It’s 7:00AM. My alarm went off at 6:15AM. My bus for work comes at 8:45AM. Forty five minutes later and I still hadn’t received a phone call. I am unable to go to work. My PCA didn’t show up. I am unable to reach a phone number, get an office voicemail.
This is powerlessness.
This is also a reportable offense.
It has happened to me several times with my previous PCA agency. Note that I said previous. I was with them for over two years. I have been without consistent work for a month, and as someone with mental illnesses as well, without consistent routine. Both of which factor into my livelihood. I’ve talked about redefining independence after struggling with internalized ableism and exhaustion in living “completely independently” in college. I’ve also talked about the fear that lies in trusting someone who is essentially a stranger with intimate aspects of your life. There’s an inherent pause in hiring a friend or family member as a PCA, as statistically speaking, it could be an easier path for exploitation.
I’ve had people excuse the behavior with the fact that PCAs are underpaid, and I’m not discounting that. However, when you don’t show up to work for me, your only consequence is you don’t get paid. I, the client that you signed up to care for, don’t get to live my life. I’ve been told that’s it’s “just a hard market”, but I must be honest. That’s not something I want to hear as someone who is now struggling to pay my bills this month, not because of my own actions or choices, but rather the actions and choices of someone else.
I’m lucky. I can go a day or two without assistance, and be “fine”. Others who require PCAs aren’t so lucky. I’ve heard stories where someone who can’t get out of bed without assistance was left without care for two days. Family from out of town had to drive in to help her. In situations where you’re too hungover or tired to bother coming into work I don’t think using poor pay as an excuse really cuts it. I and others like me depend on your care to live our lives. My life should not be put on hold because someone else thought it was okay to leave me alone. I am a twenty-something with two jobs, a social life and a spiritual community. I have a right to tend to those things.
If you aren’t dependable, or expect PCA work to be easy, it’s not the job for you. I’d prefer it if you stayed away from me. I want to tend to my life, and I have the right to be my own person. If you cannot find it within yourself to assist me or others like myself than you’re in the wrong profession. I do not want someone who cares so little about their work to assist me with my needs.
If you are considering a PCA job, note the responsibility. Understand the vulnerability. If you are a client, know your rights. Ask for help. Reach out. Someone will be there, even if your hired help isn’t.