What would be desirable traits in your 'ideal' Support Worker?
Many of us with disabilities rely on support workers to live our lives. Support workers are essential and invaluable to many people with disabilities.
While there is no such thing as perfect, this episode outlines the sort of qualities that are best suited to someone undertaking this type of career.
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The website: www.icantstandpodcast.com
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Peta [00:00:03] Hello and welcome to The I Can't Stand Podcast. The podcast answering your questions about what it's like when you live with a disability. My name is Peta and every week I'm your host. I had cerebral palsy and I love to answer your questions. If you have a question that you'd like to ask me for the podcast, there are three ways you can do so. One. You can follow me on Instagram. My handle is @petahooke, which is spelt PETAHOOKE. You can send me an email which is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can contact me through my website, which is icantstandpodcast.com. OK! Without any further ado, let's get into it.
[00:01:12] This week's question came from Irina. Irena asked me.
Irina [00:01:18] "As much as I don't believe in the perfect or ideal. I still want to know ,what would the desirable characteristics or traits in a support worker be for you?
Peta [00:01:32] When you talk about traits or characteristics, for me, what I want from a person is also what I expect from myself. So, for example. I like a support worker to be empathetic, honest and flexible. Compassion is really important. For the support worker to trust me and for me to trust them. They must maintain a level of professionalism and yet also be friendly. It's a hard balance that I know some people really struggle with. And of course, some people with disabilities might prefer a different level of professionalism to me. But I really do enjoy getting to know my support workers. I want the support, okay, to enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs. But at the same time, they've got to be flexible and they've got to be adaptable.
[00:02:41] So while we might be on a friendship level, in the end, if I need them to help me with the task they've got to be open to doing that task. For example, I've had a support worker comment on my weight and comment on how many chocolate wrappers were in my bin. Those sort of elements really highlight to me where the support worker became too comfortable and did not maintain that professional relationship. They are not my mother. They are there to help me. They are not there to pass judgement.
[00:03:30] Here's a story I've never told before. The first week I moved into my own home, I never forget it was a beautiful December morning. The sun was shining and I had a new support worker due to come that morning. To say this morning was a morning that I needed the support worker to go above and beyond and help me with a problem. But it just illustrated that while the support worker was really nice and wanted to help me, they didn't have the adaptability, the problem solving skills, or the communication skills that I needed.
[00:04:19] So as I said, it was a beautiful, sunny December morning. I got myself out of bed and I opened my bedroom door. I knew something was off. I'd left my son hat on my dining table and it wasn't in the spot that I'd left it. I looked more closely and I saw animal droppings on the floor. I get a knock on the door. I think, right, I'm going to have to go into the kitchen to go greet this support worker. The support worker was lovely. She was happy to be there. She had a great disposition. She seemed to really enjoy her work. The only problem was English was her second language. So to try and explain to a stranger that I don't, in fact, always have animal droppings in my kitchen. Was quite tricky because I believe she was Russian and my Russian is super rusty, to say the least. I only know. Brost (and I've just googled and realsied that isnt even Russian, good one Peta), and that's it. And it was not cheering sort of situation. So while this support worker was reliable, she was on time, she was respectful, she was patient with my somewhat panicked disposition, and she was positive and supportive, if not a bit confused. She didn't really know. Or couldn't put herself in my situation.
[00:06:15] It wasn't a mouse. It wasn't a rat. It was, in fact, a possum. A possum during the night had got stuck in my roof, found a small hole behind my fridge and somehow got into my kitchen. Luckily, I had no food out, but it had a lovely time, frankly, weeing and pooing all over my brand new kitchen and had hooked itself back behind the fridge by the time I got up. Now, I'm not saying I would know what to do in this situation if I came into a client's house and they had had just had a possum, have a party in their kitchen, but it would have been great if the person understood what I was trying to tell them. I did feel somewhat judged as well. I think she thought I was unclean. Nobody wants to be considered unclean, right? So luckily, my dad comes. My poor support worker was very confused. To explain why a man was at the front door with a cage to let the possum off in the local park was another issue to try and explain. She said that she would have to report this with her boss because they wasn't meant to be a man in the house. Now normally, unfortunately, because hashtag single there isn't a man in my house. But on that occasion, I really needed my dad.
[00:08:08] Of course, I wasn't about to judge this person based on our first meeting. God knows what she thought of me. It wasn't until one morning when I was still learning how to empty up my tumble dryer. The excess water gets well for me, for my tumble dryer gets stored in like a container, so I have to pull it out and then sort of carry it while I move my wheelchair with my elbow and sort of dump the excess water in the laundry sink. Except I'd only lived in my house for a little while and I hadn't quite got the nack. I spilt the water all over the floor. And I thought, well, that's OK. My support work is coming in about half an hour. I'm sure she'll help me. Now she did, but she begrudgingly helped me mop up the water. She did not make me feel comfortable or OK with my mistake. Those are the sort of events that make me think you are not the right person for me. I'm human. You know, I drop things I might need help mopping things up off the floor. That flexibility is so important to me. And it wasn't until being faced with the prospect of a person's almost unwillingness to help me. Then I realised how important that characteristic was.
[00:09:59] It's also important for a support worker to be open minded. That yes, I have a disability. But please don't judge me based on my disability. I am a person first. You haven't met Peta yet. I really value when the person at my front door is happy to see me. They sort of have an uplifting nature because you've got to remember for some people with disabilities, their support worker is the only person that they see that day. So your interaction with them is very important. So while I've listed off many characteristics to you, I think it goes without saying that if I expect these characteristics of my support worker, I also expect them of myself. It's old school and even as a not religious person, I try and treat people the way I want to be treated. It's as simple as that.
[00:11:16] I hope you enjoyed this week's episode. If you did, can I encourage you to leave a rating and review if you listen on Apple podcasts? It all helps more people discover the podcasts and to be honest, I really love reading your feedback. It's part of the reason why I love what I do. I do this for you guys after all, or if writing and reviewing isn't quite you follow me on Instagram or share the podcast with a friend. It all helps and I truly appreciate you all listening. Until next week, guys have a good one. Bye.