PCA Upheaval

For the vast majority of my post-spinal cord injury lifestyle I have had a great deal of stability in regards to PCAs that come in to help me out with my personal cares. As I mentioned in a few years ago, a local hospital used to send home health aides to me every morning while I still lived at home in Eau Claire, WI through high school and college. I didn’t like the lack of choice over who came, but at least someone was showing up promptly and consistently every day.

After I moved into my current apartment in Minneapolis when I started law school in 2003 I had the power to hire who came in. I made a wrong first choice with a woman who had no experience with the types of things that I need help with. I think she thought that we were just going to hang out and go shopping together. She went from helping me to another job and often wore her nicer, second job work clothes to my place. One day she got a tiny bleach spot on her black skirt and sat in my room and cried about it for 10 minutes. Duh, don’t wear nice clothes when you’re working with bleach. She only lasted about a month before someone much more experienced started coming in instead.

Said PCA came in five days a week plus every other weekend for the next nine years. So 12 out of every 14 days were covered. I think during that time span she only called in sick about a half dozen times or so. My every other weekend PCA situation had a bit more fluidity to it. One stayed a few years, others stuck around for a few months then moved on, but I wouldn’t describe that as frustrating or unstable. For the most part I moved onto the next one pretty seamlessly.

But the PCA stability house of cards started to fall this past December when my longstanding every morning PCA quit out of the blue. It was a situation that slowly developed over six months starting last June when I switched my longer personal care routine to the evenings to accommodate my work schedule better. Consequently, her hours got cut from four hours a day to just two. Ultimately, her reason was that coming in for just two hours wasn’t worth her time any more. She was a nice person and a good PCA generally, but was the second kind of PCA I described in this post. Accordingly, she could be VERY frustrating to work with because despite my repeated overtures about how I wanted things done she always reverted back to doing things her way. Towards the end she did things like clear dishes out of my sink, tidy up the living room, fold the dirty clothes in my laundry basket (why?!), and other such things before she started helping to get me up-which was her primary work duty. It wasted lots of my time, and the whole routine took over a half hour longer with her than with everybody else. So I wasn’t too broken up that she decided to part ways with me-in fact, it saved me from being the bad guy by firing her.

After that my evening routine PCA started coming in for the morning shift as well. It was nice having a daily routine with a quicker pace again. But all that came crashing down at the beginning of February when a bad snow storm caused problems with her coming in for her evening shift. She used public transportation and the snow plow delays in turn delayed the bus schedule, which in turn delayed her arrival by three hours. Since we would be starting later that meant we would end too late for her to ride the bus home again. She contacted the personal care company to have them cab her home afterwards and they refused, since PCAs are responsible for their own transportation. I felt like they should have cabbed her given the very unique circumstances, but she had a history of asking to be cabbed outside of clearly set parameters for it so the company dug in their heels. Things got heated over the phone and the whole issue got ugly. Ultimately, she didn’t make it out to me because the roads were too bad and she didn’t have a ride home. The next day the office called her to rehash the whole situation, things got heated again, and she quit. So now I was out my evening PCA, every morning PCA, and every other weekend PCA in one fell swoop.

That night they sent a fill-in who had never done what I needed help with before, which was very frustrating. The fill-in they sent the next morning no-showed and they had to send their on-call PCA instead, making me an hour late for work. The fill-in PCA they sent the following morning wasn’t bad and I hired her permanently. But after about a month she quit citing that the two hour shift wasn’t worth her drive (from St. Paul?). She had overslept and caused me to be late for work two out of the previous three days so I was planning on cutting her loose anyway.

Meanwhile, my weekend PCA situation was in a total flux. Most of my new Monday-Friday morning PCAs had weekend conflicts so I needed to find coverage for every weekend. The aforementioned no-show was in line to be my new weekend PCA at that point, but after that fiasco I moved on. Her common sense was brutal so it would have never lasted anyway. I hired a nice girl that came in on two weekends then quit out of nowhere. I hired a new weekend PCA fairly soon after that, but between me being gone on Easter weekend and her being out of town the next weekend she didn’t start for almost a month later. In the interim I had to deal with temporary fill-ins.

In total, between my nine year PCA quitting and where things are now I worked with up to 12 different PCAs in a shade over two months. That’s a lot. That I had to repeatedly explain/train my whole routine to so many different strangers was frustrating and mentally exhausting.

Things have finally stabilized though. Over the last few weeks I’ve had the same morning PCA, evening PCA, and weekend PCA and they’re all pretty high quality folks. Knock on wood that they all stick around for a while.

Photo source: [ jeremy ]

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