Pickering resident Libby McMaster knows all too well the essential work Community Care Durham’s Personal Support Workers provide.
“I couldn’t live without them,” she said.
Libby’s daughter Alex is 32 and has Cerebral Palsy, a condition that affects her motor control. Cognitively Alex is the same as anyone else but she is dependent on others for all aspects of her daily care. She has a special computer that she controls with her eyes which gives her the ability to communicate and also access the world through social media. She can even control the TV and lights in her room using the device.
“It (the computer) has made an amazing difference in her life,” Libby said.
Another difference maker in Alex’s life is Sarah Toye, a PSW who has helped her for a little over five years. CCD matched Sarah with Alex because having more than one PSW coming in to help would require a lot of training on how to communicate with Alex and look after her basic needs. With Sarah, she knows the type of support that’s required, and the family has built a rapport with her over the years.
“Alex would consider her a friend,” Libby said.
Alex only weighs about 75 pounds, but she must be fed, changed, washed, dressed, and groomed by Sarah or one of her parents every day. It can become exhausting.
“We could not do it without PSW help,” Libby said.
Libby and her husband Greig care for their daughter around the clock, and the only respite they get is when Sarah or a PSW from another agency arrives to help. Libby said she had to quit her job because when Alex’s day program stopped during COVID-19 the demands of work and home were too much.
“You can never ever get enough support,” Libby said.
A couple of weeks ago Alex was taken to emergency and ended up in hospital for 10 days. During that time Libby and Greig took shifts to be by their daughter’s side the whole time. Sarah called a few times checking in to see how Alex was doing. The good wishes were not lost on Libby or Alex. Even when Sarah is not physically helping the family, she’s there for moral support.
Alex missed a few days of her long awaited trip to Disney World but she and her Dad were able to fly down to meet the rest of the family on Mother’s Day.
“They (PSWs) are the most under appreciated workers,” Libby said. “They are the glue holding everything together.”