By Marvin Ross
Some of the most heroic figures in health care are the lowly personal support workers. They often tend to be the least well trained and the worst paid but they do a vital job day after day. I say some are less well trained because it is a job, in Canada at least, for recent immigrants. Some are nurses, technicians and even doctors from their country of origin who don’t qualify to practice here. Their country of origin changes depending upon the latest wave of immigration. Today, most are from the Philippines but when my mother was in a nursing home, they were from the West Indies and one was even a pediatrician from the Soviet Union.
My friend with Alzheimer’s is now confined to his dementia care home and cannot go out and cannot receive visitors and it is driving him to extreme frustration. He does not understand and keeps phoning me to complain and demand I end his isolation. He becomes quite agitated and borders on being violent. Other than dementia, he is in excellent physical health and his PSW’s routine is to take him out where he meets people in a coffee shop, goes for long walks, buys the New York Times and walks the streets and trails around the area.
That keeps him happy and, as I monitor his spending, I see in the course of a day debits from all of the coffee chains in the area along with the bookstores and food places in the area. It must be difficult enough for them to manage all that with him day after day but now they are locked in the home with him trying to keep him occupied. And for the most part, they do and with good cheer. Their efforts are amazing and to be applauded. I have no idea what they earn but they are worth double that.
During this current epidemic, their jobs are both more difficult and dangerous.
They are, as I said, all from the Philippines but when my mom was in a nursing home, they were mostly West Indian. One day, I visited and this very large West Indian lady yelled at me. “Your mother needs brassieres”, she said. “Why do you not get them for her?” “ I didn’t know,” I replied, “but I will speak to the desk and have them ordered”.
“No that’s too expensive. I know her size so I will get them and you can pay me back.” I was totally amazed with her offer. She went out, bought them for my mom and I paid her back.
Another time, my mother was scheduled to go see an eye doctor but the disabled transport cancelled at the last moment so the appointment had to be postponed. The night before her next appointment, the night nurse called to say she was worried that the transport would not show up again so did she have my permission to send her by taxi. I approved but said I could not get her the money in time. “Not to worry. I’ll pay for it and you can pay me back when you visit next”.
Again I was dumbfounded and made sure to get there as soon as I could to reimburse her and to thank her in person.
So, lets’ hear it for the truly essential, brave and lowly paid medical staff who keep the system going.