Choosing a Personal Care Attendant (PCA) can be a daunting task for individuals with special needs and their families. The process can be both frustrating and exhausting. Many questions arise at the onset like, “Should I hire a friend, family member or go through an agency?” “Can I trust this person?” "What should I look for based on interviewing him or her?"

There are a myriad of things to consider before choosing a PCA. Careful planning and discussion will facilitate the procedure of vetting and retaining a qualified person. It is important to be thoughtful and prepared.

Before we explore the steps to choosing a capable and competent individual, it is equally important to ask why a PCA is needed. The answers to that question may be varied. Here are some to consider:
  1. Primary caregiver(s) is burned out and requires respite.

  2. The individual with special needs requires additional assistance with direct care, homemaking, and/or support in the community.

  3. Specialized care is required for unique needs and tasks.
Whatever the issue is, extra support is needed! Nobody can shoulder the burden of responsibility alone. All of us need a sense of balance and reprieve in life. It is easy to become so absorbed with the daily routine of direct cares, household chores, and medical appointments when managing a disability or chronic illness. Without additional support and encouragement, physical, emotional and/or mental burnout is inevitable. Both caregiver(s) and recipient suffer as each other’s needs are compromised.

Here are 5 points when considering a PCA:
  1. Interview two or more candidates to determine a good match. It is essential to qualify several for comparison and to have a backup if one does not work out.

  2. Prepare interview questions that address the person’s experience, qualifications, and most importantly, their character.

  3. Perform a background check on someone you do not know well. This reduces the chance of exploitation and offers peace of mind.

  4. Obtain personal references. Honest and reliable testimonials are effective in helping you choose someone safe and dependable.

  5. Person is able to perform specific cares with competence in those areas. Specialized training is preferred.
Hopefully, these suggestions will encourage you or someone you know who is in need of additional personal care services. This is by no means an exhaustive list of recommendations, but they will help you navigate the process of finding a PCA who is reliable, competent, supportive, and safe. Finding a good match will benefit everyone!