Running is the new normal for long term care aides in B.C. - InfoNews

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Running is the new normal for long term care aides in B.C.

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August 19, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Even before COVID-19, life was getting tougher for care aides working in B.C.’s long term care homes.

Running short-staffed was not unusual even in the higher-paid facilities run by health regions, according to a care aide who has spent more than a decade working in the system but did not want her identity revealed because she needs her job.

“There are definitely time restraints,” she told iNFOnews.ca. “Our workload is increasingly heavier. We’re supposed to be looking after seniors but we’re getting more and more mental health patients that we’re not qualified to look after.”

Not only has the level of care needed for residents increased but the number of people working has declined, which compounds when there are inevitable shortages due to illness or other factors.

“You have to do more so it takes away from all your other residents,” she said. “You’re rushing through trying to get care done and you don’t have enough time to give help to everyone equally. It’s sad.”

While some residents have higher levels of cognitive functioning than others, they’ve been put into these care facilities because they can no longer live on their own or need too much attention to live with family.

“I think we’re just getting used to running, it’s the new normal,’ she added. “It would be nice to have less of a workload and more time for our people. I would love to sit down and say ‘how are you doing today?’ like we used to.

“The more complex the people, the more complex the care, the more time it takes to do each person. So, really, we get them up, we toilet them, we take them for breakfast, we toilet them, we feed them, we toilet them. There’s no in between to really get to know these people. You can’t sit down and find out why somebody’s upset and really take the time to help them and make them feel like somebody’s listening because you’re always thinking, jeez, I’ve got to get two more people done.”

This was before COVID-19 hit and new rules were put in place so each staff member could only work at a single site. That was supposed to be balanced out as changes were being made so all facilities were fully staffed. In reality, there are fewer casuals available in some locations so there are more staff shortages at times.

On top of that, there has been the isolation from family that has had a serious negative impact on residents during COVID-19.

“You can see the decline,” the worker said. “Not only did the visits stop, activities stopped because you couldn’t have large groups of them sitting together. So, you’ve gone from having your loved ones and doing activities and having a busy day to, all of a sudden, all they have to do is eat, sleep and stare at the wall. You can see the decline in a lot of them. I feel for the loved ones, I really do, because it’s shocking when you finally get to come in and visit to see the difference in your loved ones.”

In her facility, more staff have been hired to screen people coming in, oversee the visits and clean between sessions. On busy days, that means limiting visitors to 45 minutes, once a week.

That also means more work for staff because they don’t have families there to help with things like feeding.

The work of the care aides is appreciated by most family members, such as Jennifer Molgat whose mother recently asked for an assisted suicide after months of being locked down in a different care home from where this care aide works.

READ MORE: Locked in long term care 'prison:' Woman asks for assisted suicide rather than continue in COVID-19 isolation

“My mother required a lot of care and I recognized that those poor care aides, they had to step up,” Molgat told iNFOnews.ca. “Not only are they physically taking care of people now, they are providing social/emotional support and safety protocols have to be in place. They are so overburdened.

“A shout out to them. I really feel for the care aides and I’m so appreciative of all of them and, honestly, when I’m on the floor they’re so nice to me and you can see they appreciate the extra support that the family members give. You can see the relief in their faces.”

But that’s not universal.

The worker has had to take such abuse from some family members coming for unscheduled COVID-19 visits that’s she’s been tempted to phone 911 out of fear for her physical safety.

“They don’t seem to understand that we are just following rules that are given to us,” she said.

While the workload is heavier and she often goes home physically exhausted at the end of the day, she still loves her job.

“For the most part, we’re pretty lucky,” she said. “We have some good residents and some pretty good family members but there’s always that one apple in the barrel. The good outweighs the bad, but the bad really sticks with you because it takes you by surprise every time. I try to remind myself that for every (jerk) I deal with I’ve got five others that are really appreciating me.”


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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