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Chris Stigas

Half a million Canadians ARE NOT Receiving the Home Care Services they Deserve

Today, we need your help in asking the government to support a community-led initiative that will enhance services so that people who need community-based PSW (personal attendant) supports can remain safely and happily in their homes. This initiative protects system resources and allows more than half a million Ontarians to experience a higher quality of life. Something all Ontarians strive for.

Today, your support gets us one step closer to rallying the Ontario government to consider our recommendations and listen carefully to what we have to say. There are many instances of poor quality services.  We cannot allow this to continue to go unnoticed.

Six years ago, Chris Stigas suffered a spinal injury that left him requiring a wheelchair with minimal use of his limbs.  Chris had gone from a youthful, athletic, independent young man to someone who had to redefine, revise and reclaim what ‘quality of life’ and happiness means to him. He used his character, intelligence, and positive drive to transform himself from an accident victim to a leader within the mobility-challenged community. It was not easy. Chris needs help with activities of daily living, like meal prep, toileting, showers and maintaining a clean and well-kept home.  Chris has often suffered and felt very vulnerable as a result of poor quality services. Currently, his home care support is inflexible, unreliable and difficult to manage. Chris is not alone. It is frustrating for him, his PSWs and his service provider.

Chris is a recognized leader within his community.  He has received many awards and honours recognizing his tireless advocacy and ability to innovate, manage several successful business ventures and maintain a vigilant eye on the people in his community who also need support. He’s been interviewed by Global News, CTV, and CityTV and many other news outlets.

“There are currently no regulations in place for PSW’s. PSWs have long asked for more parameters and recognition of their role in the health care system. Despite a few attempts, including establishing a PSW registry in 2012, little has changed in the past ten years. “

After the momentary fanfare, Chris goes home and waits for someone to arrive to help him get a warm shower after a long day and get changed into his bedclothes and bed. If he wants a snack or a coffee – he will have to plan for that, and hopefully, whoever shows up (sometimes they don’t) will understand his requests. After his PSW leaves, he’s on his own.  If the evening tasks are not completed within Chris’ allotted time, they do not get done.  That could mean no shower or perhaps no dinner.

People who require care at home rely on short or long-term ‘personal attendant services’ as they are sometimes called to allow them to feel the comforts of independent living. That means being clean, nurturing themselves with good nutrition and aiding with small tasks that make a significant difference to their lives. They are getting these services because they can stay in their own home and avoid both a system burden and the decreased mental and physical health associated with institutionalization.

Everyone in Canada deserves to experience independence and live a productive life. The lack of humanity, the degradation of self-control and resulting crushing of spirits that are an inherent outcome of PSW services occur everywhere in our communities – our Long Term Care facilities, Seniors Centres, Assisted Living Communities and Supportive Housing.

There are approximately 90,000 PSW’s working in Ontario. Numbers are expected to increase significantly due to the understaffing in Long Term Care and mismanagement of the COVID-19 virus in many of these facilities. Now is our opportunity to make our voices heard. It’s no wonder people receiving home care are suffering. The Personal Support Workers who come to help them have not been set up for success through appropriate, standardized and regulated training. Too often, hopes from families and individuals that this care will be a gateway to a more independent life are left disappointed.

There are currently no regulations in place for PSW’s. PSWs have long asked for more parameters and recognition of their role in the health care system. Despite a few attempts, including establishing a PSW registry in 2012, little has changed in the past ten years.

What has changed is the number of people who apply for PSW roles. With the demand far exceeding the supply, the whole system is in trouble. The pandemic shone a light on these challenges. The question is, what can we do to fix it? (talk about what the government is doing re fast track training etc.). The initiatives to date will improve staffing in the long-term care homes; however, what will the impact be on the community sector? Children with special needs, seniors and people requiring support with activities of daily living are a growing segment of the population. Without a strategy to address this sector, little will change. The consumers, the providers and the PSWs all have a vested interest in working together to improve the system, but they need help from the government.

What would you say if your doctor had no recognized standard of education? Would you trust this individual with your body, your disability, your vulnerabilities? What if you could not talk to your doctor because they do not speak your language? How would you communicate your pain, need, or want? What if this care provider left you in the shower unattended and afraid of falling or forgot to make your meal? Even worse, what if they did not show up that day as you lay in bed waiting for support?

Under Chris and many other community members and partners, we have prepared recommendations to improve the community services sector.

Visit our page to learn more and endorse these recommendations:

Over the coming months, we will be presenting this info to the Government of Ontario and sharing it with our national counterparts. With the goal of modernizing attendant services for all. 

Don’t do this for Chris. Do this for the person you know with a mobility disability. And for the person with limited self-care abilities who would like to stay at home and manage their health rather than being in a facility. We all deserve to have these choices.

By: Wendy Walters | Spring 2021

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