Case Study - employing Personal Assistants
Roddy with his Mum, Marjorie
For Roddy Johnston, every day brings its own particular set of challenges. As full time carer for his elderly parents, including mother Marjorie (pictured) who has dementia, he is “on call” 24 hours a day.
Like many Midlothian residents, Roddy’s mum was offered support to help with her care needs. This was a morning wake up and an evening ‘tuck in’ – two people for half an hour at a time. But it wasn’t right for her or for Roddy.
“Practically for me it wasn’t working.” Roddy explained. “Some friends came in from time to time to give me a break during the day – maybe catch up on some sleep or catch up with jobs – but I wanted to have more control of how Mum was being supported.”
A conversation with Alzheimer Scotland alerted Roddy to the alternatives to traditional social work support. Residents who are assessed as being eligible can be given money directly and empowered to choose and organise their own support. This includes employing their own care staff (Personal Assistants (PAs)). It’s known as a ‘Direct Payment’ and is one of four Self-Directed Support options people can choose, depending on how much or how little of the organising and money-handling residents want to do themselves.
For Roddy, hearing he could organise care for his mum himself really appealed. His mother Marjorie has particular care needs that Roddy felt could be better met with regular help from a small group of familiar faces. He set to work, organising PA’s to come into his home to help with all aspects of his mother’s care.
“When I have PA’s in place, it gives me a wee bit of time off to catch up. Some nights I’m up with Mum quite a bit. At bedtime, if she has fallen asleep watching TV, to wake her up can be traumatising and a struggle – it’s not worth it. It’s better to wait until she wakes up naturally and we take it from there. To have someone there with my Mum during the day gives me some free time to catch up on sleep, or other jobs, and means I’ve still got some kind of a life.”
Personal Assistants can be involved in all aspects of care, with working hours, roles and tasks being unique to each case. There might be some personal care, some cooking or support with bills and paperwork, but also helping people live full, connected lives. Roddy says: “For us it’s companionship, it’s personal care – but it’s also looking through photographs with her if she’s getting distressed, it’s making sure she’s getting plenty to drink, helping her take her tablets. Just being there.”
So what makes a good PA? “Someone who’s sensitive enough to pick up on subtleties” says Roddy. “Someone who asks questions if they’re not clear. Someone who’s conscientious and can take direction. Someone who cares.”