Hiring and Managing Caregivers and Personal Support
The particulars are hard to pin down and usually open to debate, but with absolute certainty, people with disabilities and their families want more choice, power and control in their lives.
The explosive growth of person-centered planning and consumer-directed services is now the new reality in the field of rehabilitation, and is like nothing we have seen before.
This trend started a decade or so ago, as people with disabilities grabbed onto self-advocacy like a floundering swimmer grabs onto a lifesaver. Self-advocacy kept us afloat while we navigated through a sea of paperwork and strived to survive the stormy, yet, well-intended (and often underfunded) attempts to improve our lives. Though advocating, both individuals and their families learned our voices count — both in the legislative process and in directing our support.
Nowadays, people with disabilities rely less on case managers and service providers to shape their days, plan their nights and manage the hiring and training of their personal support personnel. While some individuals and families welcome the change, others resist. Either way, we must pass through some turbulent currents of change.
As we move forward, our voice isn’t enough. With freedom comes responsibility—which starts with understanding your needs and the needs of your family. Then, we need to share that information with key people in order to build a quality network of support to assist you in living your life.
Consider taking these actions as you take charge in hiring your own support.
Start with a well-defined pre-employment strategy. Know what you are looking for in the people you intend to hire. Create a list of essential characteristics, experiences and must-haves. This will shape your recruitment efforts.
For example: Mikelle doesn’t require prior experience in working with a person with a disability. Actually, she prefers people who might have a friend who experiences a disability but hasn’t worked in the rehabilitation field. However, she requires energetic, goal-oriented individuals with a great sense of humor.
As Mikelle’s mom and go-to person when things go wrong, I insist on people who are reliable, honest, and have the capability of tuning in to her needs and desires, and the ability to communicate with her and me effectively.
The interview process is critical.
From the moment a prospective employee enters your door, their impression of you and environment is taking shape. Think carefully about how you couch your employment expectations. Examine entering your home from a customer service perspective:
- How do you greet them?
- Do they feel welcomed?
- What do they hear, see and smell when they walk in the door?
- Do you offer them a place to sit and be comfortable, a refreshment?
- Are you focused or scattered in your presentation?
- How will they feel about you after they leave?
Understanding the intricacies and intimacies of the employment relationship is essential. And, in many cases, it is a relationship your life or the life of your loved one may depend on.
When Mikelle and I interview prospective employees, we clean and organize her home. The preparation for an interview process helps set the tone for our expectations of how we want them to keep the house for Mikelle. We offer tea or coffee as a refreshment. This is a home not a mini-institution.
The interview questions are already prepared prior to the meeting and imputed into Mikelle’s iPad. She tells them a brief story about her life helping to establish the expectation, they are not only working for her, but also supporting her in achieving her goals.
Employees must experience good support in order to provide it.
First impressions do count and are usually accurate. Be clear on what kind of impression you want to make on them.
Now that you have your prospective hire comfortable, it is time to focus on the interview process.
Check out our next installment in our series, “Are you a Employer of Choice,” to find tips for the actual interview process.