Health care aides in southern Alberta working around the clock

March 24, 2020

CALGARY -- While thousands of southern Albertans are off the job or working from home, health care aides are working 24/7 to provide personal or support services for the ill, elderly or people who have a disability. Lethbridge Family Services (LFS) has over 180 certified health care aides who are visiting homes, lodges, manors and other facilities in a region that extends from Taber to the Crowsnest Pass. They are currently providing care for about a thousand clients. Tracey Hanson, LFS director of home services, says they’ve had a number of clients cancel services because of the fear. "But we’ve also had an increased amount of new services for clients, who maybe had family members assisting them before." LFS says with lodges and care facilities restricting access to essential service providers only, there has been an increasing demand for health care aides (HCA).

HCAs provide a wide range services that are necessary to keep people in their homes, including hygiene, dressing, grooming and the administration of medications. They also provide palliative and respite care for families.

Hanson says the HCAs provide a valuable service to people who rely on short-term assistance or ongoing support.

LFS CEO Sandra Mintz, says the organization is taking all protective measures to keep their workforce and clients healthy.

"As the world navigates the current challenging environment around the COVID-19 pandemic, LFS continues to work with Alberta Health Services and is vigilant around monitoring and managing the situation."

Hanson says the staff have no control over the homes or facilities they are working in, so they normally take infection control and standard precautions, but currently have a heightened awareness.

"Our client population is probably 95 per cent elderly, who it has been said over and over are more at risk for this."

She says many of their clients are also feeling stress and anxiety over the pandemic.

"The clients are very, very fearful, and they are expressing that to health care aides."

Mintz says this is a unique and unprecedented scenario for many workers.

"Particularly if they have not been involved in similar responses."

LFS says staffing levels could be at risk during 14-day quarantines, and they are preparing to re-deploy staff from other departments, to make sure client needs are being met.

Hanson says for the majority of their clients, these services are essential.

"Our focus is on helping people stay in their homes, keeping loved ones safe, and preventing unnecessary hospitalizations."

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