Orientation sets the stage for your employees. It gives them important information on your general approach, your expectations and the job background. Explain your disability (in language they will understand) and tell them what you wish them to learn. Familiarize the attendants with your lifestyle and household situation. Outline your ground rules, such as coming to work on time, or alcohol restrictions. Effective orientation will reduce misunderstandings, staff turnover, and the anxiety levels of both you and your attendants.
Make it clear from the beginning, by your behaviour that you are the employer and you are responsible for making decisions. You will give them ongoing direction and they must listen attentively. Be knowledgeable about your disability and your needs, and show that you care about yourself. If your attendants seem uncertain, do not be intimidated. Discuss it. But, finally, do not treat your attendants like slaves. They will respect you as an employer this way.
How you train your attendants will depend on your needs. Stress that it is the employee’s responsibility to learn your routines. It is often helpful to have a trained attendant present to demonstrate certain routines, especially if they are not within your view or are tricky to perform. You can still be the trainer if you do the explaining while your trained attendant acts as your training assistant.
A training checklist can give a new attendant a picture of what needs to be done, when, and in what order. New attendants at first can use a checklist to follow along while another attendant performs the activity and then check off each item when they have observed how it should be done. A training checklist can also be used to provide feedback to the attendants on what they are doing well and what needs improvement. Encourage new attendants to ask questions about any details. A checklist is especially useful for tasks like house cleaning, where you may not always be watching and giving instructions. To write a general, overall training checklist, in order to make sure that nothing is missed, you can draw upon the attendant job description, your service needs list and routines. You can easily make a checklist for a specific routine if you tape record your routine once. See the Sample Training Checklist.
You can start by providing an overview (e.g. your morning routine) and then walking through it in detail, step by step. Provide an explanation of why you do something a particular way. This will increase the attendant’s understanding of its importance to you. In fact, training is most effective when you combine explanation, demonstration and hands-on practice. After you have gone through a routine in detail, summarize it. If you have more than one training session, review the first part at the second session.
Remember to talk about safety precautions and explain the use of equipment. Inform the attendants of the consequences of not following your directions (e.g. you have pain while transferring, you are put at risk). Remember also that, as the employer, you are responsible for the health and safety training of your workers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. For example, if you expect your attendants, while cleaning the kitchen, to use oven cleaner (a hazardous substance), you must direct them to read the instructions on the label and to wear the rubber gloves which you provide.
This is a very important area in your training, for both your welfare and your attendants’. Back injuries are a real concern for attendants and you will both suffer if your attendant needs to take time off. See the enclosed material: Training Manual: Personal Attendant (Cheshire London), the chapters entitled “Lifts and Transfers” and “Care of Back.”
Tell your attendants the importance of general cleanliness, such as before handling food. Also for health and safety, universal precautions should be understood and followed. The attendants should routinely wear rubber gloves (provided by you), where appropriate, to prevent skin and mucous membrane contact with blood or other body fluids.
Introduce new attendants to your other staff as part of their orientation. By creating a team approach, you can assign responsibility to attendants to advise you of a potential replacement attendant if they must take time off. Such a network also allows your employees the sharing of experiences with co-workers in what can be a demanding job.
Provide your employees with information about employment and rights. You can give them booklets on employment standards, human rights, health and safety and workers’ compensation. This will demonstrate your respect for them, and they will feel confident that you are familiar with the relevant laws and are an open and honest employer.
If you feel you require outside assistance to train a new attendant in certain procedures, there are free services in your community you can use, such as the local Community Care Access Centre. However, you should be prepared for health- or medical-related orientation from this type of agency. It may also be possible to negotiate to “piggyback” onto special training sessions arranged by a Support Service Living Unit or Outreach (e.g. for CPR/first aid), especially if you have had a prior relationship with them.
Your attendant’s working times should be scheduled to give them as much regularity, and notice, as possible. If you always negotiate a two-week or monthly schedule a couple of weeks in advance, they will be able to plan their other activities accordingly and they will respect you for valuing their lifestyles and other commitments. Too many last-minute changes in your scheduling will have an impact on your attendants’ sense of privacy and will reduce their commitment to the job. If you are looking for a lot of flexibility from your attendants as to their work times, this should be stressed at the very start of hiring.
You should go over with your new employees what you require them to do (if anything) in helping you keep track of the hours they have worked. An easy system to maintain is to make it the employees’ responsibility to sign in the time/date they start and to sign out the time/date they finish. This provides you with ready documentation at all times about who worked what hours, and spares you trying to remember two weeks later whether an employee worked an unscheduled shift.
In orienting your attendants, you must have them understand how important their job is to your well-being and security. It is critical that they be both reliable and punctual if you are to feel secure. Making sure locks are fastened and stove burners are turned off and taking other precautions seriously are all essential when you cannot get out of bed yourself to correct an oversight. Your on-call, emergency back-up arrangements should be with well-trained attendants and should be tested from time to time to make sure that the response is what you expect.
Your attendants must keep your personal and private affairs to themselves. This should be covered in your employment agreement. You, in turn, must keep most details about your employees confidential. Stories about one attendant to another will inevitably get back to the first attendant or to other people in the community – it’s a very small world and, in the end, gossip only seems to sour relationships. This could make it hard to hire other attendants in the future. Remember, you are now an employer in your community and you will be judged on your management abilities.
The Direct Funding Program is being expanded to allow more Ontarians with disabilities to live independently in their homes.
You can read more about this in our News Release.