A PCA is a personal care assistant.
That's part of what I do right now...but not all.
I haven't felt comfortable talking about it here, because there is a firm element of privacy to what I do for these families, and I don't want to violate that. I came to the conclusion that as long as I am not specific about names, or personal details, it's ok to talk about how I feel about what I do...and how I go about it. It will make me better at my job...and quite honestly, I can't believe how satisfying I find the work. They don't train you for this. To my knowledge, there is no "certification" to be a PCA. For some, it's regarded as a seriously low rent occupation, a glorified babysitter of sorts. But that is probably someone who is also ignorant. This isn't something you do because you are lacking---not to boost myself, but you need a strong degree of empathy to do it well.
I work for two different families, one in the AM, one in the PM.
I am up at 5:30 most mornings now---and asleep by 10 PM. I would say the work was simple...but it's not quite that easy. I found the jobs using two different sites...and one agency. I strongly suggest Care.com. if anyone is looking for this kind of work. Sitter City is another option, but frankly, they seem more interested in taking your money than hooking you up with work. (I consider making you pay 50 bucks if you want a background check run extortion. Care.com makes that option available to families---who can pay for a more comprehensive check on you---but don't charge the seekers. )
And I should say that along with looking for a job, I was also looking for a good fit with the family. Yes, they have to be comfortable with me...but I need to feel the same. Yes, They are trusting me with their child/children...but I am trusting THEM, with my reputation, and possibly my freedom. If that sounds wary, try reading some of the postings. Some of the parents are NUTS. One (not one of my employers) posted an ad the other day that made it clear that you would be under CONSTANT scrutiny once employed. That there would be "secret nanny cams", and if they suspected you were looking for them, you would be instantly dismissed. They wanted someone with not only a clear record, but sterling credit. They had a long list of requirements...and I wish them well...but i wouldn't touch that job with a ten foot pole.
Yes, parents have the right to look out for their kids.
Yes, they should be diligent about qualifications---no argument. But at some point, you really have to be willing to trust your PCA---and if you are not, you shouldn't hire one. No amount of money would convince me to work for someone who looked at me as if I might be a rapist, a child molester, or simply a thug who might be selling their kid's organs on Ebay. That said, there is always more to the job than an ad can explain. Parents HAVE to be able to trust you. You're not only working with their children, you are in their home. They have to be able to trust you to be discrete, and honest. A really GOOD PCA is worth their weight in gold...and I really do try to be that. I pay attention to the kids of course---but also the parents. In all frankness, I was interviewing them too. I prefer committed, and caring people, who have an understanding of their child's issues. Since I've been a special needs parent, I speak the language---and know about the process first hand.
Rule one...if you think it's about babysitting, go the hell home, and don't waste their time, or your own. A PCA has to be able to supply the specific needs of their client. It's not always easy or apparent to know what that means. If you have someone who has a firmly regimented schedule, you need to stick to it...all the while being able to accommodate change on your end. A lot of times, there is good reason for a set way and times to do things...variations can throw off your kid vastly. So pay attention.
Rule two...if you think it's easy, think again. When I am "on duty" there is NO down time. No time for checking emails, or answering a cell. And that isn't a problem. The families need to know that while I am on the clock, I am doing my job. I can't afford to be distracted...and they can't afford me to not pay attention.
Rule three...no one is doing ANYONE favors here. This is good honest work. I am paid well to give it everything I've got. The parents or families who are looking for 5 dollar an hour labor are in for an awful surprise. This is a "you get what you pay for" market. I worked with an agency formed by a young woman who did this sort of thing for a decade herself. When we interviewed, We talked ab out clients, and expectations. A PCA is supposed to focus on person who NEEDS their specific help. They are not a generalist, who can handle a feeding or breathing tube for one child, while "watching" two others...and tossing in the wash. There are agencies in Massachusetts that supply funding for my sort of work---but the funding is for a SPECIFIC family member...not general care. In one case, the child is considered my employer...not her parents. They can hire on her behalf---but the work I do must be specific to her care. No dog walking, or housekeeping. And I am mindful that I am there for that purpose. No chit chat, or socializing.
The part that I find interesting is how attached I've become to my families, and how quickly. Some might question the wisdom of that...but I'm not sure how you can't. I like them. Their needs could not be more different, between AM or PM...yet both require a different skill set of me. Yes, there is a lot of "I" in this...and personally, how could it be otherwise? You become part of a team---but this isn't one of those situations where you can rest on your laurels, or take it easy while someone else carries the ball for you. It's all hands on deck...and it blows my mind how quickly each shift goes. I love my work. Eventually, one family will not need my services, and that will be a great day. I will move on, knowing I was able to help out. The other will always need someone---even several someones...but I will hold in there as long as I can.
I never would have thought you could find employment as a pragmatic Mary Poppins...but...never say never...especially not to me!