What is the role of a Personal Assistant?
- A Personal Assistant (PA) is a paid employee who assists a person with a disability in order to accomplish daily tasks. These can include: dressing, grooming and hygiene, mobility and transfers, toileting, housekeeping and miscellaneous tasks. Personal Assistants not only assist people with physical disabilities, but with other types of disabilities as well.
- It is recommended to have more than one PA at a time. For example, if you need PAs at different times of the day, hiring more than one assistant can help prevent “burn-out”. It is also useful in an emergency when one of your assistants is unable to work.
What Qualities Should You Look for in a Personal Assistant?
Before you begin the process of finding a PA it is important to recognize your own preferences.
- Do you prefer male or female assistants, or is there no preference?
- Are you looking for an assistant who is around a certain age?
- Do you prefer an assistant who has prior experience as a PA?
It may be helpful to first make a list of the qualities you would look for in a personal assistant.
What are Some Ways of Finding a Personal Assistant?
Decide what you need.
Before you begin looking for a PA, you need to first figure out how much assistance you need and how you want to structure it. Here are a few questions to answer before you begin your search:
- What tasks do you want the PA to perform?
- How many hours per day/week do you need him/her?
- How many PAs do you need (including alternatives)?
- How do you want to structure your support schedule?
Getting the Word out.
- Advertise in newspapers or bulletins
- Work with the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) to help you recruit qualified PAs from specific schools or colleges on campus that are geared toward helping careers (e.g., School of Nursing, School of Allied Health)
- Advertise on bulletin boards in the Student Union, Babbidge Library or other high traffic areas of campus.
Newspaper ads must be kept concise and should include duties, hours per week, wage, gender preference and whether or not experience is required. Also leave contact information, which should include your first name only. We recommend that you have interested students contact the CSD and reference your name and ad for more information in order to protect personal contact information.
Bulletin boards allow you to write a more detailed description of your position. You might want to add information on location (on or off campus), specific days/hours, perks of job (e.g., travel reimbursement, free room and board, etc.)
View an example of an advertisement for a PA: Sample Advertisement
How to Interview a Personal Assistant
- Tell them the days/hours that you require assistance.
- Discuss various duties of the job – be as thorough as possible.
- Be specific regarding hourly rate. (e.g., if you require assistance for 15 minutes, let the individual know they will be paid for a 30 minute period).
- Once the PA is given the basic job description, ask the caller if he/she is interested in the job. If so, continue by asking them some questions. For example, Are you working now? Do you have a car? Would you be looking for full-time employment with me? Have you had any previous experience as a personal assistant?
* Always get the name, address and phone number of those who will be coming to meet with you.
- Choose a neutral location to meet, such as a coffee shop or the Center for Students with Disabilities.
- Have an application ready for them to fill out.
- If there is any special equipment that the assistant will need to use, have it present for demonstration.
- Describe your disability and exactly what the job involves.
- Explain how your daily routine goes and amount of time needed to complete it.
- Let them be aware of your expectations and listen to theirs.
- Discuss time sheets and other payment information (e.g., wage, how often they can expect to be paid). You may want to have some sample time sheets with you. The following link shows you a sample time sheet: Sample PA Time Sheet
- Discuss their experience and/or potential training needs.
- It may be beneficial to get two or more personal references. Requests for Reference Forms are available by clicking the following link: Request for Reference Form
General Tips and Guidelines for Hiring a Successful Personal Assistant
- Make a list of services you require and approximately how long each task takes. Present this list at the initial meeting to make your PAs aware of their duties and the time commitment required.
- Be ready and willing to train and guide your PAs so that you can ensure your satisfaction in his/her performance. The CSD can help you find resources on campus that can assist with the training of PAs.
- It is recommended you hire as many PAs as you can. Make certain these PAs have each other’s contact information.
- Be up front with your PAs about your expectations (e.g., arriving on time, calling if they are going to be late, etc.).
- Make a master calendar with the PAs initials marked on the days and times they are expected to work.
- Always make sure you have enough supplies.
- Keep a list of contact information for all of your PAs by your bedside or easily accessible in the event of an emergency.
- Make sure your PAs are clear as to what their duties are and try not to stray from these tasks.
- Divide the tasks evenly among your PAs – do not unfairly distribute the work load.
- Have your PAs keep track of their hours on a daily basis on the time sheet provided and initial each of their entries.
- Remember that it takes time for your PAs to get comfortable with your routine, so be patient with them.
- If something is bothering you, talk about it right away in a calm, appropriate manner.
- If you require additional assistance or information regarding your PAs, please contact the Center for Students with Disabilities.