3 Qualities Necessary to Become a Personal Support Worker

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Last year, the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association told the Ottawa Citizen that there was a shortage of personal support workers (PSWs) in Ontario. In fact, other organizations have also noted an increasing need for people to fill this role. Whether in a care facility, within a community organization, or doing at-home work, PSWs are an integral part of the healthcare system.

PSW jobs are difficult but rewarding. They involve working with a large variety of people with all kinds of needs, daily routines, and challenges. Key factors in succeeding as a PSW are acquiring the right training and qualifications. However, the qualities of a PSW also play an integral role in their career progression. If you are aspiring to build a career in this field, cultivating these essential characteristics is just as important.

1. Flexible in the Face of Changes and Challenges

When you become a personal support worker you will not be able to predict all the situations that you might face each day. Also, the support needed and the care you will provide will differ from client-to-client. A client with dementia, for example, will have very different needs from a client who has mobility issues. What is required of you might even change depending on a client’s mood and the kind of day they are having. The best way to prepare for this is to embrace flexibility and be ready for whatever challenges you might face.

2. Patience With Clients and Yourself

As you may encounter in your clinical placement during your personal support worker college program, some clients face extremely difficult circumstances. They may be injured or have long-term conditions that make their need for a PSW permanent. It is critical to have patience, which will show that you are sensitive to a client’s needs. For example, they may have a condition which causes memory loss and you must be able to kindly remind them of whatever it is they are forgetting without causing any undue stress.

Some clients will require more patience than others, but all deserve it

Some clients will require more patience than others, but all deserve it

You may also be called upon to help a client physically move around. While this requires strength, it also requires patience. If this is a frustrating activity for a client, your patience will help keep them calm and likely have a positive effect. This may be difficult, which is why patience with yourself will be important, too, as you learn and grow.

3. Compassion: An Unofficial Requirement for Those in PSW Classes

This quality is foundational. Without compassion it may be difficult to maintain any of the other qualities you need to succeed as a PSW. The desire to help people and care for those in need may be one of the reasons why you chose to enter this field in the first place.

Working as a PSW is an incredibly rewarding experience

Working as a PSW is an incredibly rewarding experience

A PSW must be conscious of clients’ feelings and want to validate them through care. Compassion shows a client you have respect for them and their situation. It is also a quality you’ll need to offer towards client families as well as co-workers, who may also feel stressed. Your compassion will instil genuine trust in you and your work. Beyond that, your capacity to be aware of what others are feeling will make patience, flexibility, motivation, and collaboration easier to maintain.

Do you want to enroll in PSW classes?

Learn more about the programs available at KLC!

Helping Senior Clients Stay Hydrated After Your PSW Training Program

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Ensuring clients stay hydrated is one of the many important duties that personal support workers (PSWs) are responsible for. Hydration is especially vital when caring for seniors because many seniors are more susceptible to dehydration. For example, some may have decreased sensitivity to feeling thirsty, some may have reduced kidney function, and others may be taking medications that can cause dehydration.

Once you become a PSW, you will need to come up with ways of ensuring your senior clients get their necessary fluid intake. Here’s a look at what you should know about keeping senior clients hydrated after your PSW training.

Grads of PSW Training Programs Should Watch for Signs of Dehydration in Seniors

As a PSW, you will need to be able to recognize the signs of dehydration so that you can prevent it from happening in the first place. Mild dehydration in seniors can present as dry mouth, headaches, decreased urination, thirst, dry skin, sleepiness, irritability, or feeling unwell. In more serious cases, seniors may experience fainting, a quick—but weak—heartbeat, low blood pressure, severe cramping, lack of sweat or tears, and rapid breathing.

If dehydration becomes chronic or goes unaddressed, it can cause extremely serious health conditions, like kidney failure, seizures, swelling in the brain, and coma. Keeping your clients well hydrated when you work as a PSW should be high on your list of priorities, since the consequences of dehydration can be quite serious.

Use the Skills Gained in PSW Training to Help Senior Clients Stay Hydrated

In your PSW training program, you will learn about hydration, and you can put that knowledge to use towards helping your older clients stay hydrated. Getting your clients to drink more water is the simplest and most obvious way of ensuring they consume enough fluids. Some of your clients may have mobility issues which can prevent them from getting their own water. In such a case, you may want to ensure that they always have a glass of water within reach. Some seniors have a less acute sense of thirst, don’t rely on your clients to tell you when they’re thirsty. Instead, make sure they always have adequate access to fluids.

PSWs can help senior clients stay hydrated by ensuring they have access to water

PSWs can help senior clients stay hydrated by ensuring they have access to water

Think of Creative Ways of Ensuring Your Clients Drink Enough Fluids

Some seniors may refuse to drink water, such as if they are battling a serious medical condition like Alzheimer’s disease. In such a case, you will need to find ways of coaxing them into consuming more fluids. Not all fluids need to come from water. If your client doesn’t enjoy water itself, try alternative sources of fluids that they may prefer. Your client may be able to meet their daily fluid intake requirements by drinking fruit juices, teas, and sweetened beverages, for example. Many fruits and vegetables also have high water content.

As a PSW, you can help senior clients stay hydrated by providing them with fruits and vegetables

As a PSW, you can help senior clients stay hydrated by providing them with fruits and vegetables

During your PSW classes, you will learn about the various health conditions that your clients could have. While it’s important to ensure they are drinking enough fluids in any form they can, you will also want to be mindful of any health conditions that could make some foods and beverages unsuitable for your clients. For example, foods or liquids that have high sugar content may be inappropriate for somebody with diabetes, while drinks high in sodium should not be given to clients with high blood pressure.

Are you ready to pursue a new career?

Contact KLC College to learn about our personal support worker college program.

Appetite Stimulation: What You Need to Know if You Want to Become a Personal Support Worker

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Practising good nutrition can be difficult at any age, especially if appetite is compromised. Appetite is our body’s gateway to healthy living and nourishment, but it has a complex relationship with our bodies—it can be stimulated by our central nervous system to regulate our energy levels, and even by exterior factors such as our surroundings or meal schedules.

Our sense of appetite can change as we grow older, but maintaining proper nutrition is always important to help guard our personal well-being. For personal support workers (PSWs), good nutrition is a key component of making sure clients are healthy and happy, but a low or nonexistent appetite can sometimes make this goal seem like an uphill battle.

If you’re interested in becoming a PSW, read on to find out what you should know about stimulating your clients’ appetites.

PSWs Know that Loss of Appetite Is Common with Senior Clients

Our appetites are influenced by a complicated combination of factors inside—and out—of our bodies. As we age, our taste buds can dull, and food can begin to seem bland and unappetizing. Our appetites, like with our sense of taste, are similarly linked to our ability to smell and see; an impairment of these senses means our bodies can no longer access the same visual or olfactory cues to stimulate our appetite.

PSWs should watch out for the side effects of their clients’ medication

PSWs should watch out for the side effects of their clients’ medication

Medication also plays an important role in appetite. One of the most common side effects when taking medication—as well as a common issue for many seniors in general—is dehydration. Dehydration can lead to a decrease in appetite, sometimes simply because a client’s body is less sensitive to feelings of thirst. Medication can also lead to dry mouth and reduced saliva production, which can make chewing or swallowing difficult, so it’s always a good idea to make sure clients are properly hydrated.

These Simple Solutions Can Help PSWs Boost Their Clients’ Appetites

PSW classes introduce you to important concepts like nutrition, which help keep your clients healthy. Serving balanced, nutritional meals on a regular schedule establishes a consistent routine, which can help adjust your client’s body and mind to a set period of eating or drinking. You can also encourage healthy snacking throughout the day to keep their metabolic systems active between meals.

Students at KLC can help improve their clients’ appetites

Students at KLC can help improve their clients’ appetites

Retirement, reduced mobility, and health complications can mean a client may feel isolated or depressed, and view mealtimes as a chore rather than something to enjoy. If possible, try to suggest that your clients eat meals with others, which can make it a more social activity and give clients something to look forward to every day.

Think Outside the (Lunch) Box When You Become a Personal Support Worker

Sometimes when you feel like you’ve exhausted all your options, it’s best to get creative.

If your client has trouble swallowing or chewing, try to include blended drinks or smoothies in their menu. If they feel that mealtimes aren’t special, break out the nice tablecloths or make a meal you know they enjoy. It may be frustrating to work with a client who doesn’t have a strong appetite, but sometimes going the extra mile when you become a personal support worker can show them that someone cares, which encourages them to make an effort.

Some seniors may feel that they don’t have much control over what or when they eat. If possible, try to involve them or a loved one in their menu-planning, or ask them to help out if you need a hand in the kitchen—even something as simple as setting the table can make them feel more empowered and personally involved in the process, and thus more invested in their meals.

Are you interested in learning more about starting your career as a PSW?

Contact KLC College for more information about our personal support worker college program.

5 Workplaces that Highly Value PSW Training Program Graduates

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From support for the increasing senior population to assistance for people suffering from illness or injury, there is a growing need for compassionate people who want to help others. A Personal Support Worker (PSW) program can prepare you to provide the support these needy individuals require by assisting them with their daily activities and providing basic healthcare.

If you are looking for a career with lots of opportunities, are a people-person and have the desire to serve, becoming a PSW could be for you. Read on to learn about a few of the workplaces that are waiting for someone like you.

A PSW Training Program can Lead to Work in a Hospital

Many hospitals now use personal support workers to help provide support to medical staff. Working in a variety of settings including long-term care units, emergency departments, and rehabilitation care, PSWs are usually charged with assisting patients with daily living tasks such as eating, bathing, and grooming.

PSW jobs in hospitals are among the most sought-after positions in the industry, with higher than average pay, but are sometimes more suited to experienced professionals as they can often be high-pressure environments. Nonetheless, a well-established PSW training program will offer you the theory and practical instruction you need to work with confidence in a hospital setting as your career progresses.

PSW Classes can Prepare you for Work in Retirement Communities

In the 2016 Canadian census data, it was found that seniors outnumbered children in Canada for the first time. Projections suggest that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. As the older population grows, so too does the need for qualified professionals to work in senior care.

A personal support worker college program can prepare you for a job in a retirement community, where your personality, energy and training will help residents live happier and healthier lives. These residential communities or housing complexes are designed for older adults who are generally able to care for themselves, but often employ PSWs to provide some basic support to those who need it, and to assist in social activities and opportunities provided for the residents.

Your career as a PSW Could Take You to Long-Term Care

Long-term care homes are places for people who require round-the-clock care and supervision. There are plenty of opportunities for PSW training program graduates within these facilities.

As with other PSW workplaces, you would be responsible for assisting residents with daily activities like bathing, dressing and eating, among other duties. It takes a special person to serve others in their most vulnerable moments, and that is what the top PSW graduates do every day in long-term care facilities.

Work in Home Care After Your PSW Training Program and Enjoy a Flexible Schedule

Perhaps you are looking for a more flexible work schedule? In this case, your PSW training can open the door to a job as an in-home care provider. Working in this position, you will offer in-home support to the elderly, the disabled, or anyone else who needs it. PSWs working in home care provide daily assistance or simple companionship in residential settings, allowing clients to remain with their families and communities while still receiving the care they require.

A personal support worker can work on-site in a client’s home

A personal support worker can work on-site in a client’s home

This option can allow you to work a more flexible schedule than PSWs who operate in clinical facilities, making it a perfect option for professionals with families or other commitments. Home care providers are also in very high demand in more remote areas, meaning it can be a great choice if you live in a more rural community and want to work locally.

PSWs can also Work with Children

Most PSW graduates work with the elderly population, but there is another clientele who would benefit from your compassion and care – disabled youth and children.

PSW classes can lead to rewarding experiences

PSW classes can lead to rewarding experiences

If you’ve always wanted to work with kids and make a difference in your community, you can do all that and more as a PSW. You could assist summer camp participants who have disabilities, or help a child care centre if there are special needs children present. PSWs can also work in group homes where children are challenged by cognitive or physical disabilities and mental health issues.

Are you interested in helping the disabled or elderly live fuller and healthier lives?

Contact KLC College for more information about our PSW classes!