Posted by Steve Jones
Thu, Dec 19, 2013
As Canadians age or become ill they become more dependent on family members and caregivers. Inevitably, the responsibilities of their adult children grow and the need for outside support may become necessary. Fortunately, a personal support worker (PSW) can alleviate much of the workload placed on a family while providing companionship, healthcare services and peace of mind to loved ones.
What does a Personal Support Worker Do?
A personal support worker (PSW) often acts as the personal confidant to the elderly, providing 24-hour care support and medical guidance when needed. Always well trained, PSWs often come with years of related healthcare education and experience under their respective belts to help them on the job and in the field. This skill set allows PSWs to successfully navigate complex health issues while working closely with family physicians to anticipate medical needs as illness or infirmity progresses.
Personal support workers also take a proactive role in the healthcare of their clients. PSWs review therapies and medications for possible health benefits and side effects at the request of elderly care clients, their families and through the advisement of a physician. After researching the proposed treatments, PSWs can deliver educated recommendations to families and other members of the palliative care team.
Day-to-day health and hygiene also fall under the duties of a personal support worker. When elderly patients are immobile or infirmed PSWs can help them wash up, brush their teeth, manage hair and nails and help them use the bathroom. The applications of lotions and massage can help soothe some patients and even increase mobility, but not all PSWs are properly trained in massage techniques. In some cases an additional support worker or masseuese can be enlisted to provide that specific sub-set of in-home palliative care.
Serious health issues aside, PSWs work to maintain the standard of living and comfort for their aged clients. Whether at home or in a palliative care facility, they improve livability for a patient's surrounding by recommending the installation of hand rails, ramps, the repositioning of furniture and even meal preparation when needed.
Here's a simplified list of what a personal support worker is responsible for, including domestic care and the physical well-being of their elderly clients:
- Providing personal care for clients (aid with movement, personal hygiene, bathing, dressing and undressing).
- Caring for individual patients or entire families through situations/conditions that cause incapacitation or family difficulty.
- Administering daily health-related duties (medications and injections, replacing non-sterile contusion dressings, collecting various blood and tissue specimens under the guidance of a doctor or nurse).
- Meal preparation and planning including special diets, feeding or assistance with eating and drinking.
- Managing routine housekeeping tasks (laundry, making beds, washing dishes, bathroom sterilization, etc).
- Providing elderly patients with companionship and healthcare in the client’s home under the guidance of a home care agency, family member, doctor or nurse.
- Teaching basic to advanced infant care to new and expectant parents.
In some cases, family members and caregivers can become fatigued if they attempt to handle a strenuous care regiment all by themselves, especially if they have careers and family of their own. In order to avoid "caregiver's burnout," a professional personal support worker can be hired to share the workload alongside family members. It's important to consult other family members and the existing care team to make the right choice for your own situation. Fortunately, PSWs can provide exactly what elderly patients and their adult children need to stay as strong and healthy as possible through the aging process or progression of an illness.