Five Tips For a Long and Productive Personal Care Assistant Relationship

Many people with disabilities rely, at some point in our lives, on the services of a Home Health Aide (HHA) or Personal Care Assistant (PCA). And it’s no secret that this is a challenging relationship, both to establish and maintain. Listed below are five tips to help make the process a little easier and successful.

1. Establish boundaries on your PCA’s first day. Finding a dependable PCA is not an easy task. When we do find one, we are so grateful that it’s very easy to make the mortal mistake of treating him/her like a guest in our home. If you have suffered through a series of nightmarish PCAs who may have left you to skip meals or soil yourself, it is totally understandable that you would want to do anything to make a good PCA want to keep you as a client. Instead of handing them your remote control or adding them to your will, focus on setting boundaries. This will have much more productive, long-term results.

Everyone’s boundaries are different. Have you thought about what your boundaries are? If not, try asking yourself the following questions to help you get started:

• Are there any rooms in your home that you do not want your PCA in?
• Do you find any specific behaviors or language offensive, which your PCA should refrain from while in your home?
• Do you have a dress code for your PCAs?
• Do you care if your PCA talks on the phone or texts during his/her shift?

2. Express what you expect from your Personal Care Assistant. If your PCA doesn’t know what you expect from him/her, then he/she is doomed to disappoint you. Nobody benefits from setting your PCA up for failure. Make a detailed list of chores and tasks that need to be done on a regular basis. If you are unable to do this yourself, tell your PCA to grab a pen and paper so he/she can write it out for you.

3. Privacy. Making the time and space for a little private time every day could help your relationship with your PCA as well as with yourself. Sometimes we all just need to hear our own thoughts and meditate. There are many variables that can make it challenging for a person with a disability to have privacy. Perhaps the person with disabilities requires a PCA to be with them for most of the day and/or night. Maybe the client lives in a very small apartment with a roommate — throw a PCA in the mix and things can get crowded. If you simply must always be in the same room with a caregiver, pop in some ear buds, close your eyes and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign.

4. Provide dietary information. Again, you hired a PCA, not Miss Cleo from the psychic hotline. If you don’t communicate what you like to eat and how you like it to be prepared, you could be in for a scary surprise. Gather a few detailed recipes or cookbooks for your PCA to use in preparing your meals, and designate a spot in your kitchen to keep these helpful items.

5. Give feedback and use your manners. It is important to remember that your PCA is not your mother or other relative who is taking care of you out of familial obligation. It does take a caring person to do this type of job well, but ultimately, it is just their job. Depending on the level of care your PCA provides, it may be a rather dirty job at times. Show some gratitude; say “please” and “thank you” throughout the day. Give sincere compliments that show you appreciate his/her care.

This also may prove helpful when you need to give negative feedback. For example, if you occasionally say things like, “Lunch was exceptionally good today. I really liked the way it was prepared,” your PCA may be more receptive to statements like “Thanks for making what I wanted for lunch, but next time, please set the oven timer so it doesn’t over cook.”

Remember … Communication is the key to all successful relationships!