For many people, a key part of living an independent life full of choice and opportunity means receiving assistance from a reliable and qualified personal care attendant. Being the employer of an attendant has some challenges, but enjoying a life of independence is worth it.
Aimee Wehmeier, CEO and Executive Director of Paraquad, has employed personal care attendants for more than 25 years. Aimee says that in the beginning, talking to other people who employ their own attendants made the biggest impact on how she manages the attendants she hires. And she’s glad to pass on some of what she’s learned to others.
Aimee thinks one of the best things about hiring your own attendant is that you get to personally choose who works for you.
“That person becomes a part of your life. Most of them care for me as much as I care for them,” she said.
But Aimee says a big challenge can be finding reliable attendants.
“Some attendants don’t understand the importance of the job and the responsibility involved in getting to work on time. Having an unreliable attendant is really worse than having no attendant.”
Aimee has some advice for those new to hiring personal care attendants.
“I have a personal formula when interviewing,” she said. “I prefer college students who are majoring in health-related professions. I find them to be more flexible and full of excitement and energy. They’re usually more eager to learn.”
And Aimee enjoys the impact she makes on the students.
“I’m helping them understand that people with disabilities have a life beyond their disability.”
One downside is students graduate and move on, but Aimee says it’s worth it because they also keep her young.
In addition, Aimee looks for personality and someone who fits with her lifestyle.
“It’s important to have fun. Work is work, but they’re going to become a part of my life. I want to be around people who I enjoy spending time with.”
When directing her attendants, Aimee sets her standards high.
“I have a one-strike rule. If you’re a no call, no show once, you’re out,” she said. “You also have to maintain clear boundaries. Work is work. Friendship is friendship. It’s very difficult to mix the two.”
According to Aimee, she could not be independent without personal care attendants.
“My attendants are directly related to my independence and quality of life. I am certain I wouldn’t be where I am today without them,” she said.
Personal care attendants enhance her sense of independence.
“Because I have the ability to pay an attendant to provide care, I can control how my care is done. I don’t feel like a burden — always asking for help. Instead, I am paying my attendants to do a job, and they consistently rise to the occasion. I love my attendants.”
Jen Haycraft is the Director of Attendant Services at Paraquad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.