Disability and life: the imperfect PAs

Disability and life: the imperfect PAs

Rupy Kaur is a young, British Asian, disabled woman, who is very independent and can be feisty when needed (so she says!). She will be writing for DH on some of the experiences that happen to her on a day-to-day basis. Stay tuned, as this is only the beginning of the series!

#DHgurus

Hi everybody. Thank you for tuning in for my second blog examining the intricate relationship between disabled people and their PAs.

In my usual style, I’m going to start off with a short story before offering some advice with regards to what to look for when recruiting a PA.

I became an employer using direct payments at the age of 15. The council helped me to recruit two lovely ladies…we shall call them ‘Pinky’ and ‘Perky’ for anonymity. They didn’t really have much of an interview. I asked them how they felt around personal care and the fact that they were willing to wipe my bum was a good enough answer for me, very employable! So, Pinky and Perky started on Monday. I did explain that I didn’t need to have both of them together but they were adamant that they came in two. I suppose that was okay considering they were willing to wipe my bum. A typical morning consisted of:

10.00: ding dong – doorbell: they arrive at 10am but were due to arrive at 9am. My auntie opens the door. They breathe all over her with their fag breath and tell her how awful life is.

10:02: help themselves into the kitchen to make a brew.

10:15: enter my room. No hello. Start moaning about their husbands and teenage kids before telling each other who they copped off with at the weekend.

10:30: still chatting to each other.

11:00: finally realise that they’re at work to assist me. And I ask them to run the bath.

11:05: both go into the bathroom together.

11:45: finally come out of the bathroom after the tub finally fills.

12:00: get me into the bath after telling me if I died I’d look beautiful in my coffin with my long hair and flowers in it (yes – true story) .

12:00-13:00: assist me having a bath whilst giving each other tips on how to get rid of the hair in their nether regions.

14:00: after much faffing, finally ready and in my chair. Good job it’s half term and I’m not at school. Final part of the process is them writing their own cheque and me being forced to sign for Pinky and Perky completing 8 hours of work even though they’ve only done 4.

14:05: I am starving and emotionally drained after dealing with Pinky and Perky, but it’s ok because they wiped my bum.

Fortunately they left the job on their own accordance after running away with men dressed as superman and batman- another true fact.

Sometimes I wish that I could go back to my 15-year-old self and throttle them both. They were certainly the imperfect PAs. However, my three year old nephew is sat next to me and he tells me that I can’t rewind time – how very wise.

I’ve had so many bad PAs and I’ve not really looked at their qualities as a person but rather whether they could do the practical side of my personal care. But having the bad ones has made me realise what I need to look for in people in order to be happy.

I have changed a lot in the past 12 years and have learnt to be a better employer and what to look out for in staff. It’s their attitude and whether I could hang out with them. A bit like what you’d look for in a friend or partner, just without the romantic connection of course!

I admit that I judge my PAs on what they wear and how they’ve applied their make-up for an interview. Some call this superficial but I see it as very important, as if they can dress themselves then they should be able to dress me. I’ve had staff in the past who haven’t dressed me the way I like because they didn’t ‘get it’ and I lost my confidence and identity.

I also look out for non-verbal communication. You can tell a lot from a smile, as in how warm they might be.

I have about 50 questions for my interview. They’re all based around the different aspects to my life: personal and professional. After all, they are living my life with me. There are questions about how they would fit into my family, my group of friends, colleagues etc. I also delve into their hobbies to see what their interests are like too. Finally the practical questions are asked, which are still very important such as organisational skills, experience of personal care, etc.

Some people say that I’m really intense with how many questions I ask in my interview, but you have to be. These people are coming into your personal life so you have a right to be thorough in the interview process. It’s very important to give them a contract when they start too, especially with a probationary period where, if things go wrong, you can dismiss them more easily.

My nearly perfect PA has many roles at many different times of the day: in the traditional sense they are a ‘carer’ providing personal care, in a professional sense they are a PA to assist me with daily living, they are also my make-up artist, chef, cleaner, babysitter for my nephews and much more. The role is very diverse and I need somebody to fit into my way of doing things with an open mind.

Since I’ve become more confident in attracting like-minded people to work with me, I’ve definitely had a better experience and some incredible PAs. Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of employing just anybody. We are all unique and there’s a unique PA for you.

Until next time,

Rx

By Rupy Kaur

Check out…

Disability and life: let’s not get involved in a sea of semantics…!
Disability and independence: Occupational Therapy services
Disability and gadgets: using technology for accessibility

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