Planning Ahead for Elder Care: Who is Helping Whom?

Originally published at on March 30, 2015

For many, working with the elderly is not ‘sexy’. I personally hate that word, but it seems to be a common refrain. In my own profession, many social workers who are looking for placement opportunities and their first job, prefer to work with children.

We have a shortage of culturally connected Personal Support Worker (PSW). Historically, caregiving has been unpaid (by friends, family) or paid poorly. Statistics Canada data reports that 28% of Canadians are providing non paid care to family and friends. Involved hours and responsibilities increase with care needs. While this may be admirable and often times necessary, it can cause great discomfort and resentment. Whenever possible, I try to assist adult children back into their role as adult children and not the caregiver providing bathing or toileting assistance to their parent. This can be particularly difficult for parents and children of the opposite sex. The son providing toileting/bathing to his mother and vice versa.

When the care provider is not a family member, I have found and while not statistically proven, that most seniors like to have someone working with them to be a person with whom they can relate; whether it be culturally, through their own language, interests, food or experience (travel, parenting, stamp collecting).

I would like to see the profession of Personal Support Workers be introduced as part of career planning within high schools. Volunteer work in this field is a natural fit with no shortage of opportunities. I would think this will also strengthen the inter-connected, relationship rewards and respect for both. This path then lends itself to enrollment in a community college training program. From what I see- this is a win-win; opportunities for young people to start their careers and work experience and there are/will be many older folks who will benefit and require the assistance of a PSW.

Assistance by caregivers is an integral component of helping seniors remain living safely in their own homes. By providing the physical hands on assistance that is required, and/or the socialisation and companionship, Personal Support Workers play a vital role in maintaining one’s health and quality of life. This is the starting point and with the aging numbers yet to come, I think we need to look ahead and look behind, to younger students who are starting off.

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