PSW stories from the heart

By Graham Bashford

After being notified that the last article about Personal Support Workers had over 190,000 views, I realize that writing from the heart must be something the public likes.

Feedback about being a PSW — one of the toughest jobs in health care — was agreed upon by most comments left by engaged readers. And some said that PSWs should never be working short, but that’s a question not for management, but for our new premier of Ontario.

The fact remains, when you love what you do, you do it no matter how difficult, how early you must rise, or how late you must stay at work. Love is love. And love is what most of us get in return from our clients and/or residents. And not just that, but a front row seat to engage with the men and woman who have not only paved the way for future generations, but a generation whose impact will reside with us PSWs long after they leave this earth.

I recall seeking advice from one of our first customers, a husband who was the primary caregiver for his wife and when her dementia got to a point where he needed help, Castle Keep was there. It started with breakfast daily, then day shifts, then 24/7 for years as he had the means to hire us around the clock. He became a friend, and I respected and asked him questions about his success in business. He would always give me a straight answer.

He was an oil man, and when he shifted the family business from coal to oil his father told him, “Son, coal will never die.” He used to fill peoples bathtubs full of coal as a kid to get them through the winter as that was the only place people could put it. When I asked him if he had regrets about any of his business decisions his answer was “I can afford to hire all of you, can’t I?” May he rest in peace and I know one day I will see him again to shake his hand and tell him we did the best we could for his wife after he was gone, as promised.

I recall a veteran who we cooked dinner for every night, watered down his whisky before we left, and then just listened to his many stories. One of the best ones was that he was taught signals in boy scouts prior to the Second World War. This was such a sought after skill he found himself in the naval forces as a very young man, pre-18. And the day came when his superior called to him to service in the middle of the night his response, in a woman’s voice, thinking it was a joke was, “He’s not in right now.” His superior didn’t like that, and to his last breath that client will never ever outlive the sheer embarrassment, poor guy.

Or the sweet lady we serve who was born in 1915 and still likes to change her earrings twice a day to look fresh. Imagine memories of having to hand crank your Ford just to start it — and we complain about not having reverse cameras or what a pain it is to change the tires every season!

When Castle Keep first started I took a sweet tiny lady’s blood sugar for over 90 days in a row prior to hiring any other PSWs. And each time I knocked at her door I was greeted with “Yes, and how can I help you?” for I was a stranger every time, due to her dementia.  I’ve since been to both her and her husband’s wake and can still remember her smile.

I remember when I was a PSW one resident in a retirement home slowly lost the ability to utilize her legs, they call it non-weight bearing or a mechanical lift. She hated it so much, it scared her, and she would often urinate on her feet when hoisted (or my shoes). So when the charge nurse wasn’t looking I would gently tell her it was time for bed and scoop her up in my arms and place her into bed five out of seven nights a week. I honestly can’t wait to see her in heaven, she was my favourite.

Then down the hall I’d go to remove a resident’s prosthetic breast before bed and each and every night she would invite me in with her. I would politely say “I’ll come back after the news,” thinking that is what so many husbands say when they plan to stay up late, and it seemed to satisfy her.

I have served countless seniors in my life, and when I would move on to another job I would ask that all of the residents sign a large canvas for me to take as a souvenir. To this day I have several hanging in the spare bedroom in my home. I can’t hang them at work, because I loved so many of them, it’s just too personal to me to share with just anyone. And that’s what makes us Personal Support Workers — and that’s why we keep coming back.


  1. Mina Coons says:

    Great story. So many things that a lot of people don’t even realize happens in a day.
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Bev duke says:

    I work for Castle Keep and these people touched my heart. This job is truly my calling. I love every one of the people I serve but as we all know it’s not an easy job. I treat them all as if they were my own mom and dad. I just love them, and that’s all they really want.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.