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A Helping Hand

Michelle and Myra, on a balcony at Bethammi Nursing Home, where Myra tends to some of her dozens of plants.
Michelle and Myra, on a balcony at Bethammi Nursing Home,
where Myra tends to some of her dozens of plants.

Date: 2019-06-03

Seniors and personal support workers (PSWs) work together to preserve independence and quality of life in long-term care

We all have our morning routines. For Myra, a resident at Bethammi Nursing Home, mornings often mean joking around with her personal support worker (PSW) Michelle as they work together to get Myra dressed and ready for the day. "We chat; it makes it more personable," says Myra. She and Michelle talk about the trips Myra used to take around the north on her motorcycle, or the story behind the latest plant that Myra has added to her collection. Throughout her shift, Michelle will help Myra with tasks that require a bit of support, and they exchange a friendly word when they pass in the hall. They're a good team.

PSWs like Michelle are a vital part of the health care team in long-term care, assisting residents with the day-to-day activities of life, helping them to live as independently as possible with dignity and respect. "A PSW supports residents with their activities and daily living so they can remain as independent as possible," says Janine Black, Administrator at Bethammi. "They have a lot of social interaction with residents, being that compassionate, caring person in their life." She says that patience, understanding, humour and a strong work ethic are also key qualities in a PSW. "They essentially become an extension of family. It's beautiful."

Because they work so closely with clients, it's often the PSW that first notices a change in a resident's behaviour or health. Black underscores the impact that can have on quality of life: "Recognizing a change as early as possible can lead to quicker interventions and faster access to treatment, resulting in a better overall health outcome."

PSWs are an important part of how care is planned for and delivered. "In long-term care, there are a number of quality of care committees that look at things affecting residents like wound care and palliative care," says Black. "The PSW voice is really important on those committees because they know what is practical and what is not practical; they know what knowledge gaps there might be and what training might be required. They also are very sensitive to what the residents need. They just have that kind of hands-on, firsthand knowledge of the residents and their coworkers."

Michelle, who has been a PSW at Bethammi for 16 years, says the best part of her job is being able to put a smile on a resident's face. "That part is very rewarding to me. Sometimes there are cognitive difficulties and you don't know if they've understood what you're saying, and then they smile. You know you've touched their life."

To learn more about PSW career opportunities with St. Joseph’s Care Group, visit


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