Hiring a Personal Care Assistant

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By Ruth Harrigan, Esq.

I jokingly tell friends that when I hire a personal care assistant, I’m hiring an arm and a leg. This is because I have quadriplegia, paralysis in all four limbs, as the result of a spinal cord injury. When I hire an assistant, I seek someone who can help me with everything from meal preparation and personal care to paperwork assistance relative to my own employment.

Having a good personal care assistant – someone who is reliable, caring and flexible – has a real impact on my quality of life. Finding someone like this involves a process that includes placing ads, sorting through applications, completing several interviews and making the best choice I can from among those who apply. Because my career as an attorney requires time and attention, I’ve learned how to streamline this process without losing sight of the fact that spending a little extra time during the hiring process can save me a lot of aggravation later on.

I begin the process by drafting an ad in which I list what the job pays per hour, which is higher on weekends, and work shifts I need to fill. I always emphasize how the applicant must have reliable transportation to get to the job and to run errands, and that a criminal background check and references are mandatory.

Describing what my assistant will be doing helps eliminate applicants who aren’t going to be flexible. For example, I‘ve received responses from people who will do meal preparation, but no light housekeeping. This helpful information helps me screen people out, because I need those who are willing to do both since I can’t do either. Your situation might be different. Perhaps you have a relative who can bring meals over or do the tasks a personal care assistant doesn’t want to do. Still, I strongly advise caution when hiring anyone who wants to do only certain tasks. Be sure to find out if that prospective aide is willing to set aside preferences during emergency situations.

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