Being a Personal Assistant Can Be Good For You

It’s one of the most demanding and exhausting roles anyone can have but its also among the most loving, life-affirming and rewarding.  Caring for someone can be full of challenges and an emotional roller-coaster.  You need extra reserves of patience at times, and good friends to confide in.

Personal Assistants offer more than physical assistance where its needed.  They enable disabled people stay in their own homes and support them to remain independent all their days and are often a cherished link to the outside world.  Countless disabled people look forward to their personal assistants coming in at various stages of the day, for company as well as assistance.

Voluntary organisations such as Centre for Independent Living NI have been working hard to support disabled people, who employ their own personal assistants, who can feel overwhelmed by the responsibility.  Financial strain and emotional stress can make this job even harder.

New research in the USA has begun focusing on the other side of the coin, finding that many personal assistants find their role beneficial.  Lower stress levels, increased happiness and a sense of social cohesion are all part of the feelgood factor that can all be associated with supporting people.  The difference appears to be whether the personal assistant feels that they have a choice as opposed to giving support for someone out of obligation.  Also, if their support is perceived to be effective they are likelier to be happier than if they feel their efforts are hopeless.

Based on some work done at the University of Pittsburgh, the Association for Psychological Science in the USA reports: “Research has shown that giving a gift to someone else has been linked to an increased self-esteem, self-worth and feelings of social connection with the recipient.  Even among animals, caretaking behaviours, such as grooming, can be linked to lower stress levels and fewer anxiety-related behaviours”.

They record findings that people who were asked to write a supportive note to a friend in need showed a reduction in stress while another study showed that giving money to others rather than spending it on oneself led to lower blood pressure.  Certain parts of the brain are more active when supporting others.

Building on the positive well-being that this new research has identified, a revised description and creative promotion of the role may help to overcome the challenge of recruiting a personal assistance.  Our recent Facebook discussion on the topic provides some helpful and practical tips for disabled people who employ their own person assistants.  Check out www.facefook.com/centreforindependnetlivingni/



Author: Bryan Myles
In his role as CILNI Chief Executive, Bryan is responsible for the implementation of the organisation’s strategic plan and the effective management of its resources. Bryan has had several public appointments, has been a member of a number of Northern Ireland Departmental advisory groups and a company director of several social enterprises. In his spare time, he enjoys family life, church life, current affairs, sport, music, walks, reading and travelling.