A number of services that fall under the New Brunswick Department of Social Development are asking government for better solutions when it comes to caring for the sick and elderly.

The New Brunswick Special Care Home Association is among the groups calling for change, saying they're in crisis without more support.

Edwina MacBain is a personal support worker who, during a shift, may be in charge of everything from cooking and cleaning to bathing and distributing medication for up to 20 special care home residents.

"Some of them have had strokes and they're aging, but they're not ready for the nursing home," she said.

Like many support care workers looking after the province's most vulnerable, when it comes to finances, MacBain can barely take care of herself.

"Some people have to have two of these jobs to make ends meet," she said.

'Pay them what they're worth'

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The Department of Social Development says it will conduct a review of human services in the province, including a look at training and wages.

Starting pay for a support care worker is around $11 an hour. Compare that to the base wage of a nursing home attendant, which is more than $18 an hour, even though qualifications for both occupations are nearly identical.

Wayne Brown, president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions, says he worries about the future of care in the province.

"I know the province is in a sad situation financially, but there's a need for the aging population," he said.

"There has to be some incentives for individuals, they're requiring these people to have education and experience, but pay them accordingly, pay them what they're worth. It's a travesty."

That's why the New Brunswick Human Services Coalition wants more money in next year's budget.

'You wouldn't understand unless you were here yourself.'- Tom Astle, special care home resident

Jan Seely, president of the province’s Special Care Home Association, says they are at a disadvantage.

"When you have a pocket of money that is to be divided up fairly amongst the province, you have groups that have collective agreements and legislation. We have none of that," Seely said.

"There's nothing built in to these service rates that the province pays to acknowledge the increase in the cost of providing a service or to acknowledge an appropriate wage for a service that's expected."

It's hoped that better wages will translate to better care for residents like Tom Astle.

"You wouldn't understand unless you were here yourself. To me, it takes a special kind of person to be a caregiver because some of the stuff you see that goes on, if you haven't got the patience and the love for people."

The Department of Social Development plans to conduct a review of human services in the province, including a look at training and wages.