Just like any employer, those under the Direct Payments scheme – interviewing, hiring and managing their own staff for their care needs get their fair share of ‘bad eggs.’ Before I embarked on moving from CHC Adult Social Care agencies to Direct Payments, I often wondered if my interview experiences would be much like those on the hit film, ‘Inside I’m Dancing.’
Rory and Michael are two friends whom become acquainted through circumstance. Both were put in a nursing home leading to their inspiring journey to independent living, interviewed applicants from all walks of life. The ignorant, the awkwardly silent to the jesus-will-cure you types… The film reigns true on what it’s like hiring your own Personal Assistants. As you’ll see below in my recollection of negative PA encounters in, ‘Personal Assistants 101 | My Worst PA Experiences’
The Textbook PA
In my very early interviewing days (when I didn’t have a clue really!) I hired a lady I thought was good because she had loads of qualifications that could come in useful. In agency care, they often sent carers who didn’t know how to use a hoist or were only used to doing a bit of shopping for Ethel or a 5 minute call to make sure Margaret had taken her tablets. So naturally I was going over-kill now by avoiding total newbies to personal care and moving and handling. Only, this lady did things so by the book she wasn’t willing to toilet, dress or bath me the way I was used to and needed to be. Everytime I would talk her through it, she’d critisise how she wasn’t taught to do it this way or that. Flagging up health and safety. Yet all I was asking her to do is something like – pulling my pants up in a few hefty tugs rather than me being log rolled 15 times or more, getting worn out before I’m even up for the day. In the end she quit as she wasn’t ‘comfortable’ doing things my way.
The Desperate PA
A few years ago one of my regular, reliable PAs was going through hard times. Her father passed away, then she lost her other job. Or so she told me 🙄. She was on call during my c-section recovery, only she wasn’t replying to messages anymore. Calls going straight to voicemail. She turned up suddenly for a pre-arranged shift the following week, claiming she now had no phone due to her abusive boyfriend smashing it. Confided in me she and her 2 children were now living back at her Mums house. As a domestic abuse survivor myself (Did you know 1 out or 4 women with disabilities experience domestic violence of some kind?) My heart went out to her. I knew I had an old Blackberry phone on a pay-as-you-go sim. So I gave it to her and topped it up with £10. I never saw nor heard from her again.
The Exercise Intolerant PA
I once had a cover PA who was fine with the personal care side, but once she willingly took on a shift that included walking with me on the nursery run, she couldn’t hack it. She was so exhausted from ‘the trek’ (which my regular PA managed fine!) that she point blank refused to help me make the childrens tea once we were home. Not wanting to cause an argument by putting my foot down, infront of my young children. Plus they are always ravenous after school/nursery, my only option was to order a take-away with money I didn’t really have. I still regret not standing upto her now. To add insult to injury, later that night she fell asleep in the living-room at 8, whilst I needed her to help me with supportive parenting for the girls bedtime routine, then of course get me settled for the night too. It took 2hrs of me really struggling until I managed to wake her. Needless to say, I never let her cover again for safety!
The OCD Cleaner PA
I once interviewed a PA in my home who was a self described OCD, neat-freak. Now our home is a typical family home, just as we get ontop of the washing up, the laundry – there’s more, toys scattered randomly despite the rule of one toy out at a time and with a toddler getting into absolutely everything, for my own sanity as a SAHM who happens to have a disability too, I’ve learnt to pick my battles, prioritise and leave the big clean up until the girls are in bed. As I was washing the dishes later that same day, I got a text message from said PA saying she no longer wanted the position. She seemed so keen originally so I rang her to see well,… why? I wasn’t going to try and convince her otherwise but at least maybe I could learn from her what ‘I’ may of unconsciously done that put her off. She basically told me my home was a health hazard and that I was lucky she wasn’t calling Social Services! For some dishes in the sink, laundry waiting to be put away and kids toys? I was so shocked, I hung up and actually couldn’t hold back the tears. I started questioning our home and if it was as bad as she made out. All my regular staff and family reassured me that our home is ‘lived in’ and you can’t have a perfectly tidy house with kids. You’re constantly meeting yourself coming back! I don’t know if she ever did call the Social on me, but it took me a good 6 months to get over how humiliated and small she made me feel. My brother made a good point on this situation, by saying one of her duties was to help me physically keep up with housework…
As daunting as these encounters sound to an outsider, sadly I know many a person who’ve had far worse. Thankfully I’ve been lucky enough that my Good PA experiences massively outweigh the bad and the kindness of the human spirit isn’t lost in the in-home support area of the caring profession. Look out for the next installment from this on-going series on life hiring, firing and juggling Personal Assistants… Stay tuned!
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