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Letter: A PSW and a challenge to the premier

"These residents are people. These people deserve to be treated as humans."

Editor's note: This letter was also sent to Premier Doug Ford.

My name is Cheri. I have been a PSW in a long-term care home for the past 10 years. As with most people in my profession, I love my job. We are here to provide quality care services. 

I’m not sure if you are familiar with what exactly a PSW does in a nursing home. I, Like my fellow PSWs, care for the elderly, the sick, the frail, the disabled, the mentally challenged, those who have mental health issues, Alzheimers, dementia, young and old, and many more. 

Our job requires us to treat the residents as a whole, meaning: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual. This means that when we provide care to a resident, we try to keep their dignity by having them do as much as possible for themselves, respecting their wishes, customs and rights.

I’m not sure if you have ever heard of the Residents' Bill of Rights? “The Bill of Rights for residents of Ontario nursing homes became law in 1987. In 1993, it became law for residents of Ontario municipal and charitable homes for the aged. The Ontario government passed this Bill of Rights to make sure that long-term care facilities are truly homes for the people who live in them.” I will attach a copy for you.

You, sir, and your government are violating these people's rights. You allow approximately seven mins per resident for care: to get them dressed, bathed, mouth care, comb their hair and be ready to go to the dining room for breakfast. How do we afford these people dignity, to be able to do anything for themselves when we don’t have the time to allow them to do things for themselves? 

Heaven forbid if these poor people should get upset about their situation and start crying because they are depressed. We can’t console them because we have to get 30 residents to the dining room on time. Or, they have to go to the bathroom so bad, but have to wait because they are at least fifth in line and staffing is short (yet again) so there are only a couple PSWs to take care of the whole floor, and they are already helping someone else.

These residents are people. Mothers, fathers, brothers , sisters, daughters, sons. Would you want your family members treated like this? How dignified would you feel if you had to soil yourself because you can’t go to the bathroom by yourself and the staff were already busy with other residents. Or worse, you can’t wait and try to do it yourself and now find yourself on the bathroom floor with a broken hip.

These residents are people. These people deserve to be treated as humans. Long-term care homes should not be factories pushing elderly people down a conveyor belt to be “processed” in less than seven mins and moved to the dining room in time for breakfast, or put in a TV room til the next meal with no one to talk to. 

Some of these residents’ only interaction is with their PSW. We love them and care for them and hug them when they are sad, often holding their hand as they take their last breath, telling them that everything is going to be ok.

So I challenge you, Mr. Ford, to live the life of a resident for just one day, only getting dressed, fed, brought to the bathroom when a PSW has the time to help you. God help you if someday you need the services of healthcare workers.

Cheri Sorenson-Poisson
Belle River, ON