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What It Takes to Be a Wonderful Personal Care Attendant

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Being a personal care attendant is a highly important position. A personal care attendant helps people with daily living, getting to work, and being as independent as possible. If you think being a personal care attendant is a job for you, here are my thoughts on what it takes to be an excellent worker for your employers.

Personal care attendants are also called direct care workers in some areas of the country. The basic requirements are generally that you are at least 18 years old, a citizen or legal resident of your country, able to pass criminal and child abuse clearances, and usually, can drive. Depending on your location, you may or may not be able to be related or married to the person to whom you are giving care and services. Each agency and state has different rules, so it is best to ask any questions right from the start.

It’s important to make sure you’re physically and emotionally capable of doing the tasks the person needs. Some people might need to be lifted completely, while others can help you transfer. Some people might have spouses, children and pets. Come into the home with the mindset that you are a member of the family, and be a team worker.

I have been using attendant care services for years due to having cerebral palsy. I cannot walk, and I have some trouble doing simple tasks. Having someone come to assist me has been wonderful, and has made my quality of life much better than going into assisted living or relying on family.  However, in my years of experience, I know what works and what doesn’t. But don’t get me wrong — I am still learning every day to improve the employee-employer relationship.

A pleasant attitude goes a long way in the personal care field. I don’t expect anyone to be happy every moment of the day, but an unhappy person who complains about their life isn’t helpful to anyone. Once I had a personal care attendant who cried each morning about her personal life before getting me ready. I did feel compassion for her, but I wasn’t her counselor and she was using her paid time with me unfairly. Think about your demeanor before caring for someone. Would you want someone like yourself taking care of you or a family member?

Being on time and reliable is an absolute must in a personal care position. Don’t get me wrong, I know things happen, but in this job, someone is relying on your help. Finding back-up care at the last minute is not only stressful, but can be almost impossible. Like any job, you should give the person plenty of notice if you need time off. If you’re someone who is constantly late to work and has many other obligations that keep you from working reliably, this might not be the right job for you.

Flexibility is a plus to have. Like anyone, life is unpredictable and people change their minds. If you’re rigid about routines and structure, make sure you’re honest with your future employer about that in the interview. They have a right to know, and you need to be in a position where you feel comfortable.

Listening and being able to follow directions are also important qualities. Sometimes you might not agree with how someone wants their house cleaned, food prepared, or does other things in their life. However, remember their life isn’t your life. Your job is to help them live how they want, unless they are imminently endangering themselves or others.  If you need to, you can voice your concerns, but know that your life and their life are completely separate. Please don’t try to pry in their business or marriage. They will ask for advice or an opinion if they want one.  Your job is do be the best care worker possible. Good luck!

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Originally published: December 27, 2016
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