The topic of caregiving, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, is one that should be highlighted at every opportunity. Aside from my role as Member of Provincial Parliament, I work as a RN at Etobicoke General Hospital. When we had to implement the no visitor policy in the hospital, I became much busier, as we would usually rely on caregivers to come help with feeding, changing, and translating for their loved ones. Unpaid family caregivers are big contributors to the healthcare system.
I have also witnessed through my own experiences that these caregivers are predominantly women. The work they do is truly phenomenal. I hear stories of this sandwich generation with successful women and young families stepping back from their careers to care for their parents. I also have seen that caregiving doesn’t only involve people caring for their elderly parents. They are elderly people caring for their spouses, young people caring for their spouses or children with disabilities and illnesses, and children caring for their siblings or parents as well.
What I have seen has been nothing short of inspiring. During the pandemic, I was holding an iPad or phone to patients in palliative care who were saying goodbye to their family members. You could hear the sadness and distress in the voices of the caregivers that would normally be at their bedside but couldn’t be due to this impossible situation. COVID-19 has been challenging and difficult, but seeing how society has come together has been very inspiring. During Christmas, I participated in a Christmas parade where we drove by a long-term care centre with caregivers of the residents. The image of the three levels of windows filled with residents waving to their loved ones and Santa Claus with their walkers will forever be etched in my memory. I could sense the pain and isolation of each resident in that moment, and it broke my heart.
The effect of caregivers is truly profound on the care of a patient. I believe there will be a big emphasis on home care going forward as our growing population continues to age, live longer, and with more complex needs. There is no way to house all of them in long-term care. We also know of the better patient outcomes that resulted when people are cared for at home. To make care for our residents more robust, we are accelerating PSW education. We are also providing career bridging programs so PSWs can grow in their careers and feel more fulfilled in their roles. In my opinion, we, as elected officials, need to also look to provide more respite for caregivers so that they can continue doing angels’ work, caring for our seniors.