There are growing calls for an apology and “accountability” after a TikTok account connected to the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association (OPSWA) posted videos that appear to make disparaging remarks about people living in long-term care and the role of personal support workers.
“This is a serious misrepresentation of our industry, of the people that work in the industry, and it’s very demeaning and there needs to be accountability for that,” said Lynn Steele, founder of the Canadian Personal Support Worker Network.
“It’s taking a real hit to the morale of the great PSWs,” she added.
“I am disgusted as a PSW,” said Alicia Lee, a personal support worker in Guelph, Ont., whose 107-year-old great grandfather lives in long-term care.
Lee has seen a number of the videos and said she feels disgust and disappointment.
“We have humour, but we have humour with the residents and they joke with us, but never when it comes to Dementia or Alzheimers,” she said. “It kills me, it kills me as a PSW.”
The video Lee was referring to shows the PSW, who refers to herself on Instagram as “Official OPSWA TikToker,” eating a slice of cake in a room, with the caption on the screen, “My resident called asking where her three friends ran off to. The ones at the end of her bed. So now I’m delaying rounds by this slice of cake. Pray for me. haha.”
On Twitter, Dementia Justice Canada released a statement, noting it “is disappointed in the numerous unacceptable social media posts shared by @OntarioPSWAssoc mocking people with dementia, undermining their dignity and the compassionate work of many PSWs.”
“I don’t know who these people are but I sure wouldn’t want them one foot near my mom,” said Jill Davis, whose mother has dementia and lives in long-term care.
Davis said her mother is well taken care of by personal support workers and she felt compelled to express her disgust at the videos posted to TikTok.
“These people who are suffering from dementia, there is a person inside there, that’s my mum inside there, that could easily have been my mum … it seems so callous, such a disregard for human life,” she said.
On Twitter, the Ontario PSW Association has promoted the “OPSWA TikToker” in the past, with one tweet in February suggesting members send her their questions “about PSW life and work,” adding, “Check her out on TikTok @PSW Chronicles.”
The account, which has nearly 30,000 followers, has since been made private.
“This doesn’t represent them and to be honest it really actually hurts them,” said Ashley Fox, registered practical nurse and community outreach coordinator with Promyse Home Care in Waterloo, Ont.
Fox’s grandfather lives in long-term care so this impacts her on many levels, she said.
“We don’t want that reputation with long-term care especially with PSWs right now, we want to make it a career of choice and we want to bring people into the PSW profession and this is really not helping,” she said.
The OPSWA did not respond to a request for comment by Global News by time of publication.
The association posted a statement on Twitter on Thursday, noting, in part, it “firmly condemns any actions that seek to undermine vulnerable communities. The OSPWA does not condone any messaging or actions that downplay the severity of dementia or any vulnerable person.”
That statement is not sufficient for Steele, who is calling for an apology and action.
“PSWs are accountable to the people they work for, to their residents, to their family members, to the public and if this is the type of representation that PSWs are being given that’s not doing much service to PSWs or the industry at all … we need to be more positive, more professional,” she said.