I’m starting to wonder whether I am an incredibly exacting person to work for as I simply can’t seem to hold on to a personal assistant/carer on a permanent basis. The first quit due to personal health issues, the second quit before she even started and the third quit because she doesn’t enjoy cleaning. I’m at a loss as to how I can make the position any more attractive and so we’re launching round four of advertising and recruiting early next week with the same job description. The advert going out looks something like this:
Lady with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome looking for a personal assistant. Main duties to include assistance with personal care, running errands, cooking, housework and helping taking care of newborn and indoor house cat. £8.50 per hour for 17 hours a week. Clean driving license and child care experience advantageous.
I am hoping that the fourth time is the charm. My current PA is employed for four hours a day over five days mostly and with the adjusted hours, the new position will be 3-3.5 hour shifts usually over five days as well. The aim is to have some help with the day to day stuff that I can’t carry out without assistance. In any job interview and with every new starter, I emphasize the fact that the main priority of being a personal assistant is to be available to provide assistance as required. This includes help getting up or sitting down, fetching things, pushing the wheelchair as directed both indoors and outdoors when I get up, assisting in tasks I require help with such as repotting or watering plants, taking care of the baby or cat, making phone calls, running errants (with or without me), dealing with health issues etc. All other tasks can be put off, left, delayed as appropriate to accommodate this. Currently, 50% of the hours work is set aside (will be reduced to 40% with the reduction in hours) specifically for things like this and if more time is required, other things on the to-do list is knocked off to make room. I still think it’s a good system and insures that I have the help I need available when I need it.
The rest of the shift tend to look something like this: An hour to help me shower and get dressed and to clean and tidy up the bathroom and two bedrooms (the nursery currently not in use being one) afterwards and an hour to prepare either breakfast or lunch and whilst I eat very slowly, a quick tidy and clean of the kitchen, tiny hallway and lounge as well as putting on some laundry or doing some ironing if required. It’s the cleaning part that seems to always generate the most negative response. I can’t afford a cleaner, I can’t do any of the cleaning myself (if I need help holding a cup, how on earth am I going to manage washing it?) and having Chris come home from work often after a very long day to find the house in complete disarray that he has to sort out isn’t fair. I always stress that cleaning is at the bottom of the priority list, if you need to leave the dishes because I needed help using my asthma inhaler, that’s fine; however, cleaning is part of the job.
After I’ve showered, I expect the shower curtains to be pulled back, the floor to be mopped of excess water so that I don’t slip, toothpaste to be rinsed out of the sink and towels to be hung up. After getting up and getting dressed, I expect the bed to be made at least somewhat so that I can go lie down if I need to at any point, dirty clothes to be placed in the laundry basket and fresh water to be left next to the bed in case I do end up napping or throwing up or with low blood pressure that can only be fixed by drinking lots of water. I expect the living room to be kept tidy so that I can get to my chair with my wheelchair, turn on the television and use my computer. I expect the kitchen to be tidy and things to not fall on my head when I open a cupboard or the sink to be so full of dirty dishes that I can’t reach the tap or laundry not to be left on the lowered work surface which is there for me to be able to use. And when there’s time left, as all asthmatics, I really appreciate a quick dust and hoover so that breathing in dust doesn’t make my life that much harder.
I’m not sure whether these requests are unreasonable or that horrible to carry out. On arriving in the UK, I worked as a personal assistant/carer in various settings for a while and in every position I filled, cleaning and tidying was part of my job. Even when working in care / nursing homes, I was expected to tidy up rooms after helping someone get dressed and when working privately in someone’s home, I did dishes, laundry, scrubbed floors, ran errants, walked dogs, cleaned cat litter trays, watered plants, scrubbed toilets, descaled appliances, filled cars up with petrol, checked water and oil, moved furniture, packed and unpacked bags; I was involved with every aspect of a person’s life and it was a normal part of my job description. It’s been almost ten years since and it leaves me wondering whether things have changed. I’m assured by council employees that assist me in finding help that it has not; that my job advert is quite standard other than possibly the baby and the cat, but I’m still unsure why cleaning seems to be such a big deal breaker. Hopefully, someone out there is happy and willing to spend 5-10 hours a week being paid £8.50 per hour to help me keep my house clean and tidy. I guess time will tell.
Aside: If anyone is wondering why the advert still mentions an indoor cat, we’re in the process of adopting another one; the house is just too empty without a feline companion.