What does ‘ALOHA’ mean to you? In the caring world- or at least in the Hollywood-type caring world, and in the movie “The Fundamentals of Caring” the acronym stands for: Ask, Listen, Observe, Help, Ask Again. Not a bad message.
This is the advice provided to Ben (played by Paul Rudd) by his teacher-who is leading a class for those wanting to become a licensed professional caregiver. As his first job, he is accepted by and he accepts to work with Trevor (played by Craig Roberts) who is a young man with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. This was an enjoyable movie. For me, the movie highlighted the very special bond that can exist between the caregiver and care-recipient thusly the topic of today’s blog.
I am not referring to the 28% of Canadians who are family carers but rather to the paid carer and those who choose caregiving as their occupation. From my perspective, Personal Support Workers (PSW) are performing essential activities that are typically underpaid and under-recognized. It takes a special person to choose to work in a field of giving, giving and more giving and yet for many, the reward is in the giving. PSWs can make the difference in whether a senior is able to remain independently living in the community or not. They can make the difference for a client who lives in a Long Term Care facility or resides on a secure floor of a retirement residence, so that they can have the much needed 1:1 attention or go an outing. In addition to the physical assistance they provide, they also offer cognitive stimulation, conversation, friendship and most importantly – attention. For many older individuals, a PSW can be their lifeline. I refer to my previous blog ‘A Caregiver’s Grief’ which reinforces the close attachment that is so often made and cherished between the carer and the care recipient.
Given our multicultural country, we do not have enough qualified caregivers who speak the many languages of our many seniors. According to the 2011 Census, just under 40% of adults 55 and over spoke a non-official language on a regular basis at home. (The Toronto Seniors Strategy). As a result of dementia, many seniors will revert to their native language. I would love to see more high schools arrange for volunteer placements and career counselling aimed at young people to pursue post secondary education to learn and train to become PSWs. Wouldn’t it also be great if paid caregiving was considered a career of choice and respect and was appropriately remunerated? With more seniors over age 65 than youngsters under 15, we need to encourage our young people to consider a field in geriatrics or as Trevor asked Ben, who will wipe our bums?