A Job That’s Not Going Away Any Time Soon

By the summer of 2010, she felt uncomfortable leaving him alone all day while she was at the office. Olga, a personal support worker whom they pay privately, was found through a friend of a friend; she takes Lowell out for fresh air and keeps the condo in shape. Once he could no longer dress, shower, or prepare a meal for himself, he qualified for another PSW through the OACCAC. Carol Gilchrist initially came in two mornings per week, but she and Lowell got along so well—she sometimes gets him singing and dancing, despite his daybreak malaise—that Julie paid for a third day. By last November, the OACCAC picked up the cost of the extra day, and this summer added a fourth (Saturdays, when a different PSW comes). As a rule, help is provided according to need; but in practice, overall resources are proving insufficient. Olga, who now comes five days a week, is spelled off by Jessica MacKintosh, who is also privately paid.

Julie says the supplementary care consumes much of her take-home pay and has eaten into her savings. Then there is the investment of time required to manage four caregivers, and a divestment of the couple’s privacy. I ask Lowell if he considers the revolving door of staff “a necessary invasion.” He frowns at the phrase. “They are all strong people,” he says.

One of my favorite Canadian magazines, The Walrus, has a story in its November issue about a man developing Alzheimer’s Disease. The section above discusses the financial responsibility the man’s spouse takes on to make sure her husband is cared for while she’s at work, and also to help out when she’s at home so that she doesn’t have to spend every single waking moment keeping an eye out on him.

Another section of the story discusses that there will be a surge in demand for care for Alzheimer’s patients as the boomer generation begins to retire: “‘They will knock on our doors,’ Dr. Serge Gauthier says about the baby boomers. ‘All of them, I’m sure.'” The future job prospects for home health aides are looking pretty good right now.



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