Personal Support Workers crucial to health care as we age


By Joyce Wayne

During our lives, and mainly as we grow older, Personal Support Workers (PSWs), could play increasingly significant roles in maintaining our health, comfort and happiness. During Covid, we’ve learned just how crucial PSWs are to the health care system. The difference between ample staffing and professional training of PSWs often made the difference between life and death for older Canadians relying on caring health support.

Many of us consider PSWs as those who work in sizeable long-term care facilities, but in reality, PSWs do much, much more than that. Their duties vary depending on the facility and title. However, they can include general housekeeping, personal hygiene assistance, bedside care, dispersion of medication, and transportation – and also being welcomed into private homes to support clients emotionally and physically as they continue to age in their treasured home environment.

Integracare PSWs Helped Canadians During Pandemic

President and CEO of Integracare Lee Grunberg, whose Toronto-based home care company employs between 300 and 400 health care professionals, from Registered Nurses to PSWs, confirms that Personal Support Workers comprise about 70 percent of his company’s staff.

“PSWs are finally receiving the accolades they so well deserve,” he says. “We are treating PSWs as the heroes that they are.” To Grunberg’s way of thinking, PSWs are brave men and women who came to Canada from all over the world and are committed to caring for Canadians. Most arrive from countries with an ingrained tradition of care and empathy.

If you think about it, Personal Support Workers risk their own health, wellness and safety to create a home-based atmosphere where Integracare’s clients can enjoy joyful living while retaining independence and all-important connections with family and friends. In fact, in some cases, the care workers become friends and are considered family, according to Grunberg. The attributes Integracare searches for when hiring PSWs are: empathy, compassion, intelligence, the ability to think critically, and professionalism.

During the pandemic, Grunberg describes his company’s PSWs “as keeping our clients safe, providing the protective care they need, maintaining their independence and encouraging joyful living.” During our conversation, Grunberg mentions joyful living many times. He prefers to discuss the work of Integracare not only on a physical level, but also on an emotional level. Grunberg emphasizes how crucial it is that the staff he sends into private homes can become companions and helpers, encouraging older Canadians to enjoy their lives as they age in place.

During the last two years, in countless studies, Canadians overwhelmingly declared that they wish to age at home. Clearly, there aren’t enough long-term care beds to accommodate the tsunami of aging Canadians who require certain levels of care. Integracare comes into the picture because it sends trained PSWs offering the highest level of family-funded care into private homes, the environment the vast majority of us wish to spend our elderly years.

In fact, at Integracare, the turnover ratio of health care employees is among the lowest in the industry, a fraction of the average turnover rate of 64 percent. The company accomplishes low turnover by offering its PSWs the free education required to be experts in their field. Grunberg adds that his company “was also at the forefront of pandemic pay.”

The Integracare website presents the education available to its employees including:

An exclusive partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto ensuring that all Integracare Home Healthcare Caregivers are educated in all facets of Dementia Care. The U-First Basics, U-First Advanced, Palliative Care & GPA Courses are Certified Courses offered by the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto.

Integracare also partners with a leading Online Education provider – Nevvon, to enhance the education of its new hires and upskill its Caregivers to strengthen its position as Canada’s premier home care provider. Nevvon’s easy-to-use, interactive e-training platform puts necessary education modules in Caregivers’ hands. It allows them to study at their pace and with the flexibility to accommodate their busy schedules.

These courses are offered free of cost to Integracare employees.

Grunberg adds:

“At Integracare, education has always been a critical part of our corporate culture.

  • We create a positive environment for learning.
  • We encourage peer support so that Caregivers and Care Managers learn to work as a team.
  • We facilitate the exchange of skills between Caregivers encouraging sharing of ideas and improving the learning and work environment.”

The company also offers its caregivers a 24/7 support line staffed by Registered Nurses or Registered Practical Nurses.

In today’s health care environment, few people would say it’s easy to receive the care they desire or deserve. Going into a long-term care facility is not the choice for most older Canadians, nor are there beds or the extensive training of caregivers to service those needing support.

The time has come for aging Canadians to consider the viable alternative of home health care, where we neither go it alone –often facing isolation and poor health outcomes– nor do we need to leave our homes to enter long-term care facilities. At Integracare, the cost of a Personal Support Worker is $37.50 per hour, and the minimum stay is four hours a day.

After speaking with Lee Grunberg, my husband and I discussed our future alternatives as we age. Home health care, managed by a responsible company and staffed with well-trained, empathetic PSWs is now our choice, either for short-term health conditions or long-term care. We love our home and our neighbourhood. We don’t wish to move. If that’s how you feel about your home and your health care, it’s probably time to consider the crucial role Personal Care Workers will play in your life.  

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