By Moojan Haidari, Communications & Fundraising Specialist – Ottawa
A world without Heather is not the kind of world Lois could imagine living in – especially in today’s time. Heather is Lois’ Personal Support Worker (PSW) and has been helping Lois a few days a week for the last seven years. Life without Heather would mean waking up with heightened anxiety and feeling more isolated than ever. It would mean fearing days of not being able to get out of bed in the morning, falling and perhaps ending up in the hospital.
While her husband, Ed, tries his best to attend to her needs, at the age of 88 and with his own frail health, he desperately needs Heather’s help.
A helping hand can go a long way
There aren’t many people who understand the value of home care like Lois Frazier-Blakeney. When she suffered a fall that left her paralyzed more than 30 years ago, she relied on Carefor’s services (formerly known as the Victorian Order of Nurses) to keep her safe and healthy. Now 85 years old, and after spending five years in a nursing home, she can attest that there is no better place to receive high-quality care than in the comfort and safety of her own home.
“I spent 28 years in a wheelchair and received all kinds of support. Now I’m able to move around with my walker … If it wasn’t for PSWs like Heather, I wouldn’t be here today.”
In the seven years that longtime Carefor PSW Heather Munn has been visiting Lois, she has been helping her with her exercises, bathing, and dressing. Lois says a critical component to her care is having a trained PSW put on her waist-high compression socks, which increases her mobility and independence. Without them, she wouldn’t be able to go about her day and live a fuller life.
In turn, Heather’s helping hand has taken the brunt off Ed. “He would have to do a lot more than he already does, and he would be exhausted,” Lois admits.
Lois cannot stress enough how important Heather’s visits have been during the pandemic, easing that heightened sense of social isolation: “It’s important for us seniors to be safe at home. We aren’t leaving our space and seeing others. The only outside relationship we have is with Carefor staff.”
Undoubtedly, the relationship between a PSW and his or her longtime client becomes quite special. Heather always helps Lois feel a sense of safety and comfort, even during the most difficult of times. “They see you at your very worst and your very best – they really become your family,” Lois says.
Personal Support Workers are a bridge to health and safety for many seniors
PSWs are the pillars of community health care. In the last year, Carefor PSWs have made more than 700,000 home visits. They help people who need assistance due to illness, aging or increasing dependencies. Their services include bathing assistance, exercise, companionship, feeding assistance, grooming, light housekeeping, and more. This level of personal care helps to reduce caregiver burnout and keep clients safe and healthy in their homes, also giving many of them the dignity they deserve.
“They are the hands that help you do things you can’t do,” Lois says. “PSWs like Heather have kept me sane. They are a key force in our community.”
Supporting clients, like Lois, are far beyond a job for many PSWs: “They rely on us to start their day. We go above and beyond and lend a helping hand, a listening ear or become that shoulder to lean on during their toughest times,” Heather says.
And during the pandemic, being that support system has never been more important. “Home is where people want to grow old, and so we are doing everything we can to keep them safe and healthy in their own homes,” Heather says. A recent Home Care Ontario study found over 95% of seniors in Ontario believe staying home is the safest environment to live in during the pandemic, and over 93% of seniors in Ontario would choose to stay in their homes with home care services instead of moving to a long-term care facility.
For Lois, advocating for home care means a better future for everyone in our communities.
“The world has changed so much, and the needs for home care are also changing. Many years ago, most seniors were looked after by their family. Nowadays, it takes two people working to make ends meet, which means there isn’t anybody to keep an eye on an older person. So if seniors can’t stay in their own home to receive the help to keep them out of the nursing homes, who would do it if it wasn’t for a personal support worker?”
Taking care of the generation that took care of us
If COVID-19 has proven one thing, it’s that home care is needed more than ever. It’s also one of the cheapest and safest ways to deliver and receive care, keeping our loved ones out of hospitals and long-term care homes.
“The world has changed so much, and yet is hasn’t. Needs have changed, and yet they haven’t. The need for home care has always been there, and forever will be,” Lois stresses.
For Lois, home is more than a place – it’s what brings her joy and comfort. Home is where she can be with her husband. It’s where her loved ones can also feel that sense of belonging.
That said, Lois can’t imagine a world without Carefor, and for good reason. Because a world with Carefor means peace of mind. It means the seniors of today – and tomorrow – are living in a community that cares for them.
“Seniors took care of you when you were young, now seniors are in a position that need your help,” Lois says.
Carefor’s home care services are a lifeline for thousands of seniors in Ottawa. Living safe and healthy lives is our clients’ right; and therefore, our duty to support it. Carefor is proud to be at the forefront in ensuring the health and safety of seniors today, and of generations to come.
You can help us keep seniors, like Lois, stay safe at home by giving at carefor.ca/donate.