Recent News

Recent News

“If I’m struggling, others must be”: How one PSW rose above a challenge for her community

June 23, 2023
PSW Kaila Jonsen poses in front of a truck that reads "Love. Impact. Hope".

For many, Personal Support Workers are a lifeline. This is especially true for those living independently in the community who need assistance with daily tasks due to age, illness, injury or disability. The challenges of these vulnerable Ontarians are often invisible to others because they happen behind closed doors.

Personal Support Workers like VHA Home HealthCare’s Kaila Jonsen and many other home and community care workers know all too well and recognize when their clients are struggling. The ripple effects from the pandemic and rising costs of inflation have added to the challenges, leaving many struggling to make ends meet.

“What people don’t realize”, says Kaila, “is that the same frontline heroes who put on a brave face to show up for their community have also met new and complex challenges of their own.”

Shared Challenges

“The height of the pandemic was such a stressful and scary time for many of my clients. It also left many healthcare workers uncertain about the future and their safety, so many left the sector entirely to focus on their families and children,” recalls Kaila. “But I just couldn’t leave my clients. I wanted to continue to be a source of comfort and support.”

Kaila is also the mother of a young daughter who began online learning during the pandemic. Along with parents around the world, Kaila was left juggling motherhood and her other passion, being a PSW.

Kaila, who has been a fulltime PSW for over five years, made the tough decision early on in the pandemic to work on a part-time basis, usually about 3 days a week. Then in 2021, she came back to work full-time on an off and off basis while supporting her daughter’s at-home learning. But this quickly became unsustainable as the part-time income wasn’t sufficient to support Kaila and her daughter, and she was working too many hours to claim pandemic-related government supplements. So, Kaila started visiting her local food bank in Scarborough to provide for her family.

Neighbours help Neighbours

Because of the close relationships home care workers build with their clients , Kaila gets to know a lot about her clients, including their food preferences and the staples they regularly have on hand. But Kaila says that in the past year she has noticed a lot of her clients have stopped purchasing the items they know and love because they are no longer affordable.

“They were going without staples in their diet. And they wouldn’t buy many of their favourite items any more.  That’s when it clicked for me,” says Kaila. “I thought to myself ‘If I’m struggling, others must be.’”

Kaila decided to approach her supervisor with a strategy. She would take time every day to pick up food from the food bank and distribute it to clients most in need. It was an ‘aha’ moment for Kaila when she was given the green light. Her strategy was simple: Help clients access what they need most.

“I do this job because I find it very rewarding. I’m making an impact in my community,” she says, adding that as a Scarborough native, she loves that she’ll run into other community members and even clients and families during her personal outings. “We’re like a big family,” she says.

Fast forward almost 2 years, Kaila says that fortunately, the murky waters of the pandemic are long behind her and she is back to her daily schedule as a fulltime PSW. But to this day, she stops by the food bank for her clients every week.