, and diseases need to be planned for in advance, not in the eye of the storm.
We should have to join support groups and support one another to reduce the fierce competition for “full time lines” or night shift vs. dayshift comparisons.
Our names should be proudly posted on our chests so every single client, resident, family member, or guest knows who we are, who we work for, and where we can be reached for any questions or concerns related to our work.
We can do this, both private and government funded organizations alike. We need to have some basic income related to serving others, and basic accountabilities for our actions. It’s really that simple.
I’ll volunteer to help develop a plan, better still I’d like to be compensated to help draw up a plan, as us PSW’s have been volunteering our time for far too long. I’ve done it before just a year ago, helped to form a board to regulate PSW curriculum only to see the funding not be released. I believe that for the Government to try and solve all of these looming challenges they are going to need to ask some of us from the front line as we know what is needed, just ask.