So it's the Year of Independent Living and what better time to discuss - independent living and hiring aides?
I've spent the better part of the last week training a new backup aide. This is difficult to do around my work, but obviously when a new person comes on board, he or she doesn't know where anything is, what to do and, to some extent, how to do it, depending on the person.
Yesterday the new aide arrived and told me she had family issues which might mean she has to give up the job. Of course what she doesn't understand is that she hasn't even begun. She's still at the point where she thinks the job is about cleaning, not about personal care but we're getting there. It takes time. One thing I've learned is you can't show a person more than one or two things at a time when there is a complex care situation.
Of course I am sympathetic to her personal situation and do want her to feel free to go do what she has to. However, because it's time consuming I am not going to continue training her until she lets me know her plans.
I've written before about the relationship between a personal care assistant and a person with a disability. It's a two way street that requires good communication. One of the things I've learned is that with a good aide, there's a flow which allows me to go live my life and get my work done, which is the point of the whole thing. This takes time and doesn't always work. But it is possible with a commitment by both people to a few simple rules:
1. Honor each other's time constraints. Be clear about what hours the person is working. The aide needs to show up on time and, on the other hand, know she can leave at the scheduled time so she can deal with her other commitments. Unilateral schedule-setting doesn't work and creates resentment. On the other hand , after months of working together, more flexibility can work out, but that takes time. It's a bad sign if you find yourself canceling social plans or dealing with work commitments because your aide changes the schedule without communicating first- or even acknowledging that you have a schedule yourself.
2. Listen to each other's needs and wants. It doesn't matter if you agree all of the time on every detail, but it does matter that you listen to each other. It's about respect and if that's present, things will work out - usually.
3. Treat the relationship as an investment. Both people are investing time and energy into the relationship. For example, it's never good to take a job as an aide if you can't make a commitment to it since the training is involved and time consuming. On the other hand , it's not good to hire someone about whom you have a lot of doubts to begin with. Move on and interview more people. When you find someone you can work with, chances are the feeling is mutual and there's a better chance your investment will pay off.
4. Keep in mind that aides receive low pay and have other commitments and employment as a general rule. Act accordingly. Do not expect them to drive over at a moment's notice except in the most dire of emergencies. Make arrangements with neighbors and others to deal with unexpected needs. Allow them time off. Remember the golden rule. Being an employer carries responsibilities. Try this for a reality check and insert the situation you're facing:
How would I like to (be called at 3 am to come over?)
(be asked to do things in an unreasonable way because your mother did it that way?)
(have to cancel social/work plans and stay home because my aide changed the time?)
(have things picked on, be rushed when it's not necessary, etc.?)
This can, of course, happen with behavior from aide to employer or from employer to aide, so it's a good exercise sometimes to do- together.
When the relationship with a personal care assistant and a person with a disability does get fine tuned and work, it's a beautiful thing. Most personal care assistants are dedicated individuals who, let's face it, don't do this job for the money. But do make sure they get paid on time. Remember that you're also an employer and you have responsibilities too.