As more than 400 home care support workers continue to strike, those who rely on their services are fighting a battle to maintain the quality of life they’re used to.
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Northwood Homecare Ltd. looks after approximately 1,800 people. All of Northwood’s clients, from Windsor to Sheet Harbour, are bearing the brunt of the strike.
Wietske Gradstein, who lives with Multiple Sclerosis, relies on help from Northwood workers three times a day.
“I cannot do without them at all. If it wasn’t for home care, I would have no life. The only alternative I have is to be in an institution,” she said.
Gradstein has been receiving home care help for more than 20 years.
In the morning, workers help her out of bed, bathe her, dress her, make her breakfast, clean up a bit, and perhaps do some laundry.
In the afternoon they might help her pick up a few groceries.
“In the evening, they put everything in reverse. They undress me, put PJs on,” said Gradstein.
‘In between, I’m just me’
She said she likes the challenge of everyday life and living with more independence outside of a nursing home.
'I cannot do without them at all. If it wasn't for home care, I would have no life' - Wietske Gradstein, Northwood Homecare client
“I live a full life but only between the time that someone gets me out of bed and the time that they put me back into to bed. So when I go to a concert at night, I leave early. When I want to go somewhere in the morning, I have to get there late — so that’s just how it is. In between, I’m just me,” said Gradstein.
But with the strike, she has had to dig into her savings to pay for the tenant in her building to help her.
“It's adding up. This morning already I'm out of $30... Then tonight she has to put me back in bed. That's another $30 — so $60 every day,” said Gradstein.
With no income, she said it's a struggle.
“Out of my pocket, doesn't come from anywhere else. It comes out of my pocket. It's money that I had set aside for my holiday this summer,” she said.
For those without any help, Northwood is bringing in other, non-union companies to provide some services.
“For some there are no real backup or contingency plans to be had. So as those needs are identified, we're working with contracted agencies that we have sent out the call for to provide some services,” said Sandra Bauld with Northwood Homecare.
Five companies are working to fill the gap but only for people who absolutely cannot get by without help.
As this dispute stretches on, Bauld expects that list to grow.
“Someone who might have had help for a few days, for instance a friend or family member or relative — they'll have to go back to work or do whatever they usually do so that person will be alone,” she said.