Personal Assistant to a Young Professional Woman
About the employer - I am a professional woman in my early thirties who has a chronic illness - Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). EDS is a multisystemic condition, affecting the joints, gut and nervous system and in this case generally causes chronic pain, dislocations, fatigue, and anxiety. Unsurprisingly, this can also affect my mental health and I can experience bouts of depression and am particularly sensitive to the events happening around me. I work part time for a charity as the funding manager and I am looking at taking on another role this year at a different charity. I am passionate about social justice, and run a hydrotherapy group offering free access for people with EDS and hypermobility syndromes. I try and have as active a life as possible, I own a small dog and I love being out in nature, and maintaining an active social life is very important to me.
The job itself - I think a really simple way of explaining the job would be that as my PA you are there to do the things that my body (and sometimes brain) doesn’t let me do. On a basic level that is things like my laundry, changing my bed-sheets, general household chores, pushing me in my wheelchair if I’m having a bad day, driving instead of me as that takes up energy, taking me to appointments, running errands or doing the shopping, prepping/cooking meals etc etc. As well as the physical stuff I also need help with organising my personal admin - managing my calendar, paperwork, chasing up appointments etc. However just listing the tasks is never going to encompass the entire role as the nature of the job is quite personal and efficacy is hugely affected by the dynamic between the PA and the employer. I find the role works best when my PA and I build a professional friendship that allows me to confide in them and feel understood.
Qualities I am looking for in my PAs include (but are not limited to):
Organisation - personally and professionally. Although I work hard to be on top of things it is something I find takes a lot of work and energy. I’d love to find a PA who could help me implement manageable systems and then help and encourage me to maintain them.
Pro Active - whilst I do not expect a PA to be a mind reader, I do expect them to use their own sense of what needs doing without continual management, particularly if I am not so well that day. As well, due to the nature of fatigue, brain fog and neurodiversity I am not always able to finish a task having started it. I find it very helpful when my PAs can either encourage me to stay on task if I have got distracted, or remind me at a suitable time to finish it. I can also be reluctant to do tasks that I find overwhelming or anxiety inducing, I need my PA to be able to gently ensure I get these things done, but without pushing me over my limit (obviously this is something that to a certain extent can only be learnt on the job).
Efficiency - I can get quite agitated and anxious if I feel like I/we haven’t been productive enough with the relatively few hours I have with my PAs, as such I find it helpful if PAs keep in mind that we have time limits and, for example, are able to talk to me and continue with their task as to use that time best.
Aware of social issues around disability and chronic illness - e.g, whilst I expect compassion I do not want to be seen as inspiration porn. I would expect my PA to have an understanding of the stigma around disability and mental ill health, issues around access and ableism.
Physical Strength - The nature of the job is such that a certain level of physical strength and ability is necessary. I live alone and am a homeowner so my PAs help me with small bits of DIY work round the flat, as well as needing the strength to lift my wheelchair in and out of the car/push me around etc.
Good Communicator - open communication going both ways is very important to me, it is a major trigger for my anxiety when I am not ‘kept in the loop’ about things that affect me. I can struggle to communicate clearly when I am fatigued and need a PA who can understand this and communicate effectively without overloading me.
This list should neither be seen as exclusionary nor exhausted, I don’t expect candidates to necessarily have every quality and some can be learnt.
Other preferred skills - Driver, computer literate, understanding of navigating NHS systems, assertive, varied life experience, calm, compassionate, level headed.
Important Bits - I am looking for someone who will commit to at least six months (ideally a year), the process of both finding and getting to know a new PA takes time and looking for a new PA is very energy consuming. The role is based in Kemptown, applicants must ensure they can get here independently, on-street pay and display parking is available at the PA’s cost.
It is essential that applicants have made domestic arrangements to enable them to carry out the work in the schedule once it is agreed. I find it very difficult when my life starts to feel out of control (e.g. if the washing hasn’t been done for a while) and it can make me very anxious and agitated. Holidays and any variation in hours must be mutually agreed well in advance. It is part of a PA’s duties to help arrange cover for any holiday being taken, and holiday cannot be taken at the same time as the other PAs in rotation.
Genders which may apply for this job – Any
Hours per week – 12 -15 hrs a week
Hourly rate – £9.30
Area – East Brighton
Driving licence required – Yes
Employer has pets – Yes
Employer is smoker – No
Required care experience – Mental health
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