One day, nearly ten years ago, I was desperately posting a job for a new night attendant I needed right away through the Centre for Independent Living’s online Consumer Attendant Roster for direct-funding self-managers. I promptly received an email with Christine Gibeault’s resume (which I am glad I opened as it was unexpected to be from a male, her husband). I quickly noted Christine’s extensive personal care work experience and immediately replied to the email asking her for an interview. When we finally met, upon just walking over to me I noted her confidence and her perfectly appropriate body size for me. In fact, she was one of the rare interviewees which I did not do a trial test with for her physical transferring abilities of me right then and there before hiring her; rather I just told her what time I needed her the next day. Her availability also fit perfectly into my schedule. She had just come off her maternity leave and decided to work her own hours for self-managers of the new Ontario Direct Funding program to fit into her schedule for caring for her baby. It was my luck that Christine happened to be a former supervisor at Three Trilliums Community Place for training personal support workers. In fact, to this day personal support workers from Three Trilliums Community Place that help me at the Birchmount Bluffs swimming pool as part of the Barrier Free Access to Swimming Project (fellow EnablesMe blogger Julie Z. wrote about this program as part of her Fit Friday with Julie blog) still greet and acknowledge her as their former lead trainer/supervisor.
Christine began working for me as a part-time attendant for the first few years but after my mother’s passing and my move to my own condominium, Christine took on the job to be my full-time everyday caregiver. She knows my entire personal care routine extremely well and she takes care of most of my needs. Our relationship is one of mutual respect in which we do not just acknowledge each other as boss/employee but also as friends. It is very important to have such an open relationship with your employee caregiver to be comfortable enough to describe to her how to properly take care of all your needs and explain either by yourself or through a medical professional your limitations. At this point, Christine is capable of following quickly or improvising on a new routine herself. She is also capable of understanding as well as explaining to others my slurred speech so well that I sometimes tell her: “I couldn’t even understand myself so how did you understand me?” She also often acts as a communication mediator between me and others.
Another manifestation of this mutual respect involves communication and caring for each other’s friends, family, and relatives. Indeed, my immediate family considers Christine as one of their own family and we have often visited family together in faraway places. It is important to establish this trust and communication amongst your significant others and your caregiver.
Another benefit of having Christine as my full-time caregiver, as touched on above, is the opportunity to travel and vacation together. We have visited places like Montreal and New York City in which Christine does not only make for an entertaining travelling companion but also as an expert helper in taking care of all my personal needs during the vacation.
I consider myself lucky to have found and built such a helpful, caring and friendly relationship with Christine, as does my cat who adores her.
Just a little postscript on my “My very personal and caring attendant” article. Even though the article focused exclusively on Christine Gibeault, a self-manager will find it beneficial to hire others. After all, Christine could not be expected to work every shift, every day. So we both are delighted to have Haidee, Kady, and Luzianne on the caregiving team. Luzianne I will miss you so much; good luck!