No Time to Care
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No Time to Care

By Mary*, a PSW working in an Ontario long term care facility

When my mom got sick, my sisters and I took turns staying with her 24/7. The last year was hell. By the time she passed away, we were just taking care of a shell of the amazing woman she was her entire life.

That’s when I decided to become a PSW. At the age of 49, it was a big decision. But knowing I could help someone have peace of mind and give them assurance in their decision to place their family member with us, by caring for their loved ones, was the exact reason I came into this field.

When I first started working at this home 11 years ago, things were very different.  Each shift helped the next. Those working on midnights would make sure the gloves were always stocked in each bathroom, the linen closets were divided equally with what we needed, and we were fully stocked with pillowcases, flannels, cotton sheets, and quilts. Those working on days would always put towels in each bathroom to coincide with the number of residents, they would make sure the stock was plentiful in each room, and those working afternoons would always have their residents showered, shaved, and take care of their nails—something that is very important for the elderly.

We would all have time to talk to the residents and connect with them. There was no special treatment because every resident was treated like our own parent or grandparent.

But the “new improved schedule” that has been implemented at our home leaves little room for any of that. For example, rather than have one staff member specifically doing baths, all staff are required to do all care. I suppose management is trying to ensure every staff person knows how to do the care for every resident, but the issue is that many people are relying on shortcuts to get the work done and we feel like we’re losing control of our work.

After the new schedule was implemented, I cried most of the way home from work. My body was just done. I was so tired and my back, shoulders, and wrists were aching. I’m definitely not afraid of hard work, but the sections were not divided fairly. My partner and I had to do six two-person lifts, four bath/showers, and three bed changes. I didn’t get my work done until just before my 11 a.m. lunch break.

As the designated bath person for many years, I speak from experience that the residents are not getting anything beyond a simple bath or shower. I used to take approximately half an hour—depending on their needs—to bathe a resident. This included a shave, doing their nails, and—I cannot stress enough how important this is—listening to each of them with undivided attention. Not to mention having to clean and sterilize the equipment after each resident and using the proper laundry bags. I guarantee this is not always getting done. We have absolutely no time to spend giving the residents extra care, having conversations with them, or to use the proper cleaning and laundry disposal that is required.

I work part-time and am not physically or mentally able to work more than one shift per week. I can only imagine how the increased workload and constant policing of our actions is physically, mentally, and emotionally affecting the rest of the staff. Not to mention the residents—they are getting the bare minimum of care and not getting any social interaction from us. It’s completely dehumanizing.

But I do my job to the best of my ability, and listen wholeheartedly to my exhausted coworkers and share in their pain. Maybe if the powers that set up this “new improved schedule” actually worked the floor for a few shifts, they would get a better understanding. Because actually doing the work opposed to putting names on a paper and creating a schedule are two very different things. Providing care is so much more than an equation on paper and when someone tries to make these kinds of decisions from an office, they miss so much that cannot be easily written down.

The residents should be treated with the utmost respect and care they deserve, and I’m afraid they’re not getting that. If that was your parent or grandparent in the home, what kind of care would you want them to receive?

*name changed  

 

 

 

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