Acknowledging the silent contributions of personal support workers
By Gail Elliot
Which jobs tend to receive the most attention and the highest and greatest accolades? Is it doctors, lawyers, statesmen and women, fashion designers, inventors, researchers, athletes, singers, actors or CEOs of large corporations? Are these the people who are most often noticed for their exemplary contributions to our world?
Many people in these and other similar positions attract the attention of the media, command generous incomes, and receive rewards and/or other forms of recognition for their great work and major contributions to their discipline. We thank our doctors, chiropractors and therapists for that prescription or treatment that made us “infinitely better.” And while these individuals undoubtedly deserve recognition, there is a group of people who work on the front-line of healthcare doing amazing work each and every day, but they are not at the forefront of public or corporate attention.
The personal support worker (PSW) is rarely, if ever, found on a “Top 10” list of “who to watch” and “who to thank.” These people are seldom in the limelight. We need to change our line-up of “the best of…” and learn to develop an attitude of gratitude by offering worthy recognition and sincere appreciation for a job well done. This group deserves sincere thanks for the care they deliver to those who can no longer take care of themselves. PSWs deserve worthy recognition for adding quality of life to the most frail and vulnerable people in our society.
PSWs attend to the diverse needs of individuals who rely heavily on the help of others. They have a variety of roles, including caring for a person’s hygiene and making sure they are nourished, dressed, toileted, validated, comfortable and happy. Most importantly, PSWs may be the only human connection some individuals receive in a single day. Yet, while they are offering their valuable support, it can feel thankless to try to bathe and clean an uncooperative incontinent person, soothe the irritable and feed the ungrateful who are no longer able to do things themselves.
When we consider the current model of healthcare, PSWs are major players within our organizational infrastructure as they are the champions in both the health component and the care component of personal and practical aspects of support and care. They give the gifts of time and patience as they work capably and compassionately with persons who are often in poor mental or physical health. Good dementia care, in particular, relies on their care, compassion and commitment to the responsibilities they embrace each day.
As a family member, colleague or friend of a person who is in the caring hands of a PSW, we must be reminded to extend our most sincere thanks.
Gail Elliot, BASc, MA, author, gerontologist and dementia specialist, is the founder and CEO of DementiAbility Enterprises. Visit her website at
www.dementiability.com to learn more.