Caregivers and Companions, Part 2

The strange Air Plant I received from a job applicant.

The strange Air Plant I received from a job applicant.

I had an interview yesterday that sums up everything that’s wrong with the home health care education and training system. My last post discussed the qualities that make a good assistant/caregiver. This is the flip side – what makes a BAD assistant who thinks s/he is good. It’s an open letter to my interviewee and anyone else considering this job.

Dear B,

Thanks for applying to be my assistant. I know you mean well, but I won’t be hiring you. I hope you can be successful at finding a job in the future – to increase that likelihood, here are some things you, and others with your mindset, should know.If you have medical training, especially CNA or similar, and you want to work with people with disabilities, the first thing you should do is forget 75% of what you learned.

– Do not call me a patient. I’m not sick (well, aside from this cold I’ve got at the moment).  I just need help with some physical tasks because I can’t do them myself. Saying you like to “pamper your patients” is condescending. If I want to be pampered, I’ll go to the spa. I want to be treated as an equal and not talked down to.

– Do not act all surprised that I like to go places and be a normal human being.  I don’t sit around at home feeling sorry for myself.  I live life to the fullest!

– Don’t ask me if I have a Hoyer lift. Some people do, but they will tell you about it. This question often comes with the implied assumption that I should. It’s not gonna happen. The day I get one of those is the day I hang myself with it, because I wouldn’t be able to travel or use public restrooms or do anything that makes life worth living.

– Do not bring me a strange little Airplant and a thank you card to an interview. They won’t buy you this job. Being yourself will, and I am 100% sure I never saw the real you during the entire interview.

– For f*** sake, do not talk to me in a weird phony singsong voice. Do you talk like that to your friends or your coworkers? Actually maybe you do. You were pretty strange. But I’ve seen the attitudes you exhibit in so many home health workers, social workers, and others who work with people with disabilities and think they are helping us.

Here’s what no one has told you, but someone should, so I’ll be the one to do it. You’re not helping. You’re annoying as hell. If you want to help, talk to people with disabilities and elderly people as normal human beings. We like and want the same things as everyone else. Just because we have different physical abilities, that doesn’t mean we deserve or get less out of life. If you do the job the way you should be doing it, you help make our lives full and normal. That’s a really awesome job, if you think about it.

I hope someday you become an assistant for someone who teaches you all of this. Unfortunately, it won’t be me. I’m trying to rebuild my life, and I need to surround myself with people who understand me. I don’t have the time or wherewithal to teach someone to see me on the same level as they see themselves. But I hope someone does for people like you, and people like my IHSS social worker who spends her days hurting instead of helping, because she thinks watching videos has taught her all she needs to know about living life with a disability. I believe you both went into your job with the best of intentions. But you have to be willing to take what you learned in school as a starting point, and realize it’s no substitute for real people and their individual lives and needs.

I have a feeling that you’re going to be one of those people who calls and emails to follow up and try to convince me to hire you. If you do, I’ll probably send this to you. I know it’s very harsh in parts, but I feel like honesty is the only way that growth can happen in this situation. I truly wish you the best in the future.

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