Hiring Attendants

I have found it necessary in the 5 years that I have been a recipient of the Independent Care Waiver Program to learn how to hire people my self to fill spots vacant in my shifts. I find it is better for me to always have 4 or 5 attendants to cover just in case of emergencies, car trouble, unpredictable circumstance, sickness or want for vacation. I do all my own ad placement, interview coordination, and hiring selection because I am the one who will be sharing my time with these individuals and not the case manager or provider agency who will come to know these individuals in a personable way. I think whenever possible it should be the responsibility of the consumer to fill staffing and help create their own circle of support. Having the power to hire your own staff is the most important tool a consumer can have in controlling life and surrounding environment. And as long as one has a good attitude it should never be a problem to assemble, fill, and maintain good people.

I have been asked many times by others how I maintain a staff that can do the job and still have fun. So I decided to write an article to assist those of you who may need a little help in this matter. First, a positive attitude and goal oriented outlook on life will make time spent hanging out with attendants easy passing. I have been around hundreds of people with disabilities from all parts of the world and nation and find that no matter what the severity of their condition, a good attitude creates easier working conditions and better space to share than the traditional medical model of long-term care, where a person is hired because of nursing skill and not casual relating.

I take pleasure in meeting potential friends and helping people out who will in turn be helping me out as well. I have moved 6 times in the past few years to different parts of the city or state and have had to transfer my help and fill staffing many times. The wording of the ad is the key that will dictate the kinds of people who will call for interview. When I place an ad I word it in such a way that will have a different feel and attract a different kind of curiosity than the regular seeking c.n.a. ad that most agencies write for their consumers. I place the ad in the general help wanted section -seeking enthusiastic individual to aid poet with disability in activities of daily living, the particular shift, the pay, if there are any benefits, and travel necessary.

This kind of ad attracts both the medical I like to help kind of people and the artistically inclined person seeking new job opportunity. Poet can be replaced with student, artist, elderly, etc… depending upon the particular individual and the kind of people one is trying to attract. I put travel necessary to allow for ADAPT and recreational trips and to weed out individuals that are so committed to other routine that they are unable to spend large amounts of time with me. Travel also draws interest from many individuals seeking opportunity to get outside of the state even for a few days.

Anybody can do the job what's important to me is will I be able to share good space and memory with the attendants I will soon spend more straight one-on-one time with than most married couples spend in daily routine. Whether or not they have the medical credentials, I know I have the necessary skills capable to train anybody in the particulars of my personal care. I place more importance in the feeling I have when I meet and talk to people during the initial phone dialogue and follow-up face-to-face conversation than I do if they already have prior experience in personal assistance. Once I have accumulated enough names and telephone numbers, I begin the face-to-face assessments which consequently determines who I will hire and introduce to my provider for paperwork and rest of procedures necessary to join my staff.

When I do interviews with people I write down their names, phone numbers, areas where they live, whether they have reliable transportation, and if they've had any experience with people with disabilities before. I then tell them about the job requisites and what they entail. I then ask them about their interests- what movies, books, foods, artists, painters, poets, musicians, people they like... the usual hi my name is dialogue to get to know other people. I like to know what they do with their free time just to get a general feel for them as people in their own lives. After allowing them to ask me any questions about the job or interests, I let them go and wait for the next person to come.

I am careful to thank each person for coming to interview and I let them know no matter if I hire them this time or not, I always keep this list for later reference. It is important to relate most everything up front especially in terms of personal care. Any expectations should be discussed and preferences shared in the face-to-face interview. Topics such as boundaries, likes, concerns, and dislikes should be openly conversed to better transition the consumer and the aid into each other's lives. Like marrying on the first date, if the consumer and hired attendant consider all measures up-front there will be less likelihood of the consumer entering into a bad situation.

After all the face-to-face interviews, I call in the people I have chosen for a second face-to-face where I clear up any further confusion about the job, explaining fully the provider, procedures, pay, benefits, and every aspect of my care. Then if everything is still good, we finish the paperwork, background checks, drug tests, TBI test, first aid, and CPR. Then I train them hands-on with people I already have on staff. This way everybody gets to meet everyone else and the new people not only see the training, but do it and feel it until they have it right.

This process can be simple for someone like myself who has done it dozens of times in the course of living with disability. It took me a few attempts to refine this procedure but I find it to produce very good results and have tested it in different parts of the state. The only other tips I can think of providing is, if you feel vulnerable and uneasy about inviting strangers into the household, meet them on mutual ground, a restaurant or center for independent living. For individuals that cannot verbalize clearly their wishes, handouts could be generated for potential attendants to read upon initial meeting. Topics can include responsibilities, expectations, household rules, consumer preference, duties, chores, etc.

It is important too, that when the contract is drawn up between the agency, consumer, and aid, that all parties be present to consumate the deal. This gives the potential employee the idea that the consumer is responsible for their hiring and that will create respect for the consumer from the new employee. As much as it is important for consumers to hire their own employees, it is very important that the consumer be responsible for finding a provider who will treat their employees with the respect they deserve as their personal caretakers.

There are providers out there that will try to milk the consumer and the employee for as much profit as they can get away with. But there are also new providers agencies out there that have the health and independence of the client in mind, knowing that how they treat their employees has as much to do with the quality of their clients health as good food or the proper medication. Next month I'll write an article that discusses my experience with providers in this state and how that got me involved with the creators of Calle Vinas, who stand to be part of the next generation of providers that last because of their understanding of good business and relationship dynamics.