Home care providers are a pandemic lifeline to people with Alzheimer’s
In recognition of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, we are spotlighting one of the many home care professionals at SE Health who care for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia in their homes every day.
Ali Brown has always cared for others, first as an early childhood educator (ECE) in the United Kingdom and now as a personal support worker (PSW) in Windsor, Ontario. Ali arrived in Canada over 14 years ago and has since spent most of her career working for SE Health. For people like Ali, caring comes without a second thought. It’s one of the reasons her career switch felt natural and it’s also why she loves working on the frontlines of the pandemic – Ali cares, it’s just who she is.
With a positive attitude like Ali’s, it’s easy to brush off the challenges of the pandemic, but she admits that it has been emotional as somebody who specializes in caring for people with Alzheimer’s in their homes. Ali’s extensive experience and training in Alzheimer’s and dementia helps her recognize just how much her clients are enduring right now. “Some clients with Alzheimer’s don’t understand what’s going on out there,” Ali explains. “They don’t understand why their programs have stopped, or why their loved ones can’t visit. Those types of things mean the world to them.”
Many of Ali’s clients depend on her visits and without their pre-pandemic activities, these home care visits are one of the only human connections her clients have. It’s not uncommon for home care providers like Ali to be one-on-one with their clients but working in places that their clients call ‘home’ makes their job even more personal. “They really look forward to our visits, even if they’re just half an hour,” says Ali. “And their families really appreciate us being there too.”
It’s estimated that there are over 90,000 people like Ali working as PSWs in Ontario alone, but it wasn’t enough before the pandemic, and it’s certainly not enough now. There is a critical shortage of PSWs and that means there’s just not enough people to care for society’s most vulnerable. “I’m glad that PSWs are starting to be recognized for the work that we do,” Ali observes, but the burden PSWs are experiencing needs to be recognized too.
Like other PSWs, Ali’s focus has been to prioritize safety and infection protocols during her home visits. This can make it harder for them to make the most out of the time that they do have with clients. Still, Ali tries to pack in as much time with her Alzheimer’s clients as possible. In addition to the much-needed personal care and companionship that she provides, her unique experience as an ECE also allows her to repurpose certain activities for older adults with Alzheimer’s, like math exercises and art activities. Ali says these are the things that make a difference for people with Alzheimer’s, especially right now.
With vaccinations underway, there is hope, but as the needs of those with Alzheimer’s grows greater, so does the need for PSWs like Ali. The perennial carer, Ali, says that her passion for her line of work is what gets her through this pandemic and her long days. “I just love working with them, it’s my absolute favorite thing.”