Personal Support Workers
Hire personal care in your home, through a home care agency
Personal support workers (PSWs) are hired by seniors or families through home care agencies; these people are the frontline in home health care, and many seniors find a preference for a specific PSW. These care workers are an important help to seniors who may have need for some personal care, that may include dressing and bathing, transferring, feeding, medication administration and other in-home nursing requirements. While it is typical to hire personal support workers in the home, they can also be hired in active lifestyle communities and in retirement homes, where their services can be used to augment care available in the residence.
PSWs also go by other names including health care aides, personal care worker (or assistant) and other designations.
Find personal service workers from the following agencies
In a generalized sense, PSWs offer regular companionship to seniors who may be living alone for the most part; the importance of this cannot be underestimated. PSWs come regularly into the home, offering comfort and regularity to seniors; many families find hiring a PSW an important augmentation to family caregiving, which is often interrupted by work and other commitments.
The importance of hiring professional PSWs
Among other things, personal support workers (PSWs) offer an important bridge between caring for oneself and making the move. PSWs are available through home care agencies, for the most part, but you may prefer a specific individual. People make the mistake of thinking that it is a good idea to hire someone they know, someone who may be less qualified than what is available through home care agencies.
There are many risks inherent in hiring non-professional PSWs who are not certified and may not be adequately prepared to care for you or your elderly family member. This includes the notion of hiring a family friend or even considering a family member as essentially a personal service worker.
In the province of Ontario, the Ontario Health Care Association (OHCA) regulates workers with measures that ensure that you are getting the best personal care. Aside from those measures, private health care companies have their own standards and measures in place to ensure employee reliability and professionalism. Here are some things you can expect from a professional PSW:
- They will have been selectively recruited. Some OHCA member companies hire less than 10% of those they interview. They screen workers based on their ability to meet the demands of the job and the stresses that come with this type of work.
- Security. PSWs and other employees in a professional home care company will almost always be bonded and insured, with police checks (criminal record) and referenced checked.
- Organizational accountability. Aside from government supervision, there is an organizational chain of command inherent in any home care agency, which ensures the quality of care given.
- Liability coverage. Families who hire non-professionals underestimate the hazards of the job that can include potential for injury (for example, due to heavy lifting or other interaction). Liability coverage provided by companies protects the PSW – and also families. In the province of Ontario, employees will be covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
- Specialized training. There is a whole host of specialized training that goes into being an in-home care worker. Workers also receive ongoing training to upgrade skills and understanding of the needs of elderly. They may have psychological training, and they may have training in professionalized techniques such as gentle persuasion.
- Experience. Professional personal care workers bring experience to the table, also, of course. Their previous experience (be it from last month or from many years of working in the field) helps them treat you or your loved one with the utmost care and professionalism.
- Accreditation. Most home care companies are accredited through Accreditation Canada, CARF Canada, and/or registered with the International Standards Association (ISO).
When hiring a PSW, be sure to find out their certification, qualifications, training and level of experience to ensure that this meets your needs. It is well-documented that this is a difficult process and families can make bad hires. Be prepared to be choosy, and we urge you to consider the value of paying for the best, professional service you can find.
The process of hiring a PSW
Across provinces in Canada, hiring a personal service worker comes almost always through the recommendation of government bodies, with examples including BC Health, Alberta Health Services or Local Health Integration Networks in Ontario.
If you qualify for a personal service worker, the cost of care may be covered in part or in whole by government subsidies or even provincial health care. For example, some provinces cover the cost of physiotherapy. Once you are in the process of looking for a PSW, you should look around at different agencies and consult with several. Typically, this begins with a 10 minute phone call in which you learn about services offered by the home care agency. If you find the home care agency agreeable, you will schedule an in-home assessment, with one of your choosing.
The in-home assessment
During the in-home assessment, a representative of the home care agency will come into your home and discuss your needs in-depth with you (and family members if you want); you may be matched with a PSW immediately and the PSW who comes to the assessment may be the one you end up working with long term. The in-home assessment is a kind of interview process, in which you fully explain your requirements and learn how the PSW will enrich your life and solve problems. You will outline a schedule, and get an overview of the relationship you will be developing. If you have any other questions or concerns, all of these should get answered in the in-home assessment that you have with the personal service worker you are hiring.
Beginning in the assessment and extending beyond that, the home care agency will develop a care plan that meets your needs and the needs of your family. You will be matched with a PSW who will best fit with your needs, and the service will be ready to begin.
When hiring a professional PSW, be sure that you know whom to appeal to if you have any concerns or problems (such as missed visits, etc.)
In home care services you may receive
Some essential services that you may receive from a personal service worker are as follows:
- Assistance with tasks of daily living; this may include bathing, washing, dressing, transferring, toileting and other ADLs
- Therapies such as physiotherapy or occupational therapy
- Help with housework such as vacuuming, bathroom cleaning, dishes and laundry, etc.
- Meal preparation
- Help with shopping and other short travel outings
Not all of these are included with every service or by every PSW, so you will need to get clarification from the home care service provider.