In the Kitchen

I have attendants. Or rather, I receive attendant care services from an agency. Several times a day, staff come into my apartment to assist with various tasks of daily living (showering, dressing, washroom assists, cooking, etc.). Fairly recently, the field became professionalized in a way most people who live independently in the community do not agree with (but that's a rant for another day). Now, attendants must have a PSW degree (Personal Support Worker). I mention this because them having a degree in the healthcare field is relevant to today's post.

So. There I was in the kitchen, directing the attendant in making me dinner. I was cooking fish and as part of the preparation, I let it sit in a container for a few minutes covered with cold water in which we squeeze the juice of two limes to get rid of the "fishy" taste. It's a trick I learned from some of the attendants who come from the Caribbean.

Once the fish has percolated quietly for a sufficient time – 5 minutes or so - the attendant places the fish on a cookie sheet and puts it in the oven. She rinses her hands in the lime water and moves to cut up vegetables for my salad.

"Would you mind washing your hands first?" I ask politely.

"I just rinsed them in the lime water," she replies helpfully. The lime water in which raw fish had been deposited.

I take this opportunity to explain things like raw fish and bacteria and remind her that I have a suppressed immune system.

"But," she says, "the lime cleans off the germs."

I then take this opportunity to remind her that there was raw fish in the lime water. She opines that the lime would have neutralized the germs and this is the point where I start wanting to bang my head against the wall. We have another conversation about raw fish, bacteria and what it takes to eliminate them. As well as another conversation about the implications of a suppressed immune system. She washes her hands, but I can tell she thinks I'm crazy.

A week later, I have the same conversation with another attendant. Who as an aside in a separate conversation mentions of food handling course she took. And yet again, I have the overwhelming wish to bang my head against the wall.

It's a miracle. I don't have food poisoning on a weekly basis.


Gaina said…
What!? Fact is, you're the client and they are there to follow your instructions. END OF.

I know some kind of assistance is coming in my future at some point and I just hope it's in the form of a lover, not a care worker cos I may get through several!
In this day and age!

It's so disheartening that you have to be on guard with the very people who "should" be there for you.

I can (sort of) understand an oversight, but if you ask her to wash her hands, just do it, already. Why argue?

I'm so sorry that you have to deal with this.
Trevor said…
I should note that the PSW designation is not a degree, or a diploma. It's a certificate that you earn after a short course and a field placement (a placement that may or may not even particularly relevant to being a PSW). I believe the cost of the course is around $500 and many people get subsidized by EI for taking it.
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