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A man may work from dusk to dawn...

One of the greatest raconteurs of all time was Oscar Wilde. Known for his skilled sarcasm and witty bon mots, he was a much in-demand, dinner party guest. In light of recent events surrounding the shocking inadequate pay of long term care workers, WE seem to “know the cost of everything, and the value of nothing”. After all, how do we put a price on care? I don’t think we can. Those who receive good care, the family’s appreciation is infinite; those who have received poor care- well… that’s another story. But the difference, sadly, is how we count things. With care being managed by accountants who see only numbers not people, we sacrifice care for costs. What we don’t realize is that initial costs might be high, but they pay dividends in social well being, which in return nourishes the LTC community, staff, residents and family. Society benefits when we all share in its care.

It’s common sense though, isn’t it? If you foster a healthy working environment where everyone feels valued and supported by the system, you retain staff, improve morale, and improve quality care. If staff are happy to work, it shows. Yet time and time again we see the devastating impact of cost cutting, a pennywise pound foolish approach that limits care to the last nickel and dime. Humane care does not have an algorithm. It’s much broader. If we are judged by how we treat our most vulnerable, we need to prepare for a heavy sentence indeed. While last month's letter revealed how we shoot rocket ships in the air at enormous cost, bankroll banks and billionaires, what about the rest of us? This is where we ought to cast our focus. A bigger picture, a holistic approach to care that does not lend itself to a spreadsheet, whose value in society must outweigh costs.

A radical shift in thinking is needed. Care must far outweigh short term profit. We must value the people who care. If we look at who shoulders the burden of care, mothers and PSW’s, we see a pattern of negligence. When we hear politicians parrot on about equity, words don’t help pay the bills of those who for so long have been underpaid, or in the case of the sandwich generation, who are not paid at all. In the case of PSW’s, their average wage per hour is $22/ hour, while a stay at home mother/father works a 96 hour work week ‘for free’. When the latter’s weekly tasks were tallied by Salary Wizard in a 2019 Global news story, their combined jobs would get a salary of $162, 581(US!). And yet, caregivers are forgotten, invisible. They aren’t shiny new rocket ship makers, Bitcoin miners, or reality TV show ‘stars’ whose incomes beggar belief. How does this reflect on our society’s present hierarchy of values? Why do we not count those who care for aging parents while still caring for their kids and working? We know something has to give. Usually it’s the individuals, not the rocket ship makers. Doctors, nurses, PSW’s and the sandwich generation women will burn out. And what then? Who will care for the caregivers? A costly question indeed for policy makers. Let’s hope they count more carefully this time.

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