When I started self-hiring my own Personal Care Assistants (PCA’s) about two years ago, I really didn’t know what I was doing–I just knew I needed help.
I have a form of Muscular Dystrophy called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (Type 2). I like to describe my disability as having “lazy muscles.” This means, I need help with basically everything day to day to help me to be the independent adult that I am.
In the past, no one really knew self-directed hiring was an option. I fought the idea of getting caregivers because I often didn’t get along with any that were sent to me from care agencies. Most were older and in completely different places in their life than I was. They didn’t understand my lifestyle, and couldn’t keep up with it. In my experience, the caregivers from the care agencies that I used were geared toward the elderly, which is fine, but it didn’t match my needs. Not only this, but I found care agencies to have many rules which prevented me from having my care performed the way I preferred it. This was the most important thing for me, as I have always believed that I shouldn’t have to settle for doing things other people’s way, when it’s my life. Being the pathologically independent and stubborn Irish woman that I am, I didn’t settle.
Flash-back to 2014. At this point in my life, I was living on my own and had less-than ideal care. I heard about Wisconsin’s IRIS program from a friend who successfully directed her care via this program. I instantly knew it was everything that I needed. IRIS stands for Include, Respect, I-Self Direct. As a young adult with a disability who was not used to being in control of my care, there was nothing more I wanted than to be respected and in control of all aspects of my life–especially who helps me day to day.
At this time, I decided to withdraw from the care program in which I was enrolled to make the transition to IRIS faster. I do not recommend doing this, as I was left scrambling to find help, as I had no scheduled caregivers. Luckily, I had a close friend who helped me more than I would have ever expected, but it was a very stressful situation. From here, I had my first experiences with the hiring process. I did quite a bit of research on strategies for marketing, interviewing, and managing employees. I had a lot of help from friends and acquaintances from online-support groups who have been employers much longer than me, and I owe them a lot of my success.
I created my first ad and sent it out to local colleges and nursing students. I used my circle of friends to get the word out, and even tracked down email addresses for advisors in the nursing department and asked them to share my advertisement. In my ad, I made sure to target a certain type of person. My personality is based on humor and sarcasm, and I didn’t want anyone who couldn’t handle that. To me, the most important things were finding someone I could get along with every day, who would listen to and respect me, and who would be willing to help with whatever I threw at them.
Here is what my first ad looked like:
Seeking Personal Assistants
I’m an active 20 year old woman with a form of Muscular Dystrophy living in the downtown Milwaukee area. I’m seeking some awesome assistants to add to my team of caregivers. I need assistance with most aspects of my personal care, cooking, household chores, light cleaning, running errands, going out, and other various tasks. I’m generally looking for caregivers to help me live my life and have fun. This is a great job for college students to gain valuable experience and have fun doing it!
No experience is needed, only the ability to learn quickly and follow directions. This is a part-time position. Flexible schedules are preferred, but I may be able to coordinate around your schedule.
- Able to pass a background check
- Have reliable transportation and valid drivers license
- Comfortable with personal care
- Must be physically fit and able to lift up to 60 lbs.
- Strong communication skills
- Able to follow directions
- Must be respectful
- Must be Punctual and Reliable (sick days must be rare, though occasionally swapping shifts with other assistants is fine.)
- Preferably a non-smoker
- Be fun!
Please email resume and/or a paragraph about yourself, along with what hours you would be available to: [email]
Feel free to call or text [name] with any questions: [phone number].
As the years go on, I’ve changed my ad quite a bit and added a lot more personality as I’ve gotten more confident in hiring–but I still use much of my original outline. I’ve found it so helpful to put your own personal twist on your ad, as well as the exact requirements you need.
I now have a team of 6 PCA’s and have gone through about 10 workers throughout my two years of being an employer. There are inevitably hard times, and it takes some time to learn what works best for you, but personally, I don’t think I’d ever choose to not hire my own PCA’s. Being an employer certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you have the willingness to learn, it can be so rewarding.
When I first interviewed my PCA’s, I did it simply because I needed help. I never knew I would come across such life-changing relationships. I’ve met some of the most incredible people I know throughout this whole process. They make my life easier and bring way more joy into my life than they’ll ever know. To be able to pick who helps you with your daily life also means you get to pick who you share a large portion of your life with, and it makes all the difference.
For more information, check out this hiring guide I’ve written for you. I hope it helps during this sometimes difficult but rewarding process.