During the spring wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Premier François Legault made a passionate plea for Quebecers to step up and help take care of vulnerable senior citizens.
Now the province has 10,000 long-term care orderlies hired for the second wave.
Many of those new personal care attendants in training say they feel they can make a difference.
Jennifer Keays’ was a Club Med circus instructor. Her life got turned upside down during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I got repatriated back to Canada in March,” she explained.
While she came back to her hometown, Quebec City, after seven years abroad, her partner had to stay in the Dominican Republic.
Out of work and looking to help, Keays was attracted by the premier’s plea for people to consider becoming orderlies in long-term care homes.
“And there I am. There was an English program offered in Quebec City, which is great for me because English is a little easier now than French is,” she explained.
Besides being physically fit, Keays said Club Med prepared her for this exact job of taking care of the elderly.
“Just working 14 hours a day and just being there, doing literally everything for people,” she said.
The human connection, Keays said, is “the big, big, big part of our job.”
At the same time, she said the human touch is often what’s missing for residents in long-term care.
Many news stories throughout the pandemic painted a grim picture of what was happening inside. In April, Premier Legault apologized for the failure of the Quebec government to take care of its most vulnerable senior citizens.
The province then increased orderlies’ salaries and promised paid training for those who will commit to working in a long-term care home for at least a year. Keays and 25 of her classmates in the Support for Assistive Care in Long-Term Care Centres program at the Eastern Quebec Learning Centre in Quebec City will have completed 375 hours of training by Sept. 11.
They say they are not worried about their future working conditions, nor the quality of care they will be able to provide for residents.
“We started in June (with) theory and practical here in the lab,” explained Paulina Couture.
“We got a lot of training on infection control and I’m very confident.”