Kitchener-Waterloo

No housekeeping or daily showers for people with disabilities due to PSW shortage

People in Waterloo region living with a disability had fewer opportunities after their programs and services were cut since the pandemic began in the spring.

Workers taking fewer shifts due to family concerns, underlying health conditions

Martima, a Personal Support Worker with Parkdale Assisted Living Program, prepares to help a resident wash in his room at Toronto's May Robinson apartments. A shortage of personal support workers during the COVID-19 pandemic means only 'essential services' are being provided to many people with disabilities in Waterloo Region. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

People living with disabilities in Waterloo region say personal care has been cut back since the pandemic began in the spring, leaving them with only "essential services" for months. 

Edward Faruzel, executive director of KW AccessAbility, says he used to have daily visits from personal support workers and relied on them for the everyday tasks made more complicated by his cerebral palsy. 

"I need help every day. But some of the services that I was getting and that people are getting are being cut back to just essential services," said Faruzel.

"Things like only a shower once a week instead of every other day or whatever. Exercise programs and even apartment cleaning that they help us with, all those sorts of things are being reduced drastically."

Faruzel says he understands there are staffing shortages. Personal support workers took on fewer shifts due to their own, or family members', underlying health conditions. 

Essential services provided

Toby Harris, the CEO of Traverse Independence, a local agency that provides care for people with disabilities, says that was the case with some of her staff.

But other issues, like a lack of PPE and the emergency orders handed down by the Ontario government, ultimately forced Traverse Independence to scale down to only essential services that help clients maintain quality of life.

That includes "hydration and food medication, getting up out of bed, getting dressed, [bed] position changes," said Harris.

"All the things that a person would need on a daily basis. And where we draw the line to nonessential services would be housekeeping, homemaking, laundry, grocery shopping."

Harris says Traverse Independence is now starting to get in touch with staff and families and consulting with clients to plan for bringing back those services when the province loosens up restrictions.

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