When a good personal care attendant leaves me, I’m heartbroken. The departure of this person who I have come to trust and who knows me in a very intimate way leaves a hole in my stomach. It’s a special relationship because this person often becomes a friend and sometimes even family. I understand it’s probably not personal that they must move on — they need more money, are starting a family, have been accepted to university, or some other valid reason. Nonetheless, I feel a little rejected. I grieve and feel sorry for myself, and then I resent that others don’t have the same constant worry. How will I get into bed at night? Shower? Get into my wheelchair in the morning?
I take a deep breath, feeling defeated, but looking ahead much like I imagine a soldier might after a battle, realizing there is more to come. Once again I begin the search for a new person — placing ads, scheduling interviews and trying to pick up on subtle cues that will inform me if this person is reliable, trustworthy and can take direction. It’s exhausting to think about and the process takes priority over everything else, as it sometimes stretches into stressful months. Luckily my family steps up when I need them, allowing me time to be picky and find the right person. But still I’m scared thinking about the future and realizing this will be a constant reality for the rest of my life.
After I make a hire, I am extra observant of my surroundings, cautious with my valuables, and very aware that I am a target for theft, violence or abuse. I don’t sleep that night, nervous, concerned for my safety. The first day it’s training mode, step-by-step instructions of every detail of my life. I know I will have to be thorough and explain a lot in the next few weeks until my routine becomes habit to them too — this stranger who I wish will quickly become an extension of my life.
The day is over. I am safe. We did a pretty good job together. I hope they’ll stay for a while …