This is part of the series of blog articles called “A Writer’s Guide…”. The purpose of this series is to give detailed information on skills and occupations that writers can use when creating characters.
Check out this article by writer Michaela Bush to being an Aide.
Being an Aide
by Michaela Bush
Up to 15% of the world’s population, via worldbank.org, experience a disability of some form.
While many of these disabilities may be small and do not require a significant amount of help, others affect an individual’s entire life and how they live it (along with their families).
Becoming an aide who helps these individuals, whether they are aging or if they were born with a disability, means that you are offering an individual’s family a little free time.
For the individual you serve, you are offering independence. You may work with one individual or many, and many individuals will come and go if you spend several years working with an agency, but regardless of how long you stay, you’re touching lives on a daily basis.
When & Why An Aide Is Needed
An aide can be called in for numerous reasons: they can work at a person’s home because they are disabled and cannot live alone. They may help an individual who is disabled by assisting them in getting to and from different public locations.
An individual may need an aide because they are aging and the family doesn’t wish to place them in a nursing home.
They may also be younger but have limiting physical or mental disabilities that require a little extra help. Perhaps an individual’s family needs to work and bring in an income, but they need someone to care for a family member who is unable to care for themselves alone.
An aide may work with a broad spectrum of cases during their employment and will typically serve individuals within a 30-minute travelling radius of their own home.
Sometimes, you have control over which individuals you choose to work with (and the individual and their family has a say over which aide(s) work with them as well).
You may work with as many individuals as you are able to, but you are also kept within maximum part-time or full-time hours, depending on how many hours you were hired to work for under the agency.
To become an aide, you typically only need a high school diploma or GED. If you intend to work in a school, however, you will need a college education and additional clearances to work with children.
You must have a physical exam completed at least once every two years to ensure that you are able to lift and/or transport an individual. You may be asked to lift up to 50 pounds, but oftentimes help is available.
You will also need to stay up-to-date on taking a TB test as medically necessary or as requested by your agency. You will also need to complete a lot of training, federal and state background checks, and you will need child abuse clearances.
These will typically be paid for by the agency that is hiring you, but you must request the information so that it is sent to the agency.
Before you begin working, you will go through several hours of training. Many agencies are now offering remote online training that can be completed on your own time, but some training, such as first aid and CPR, cannot be taught online. You will need to carve out perhaps a week’s worth of time for your initial training.
Your training will cover health, handling hazardous or biological materials, behavioral training, identifying and reporting misconduct, fire and severe weather emergency training, and a myriad of different subjects concerning whichever aide region you will be working in: those working in care homes may learn about the care home’s specific requirements and schedule; those working with autistic individuals will receive intensive training on behaviors and how to improve them; those working with disabled foster children will learn how to work with the disability as well as how to approach the child’s specific needs as a foster case.
Those who work with individuals who have intellectual disabilities will be trained on how they should care for an individual who may not be able to care for themselves or even ask for certain wants or needs.
You will need to complete and re-complete training on a yearly basis, especially for CPR and first aid.
Once you are done with your first set of training, you will move on to meeting the individual(s) for whom you will work.
You will need to complete non-agency training that the individual’s family may offer, including how to understand an individual with an intellectual disability or how to transport the individual; just getting to know the person in general.
At the forefront of most training is the theme that we are serving these individuals and should treat them as any other person; respecting their wishes, goals, and hopes. Such a mindset is absolutely necessary for the task at hand.
You don’t need to purchase any equipment, especially if you are working for an agency and not self-employed. Typically, any equipment necessary is provided by the individual’s family or the agency itself.
You may learn to work with mobility systems, stair lifts, Hoyer systems or other lift systems. These help you to move an individual who has physical handicaps, is wheelchair-bound, or perhaps has a difficult time moving around.
If you are taking the individual out into the public, you may need a vehicle that will accommodate a wheelchair (which may or may not be disassembled), a walker, or an adult stroller.
You may even need room in a vehicle for an adult car seat, depending on the disability.
In cases where an individual is limited in speech, perhaps as a disability or in the event of a stroke, you may also learn how to use a communication system so that the individual can express their wants and needs.
Some systems are similar to iPads, just bulkier, and are all virtual. Some individuals may even use a communication app that can be downloaded onto any smartphone!
A low-tech communication system is the PECs system, which stands for “Picture Exchange Communication.”
These are exactly as they sound: a small square of paper has a picture of an object or an action on it, paired with a word if the individual can read.
You can present the PECs as an entire set or only offer two or three at a time, depending on the individual’s decision-making abilities.
Oftentimes, these cards can be placed in a little booklet that is easily carried in a tote or backpack. Individuals with severe autism or other intellectual disabilities may prefer to use the PECs system over the high-tech options available due to ease of access.
You may even need to scope out adult changing stations at any public area, as some individuals will need a diaper changed – and don’t worry, sometimes the agency you’re working for will provide you with medical gloves, a mask, and other cleaning supplies. If not, you’ll have to purchase those on your own.
These jobs, by default, have a lot of paperwork attached.
You will be required to submit documentation on a weekly basis or as your specific agency requests, which detail what you and the individual did throughout the day; ways they needed assistance, certain behaviors, how they reacted to stimulation, and you may also note whether or not the individual made progress on a goal.
These goals typically come from the agency’s case-assigned supervisor and a social worker working together with the individual and their family or caregivers to formulate a list of activities that will lead to an end result, i.e. using a mobility system to improve balance or maintain muscle mass, improving accuracy with a communication system, lessening negative behaviors, and so on.
You will receive specific training pertaining to how you should write the documentation.
If you are an independent contractor through the agency you work for, you may get paid more but will have to send in an invoice weekly and keep ahead of income taxes, depending on where you live.
Some agencies charge the individual’s families; others are operated by the government, whether state- or federally-operated, where state or federal monies are allocated for each individual; from that, you are paid.
The amount of documentation usually reflects where the money is coming from: in other words, the government really likes to know how their employees are doing!
While the documentation may be cumbersome, it is completed with the safety and best interest of the individual in mind.
Many folks may try to take advantage of a disabled individual in one form or another, and keeping documentation as well as occasional check-ins from “higher-ups” are also utilized to prevent this.
Documentation also helps the agency keep track of whether or not an individual is truly benefitting from their services, and it also helps train new employees for a specific individual. Documentation is extremely confidential depending on the country in which you live.
In the U.S., the HIPAA laws prevent employees from even using an individual’s full name or their first and last initials in reference to them around anyone other than the individual themselves – and that includes the other employees in the same agency as well. Other states or countries may have additional or laxer rules.
Clothing & Special Considerations
You may or may not be required to wear a uniform or scrubs for your duties. Most agencies ask that you dress “informal-professional,” which excludes revealing shirts or short-shorts, but will allow jeans and a t-shirt.
You may also want to talk to the individual’s family for specific requirements: some individuals may pull hair, so if you have long hair, you’ll want to put it up in a bun.
The same individuals may grab jewelry such as necklaces and/or earrings, so don’t wear anything you don’t want to be broken.
You may also want to leave any fancy rings at home; large stones can accidentally cut an individual, or maybe you don’t want them getting dirty if you have to change a diaper.
On top of whatever individually-required activities you may help with in a day, you may also need to do simple things such as cutting up or feeding meals to the individual, helping them walk or transferring them from a car to their wheelchair and back, reaching for or carrying items for the individual, and so on.
You may even be responsible for transporting an individual to medical appointments, given permission from their family or guardian/caregiver.
The individual and/or their family will let you know what is expected on any given day, as well as the agency for which you work.
Overall, the work you will complete as an aide for aging folks or individuals with disabilities is a complex realm, to begin with, but you will quickly fall into the schedule and, given the right mindset, you will find that helping someone out by working as their aide is incredibly rewarding.
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About Michaela Bush
Michaela Bush is a young independent author who runs the blog Tangled Up In Writing.
She is an equestrian, writer of Christian romance, and a crazy cat lady.
I hope you enjoyed this article and if you have any questions for Michaela, drop them in the comments below. Check out all the current “A Writer’s Guide” articles on their new page for easy access.
Do you have knowledge of a skill or occupation you could write about?
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