Whether you live alone like I do or have a family, I don’t know about you, but I never seem to have enough hours given to me for a Personal Assistant. Funding is tight and, although I appreciate the hours I get, I’m very aware that I have a responsibility to streamline as much as possible so time isn’t wasted. Luckily, I have a PA who also understands this and has been of enormous help in working toward solutions.
Let’s start with some obvious ones – delegate. Although the job of PA is a “catch-all” meaning that often your task list will include everything from putting air into your wheelchair tires to grocery shopping, figure out ways based on your resources and others in your life that you can delegate. This will look different for everyone. For example, if you have a friend who visits every two weeks who rides a bike, ask him/her to check your tires. It only takes a few minutes and it’s one less thing for your PA to do! Or if you’re rolling past a gas station or bike shop, ask someone to help you get air if you can’t do it yourself.
Grocery shopping can be a very time consuming task for a PA, particularly if you’re not organized. (Forgetting items is one thing if you’re going yourself – if someone else has to go back it’s downright embarrassing!) Because my hours fall short, we use Peapod for delivery every two weeks. I keep a running list with them online and they carry most items at a reasonable amount. (There are other grocery delivery options depending on where you live.) I set a dropoff time with them and then my PA stops by and puts everything away, opens up packages, cuts up food, etc. Even though I still need assistance after I get the groceries, at least we’ve eliminated the actual shopping (and lugging). Also keep in mind that if your family or friends shop at Sam’s Club, they might be willing to purchase some items you need in bulk and drop them off for you.
Meal preparation is another time consuming task. I buy lots of frozen dinners and my PA will bring over homecooked food when she can. Since I can’t cook, I also will treat myself occasionally to a meal out or takeout to break up the “frozen food syndrome”. However, in all seriousness, the quality of frozen dinners is quite good and even if you’re calorie conscious, you can find nutritious ones. My PA buys bags of frozen vegetables and adds them to the frozen dinners so that I get better nutrition and you can also eat soup or salads on the side which your PA can make in a much shorter time than an entire dinner. Be sure to ask your PA, if you’re not able to do it for yourself, to cut up fruit or veggies for snacks and leave them for you to eat. (You can also buy some of these items already cut up although getting the packages open can be tricky.)
If you can afford it, hire someone to clean and leave just sweeping and light cleaning for your aide. If you can’t afford it, ask around for someone to help. It’s not appropriate to expect a PA to do any kind of heavy cleaning. Running a vacuum or a broom (or even a Swiffer) is okay but if you have other alternatives or offers of help, take them. I have one male friend who always “Swiffers” my bathroom floor when he stops by. It takes him less than ten minutes and it’s one less thing that has to be done. He also does the dishes. When he proposes I might say yes!
But seriously, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to remain open to finding ways to streamline what needs to be done. Try to keep enough postage on hand (stamps can be ordered from the Post Office now or Peapod) so your PA doesn’t have to make a trip. Do your banking online if possible. Keep the errands to a minimum so that you can use the “hands on” help for those precious hours you have and your PA can most effectively focus on assisting you to have a productive and satisfying llfe.
Copyright 2007 Ruth Harrigan