Building a healthy relationship between customer and carer
A carer, a care worker, a support worker; like many things in our changing disability industry there have been many words to describe these kinds of positions. But what is the right and respectful treatment for the faces behind this position within the industry? The faces who are the most vital part of our day-to-day life and who hold everything together.
As an individual who has severe disability I have had the opportunity to meet a range of carers who have come from all walks of life. Because I have been lucky enough to either develop close relationships with most of these people, or to introduce some of my close friends or family members into this industry, I am well aware of how important being respectful is to both my and my carer’s daily lives. I guess this is why I felt that it would be a beneficial to write this piece.
The main thing I have unfortunately noticed within our society is that there has been a loose consensus that a caring job is a job ‘anyone can do’ – a low rated job with low pay. What saddens me the most is that it is due to this stigma that I have often witnessed total strangers in the community, managers, or even other customers, not give carers the respect they deserve.
The way I see it is that like in many other jobs, each person in this profession has an amazing range of skills. This can include time management, knowing exactly what needs to be done (mostly before I even remember it), being able to brighten up a customer’s day, handling strong behaviour and personal care, relating personally to customers and families from many backgrounds and lifestyles, and many more. On top of these skills it is very important to remember that most of our carers also have either studied, or are currently studying, a range of certificates or university degrees. Along with this, all of these individuals have incredible life experiences – some of which most of our society would never have had to go through.
By keeping this in mind I am now slowly starting to take every opportunity I can to utilise the skills, experience and interests each one of my carers has to offer. Since I have started doing this my life has become a lot more interesting and productive. During the past few months I have been lucky enough to have my team of incredible carers mentor me to do my own blog, accompany me to blogging workshops, mentor me to do my own market store, take me to the snow and Byron Bay, allow me to live with them part time so I can trial independent living, take me swimming, help me with reading out loud, edit my university assignments and blogs, accompany me on outdoor walks, plus open me up to exploring a lot more other opportunities. As we have been doing all of these things I see myself as being in an incredibly lucky position to have such incredible influences and connections from all of these people on a daily bases who are all from various walks of life.
As a person with disability I feel I am able to comment on the other side of the coin too – that is the things that I have discovered that makes a good carer. As you can imagine, this will be different for each customer; but despite this I feel that my personal insight can offer some good pointers.
I feel that the main thing that I look for in my carers is general respect. In my particular situation I feel that this respect needs to come in many forms. It may be anything from being on time so my parents can go to work (one offs with valid reasons are of course ok), to respecting that although my life does look together and I am a really happy person, like you, I do have my demons. This means that although I don’t mind the occasional conversation about your bad day, I do prefer not to be bombarded with your dramas constantly – particularly if I feel that you are asking for my help or you are making the presumption that my life is a lot better than your own and that I don’t understand hardship or heartbreak. Lastly, although I am the first to admit that I am a bit slower than others with achieving the regular stages of independence due to my physical restraints, I still do need you to treat me like an ordinary adult, so please don’t put down my opinions or ideas.
Overall I feel it is by considering all these points, and by having equal respect for each other, that it is very possible to have the perfect carer customer relationship. Although I personally feel that I am in that place now with all of my carers, it has admittedly been a long road for me. The best advice I can offer is to just keep working at it.
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