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People with spinal cord injury often need help with tasks of daily living. These include dressing, grooming, and eating. They also include home management tasks, such as cooking, paying bills, and cleaning. A caregiver or personal assistant can provide that help. In some cases, a family member can fill this role. But in many cases, the caregiver is a paid employee. This sheet gives you more information about hiring a caregiver or personal assistant.
A hired caregiver or personal assistant can help you as little or as much as you need. Work with your SCI care team to help identify the tasks you need assistance with. Caregivers or personal assistants may help with:
Bowel and bladder care
Positioning, transferring, range of motion exercises, and skin care
Bathing, dressing, and grooming
Food preparation and eating
Housecleaning, tidying, laundry, paying bills
Grocery shopping and other errands
Child or pet care
Once you have thought about the tasks you need a caregiver or personal assistant to do, you can create a job ad. Put as much information as possible in the job ad. Be clear about what is required and expected. This helps ensure you will get someone who will fit your unique needs and preferences. Include:
Kinds of skills that are needed
Duties that will be required
Number of hours of work per week
Salary and benefits
Post the ad both online and in public areas that allow job postings. You can ask applicants to mail you a resume and a cover letter. Or, you can have people call or email you directly. You can also contact a home healthcare agency. Some non-profit organizations offer referrals for home health workers. Also ask friends and family. They may have referrals, or be interested in the job themselves.
Hiring the right person can be challenging. This person will be helping you with intimate aspects of life. You want to find someone you trust and feel comfortable with. Your SCI care team can help you do this. When people respond to your job ad, schedule interviews with the applicants you want to meet. Have a family member or friend attend the interview and take notes. Review the applicant’s resume with them. Ask about their experience and education. Describe the job tasks in detail. The person you hire should be comfortable with all aspects of the job. Also be clear about your policies for your home. Discuss schedule and salary. Ask for references from previous employers. Finally, encourage the applicant to ask questions.
When you hire a caregiver or personal assistant, you are their employer. You will need to supervise them. This means having good, clear communication. You will need to:
Make performance expectations clear and give performance feedback
Lay down ground rules about your home
Explain the tasks and how to do them
Work together to set efficient routines that are helpful to both of you
Discuss confidentiality and privacy
Have a backup plan for when the caregiver or personal assistant is sick, on vacation, or has an emergency
Deal with disagreement or conflict
Compromise when needed to help retain a good employee
End the person’s employment if necessary
There are some programs that may help you pay for a caregiver or personal assistant. Medicare may help. Worker’s compensation or private insurance may cover some of the cost. Ask your social worker for help in finding what resources you may be eligible for. Also note that you may have to pay social security taxes for the caregiver. Ask your social worker or a tax accountant to learn more.
For more information about SCI, go to:
The National Spinal Cord Injury Foundation www.spinalcord.org
Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation www.christopherreeve.org
Paralyzed Veterans of America www.pva.org
National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) www.ncil.org
Spinal Cord Injury Information Network www.spinalcord.uab.edu