Christmas With The PA
Having a PA is often essential to enable people with a high level SCI to live independently. However, a really effective client / PA relationship is one in which the PA understands the wishes of the client and supports him/her to live their life their way. Conversely, the client should understand the needs of the PA and ensure a safe and secure working environment.
Often the relationship evolves over a period of time to suit both parties. Whilst the PA is there to meet the needs of the client, we understand that in order for this to work effectively the PA needs to ‘fit in’ with the client’s wider family. We cannot divorce the client from spouse, children, parents and friends; indeed they are important for the emotional health and wellbeing of the client.
To quote an Active Assistance client: “For me my PA makes the difference between being able to do things when I want to do them and my life being dictated by someone else”
This brings me nicely to Christmas. It is a time of year when most of us re-connect with our extended families. Happily, this can be very rewarding experience, though speaking from personal experience emotional strains are sometimes just under the surface. This is difficult enough when dealing with members of one’s own family – it is doubly challenging if ‘an outsider’ is also present. For this reason I would encourage clients and PAs to prepare for Christmas. Firstly, it is worth remembering that it is Christmas for the PA too. (S)He is working and not with his/her loved ones. Secondly, there will inevitably be changes to the usual routine and it is helpful to discuss what this may entail. For example you may not want bowel management at a particular time or on a particular day. You may want to be left for extended periods. Finally, the client should be aware of any eccentricities and tensions in their family. Forewarning the PA of a great uncle’s tall stories or a cousin’s (embarrassing) signature party piece would be especially helpful!
Many clients choose not to have a PA at all over the Christmas or New Year period, leaving it to the family to support them. This is of course perfectly OK. However, before going down that route it may be worth asking: Do they (and you) have the capacity and skills to support you? Do they really want to? Again a discussion beforehand may save any embarrassment later.
In the final analysis, it is about enjoying the festive season safely. So, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all Forward readers a very joyful Christmas and a happy New Year.
Ejaz M Nabi, Chief Executive – Active Assistance