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Concluding Thoughts

The concluding thoughts from this activity.

It is important to remember that the PA relationship is time-limited: if people are too close, it will inevitably be painful when it ends. Retaining some distance and formality helps maintain boundaries and avoid confusion.

Like all relationships, if you spend too much time together, people become irritated. Building in time apart or space is important to sustaining the relationship over the longer term. A long series of regular shifts without a break may be difficult for personal assistant, and the employer. Many disabled people organise things so that there is a separate PA room, where the PA can have privacy and rest when she or he is not required. The PA room may be off limits to the disabled employer.

Some of our disabled informants employed multiple PAs, ensuring that each work a similar number of hours. This means that there is not so much pressure on each worker. It also means there is more likely to be alternate, when someone is on holiday or Is ill. One person talked about the different interests and skills of her PAs. She had a different worker for each day of the week, and with one she did shopping, with another she did social events, whilst another was best for driving, cleaning etc.

It may be helpful to have regular reviews of the working relationship, not just the practicalities of tasks. Employer and PA should ask: is there anything either of us are doing which is annoying or breaking/blurring boundaries?

Often, PAs have no one to talk to, in confidence, about their work. They may not know other PAs. One solution may be to arrange regular supervision, from a third party. Or alternatively, a PA support group, so that PAs can come together to share their feelings and experiences. These arrangements are best made by disabled people’s organisations or other intermediate bodies. Similarly, a disabled employer may find it helpful to get support from an outsider, if they feel the situation is getting difficult or complicated. A parent, friend, counsellor or mediator may be a good third party.

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The Role of Personal Assistants in Disability Support

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