Working with Adults with Disabilities

As mentioned before, this was my last real job before becoming a mom or even moving to a new province where I didn’t know the language to work. This is by far one if the most rewarding and stressful jobs in my entire life. Here is how I got started and maybe you can decide if this is a career path you wish to take!

I got started in this job because a family friend was doing it. More specifically she ws my old babysitter. When she was young she was in the hospital at the same time as my older sister (who sadly passed away from her illness). Growing up she used to baby sit my siblings and I. She then moved a bit away for college and to live for years. In school she had taken child and youth. It was at a community college which was nice for me not having to spend so much money in university also too. I went to where she lived in a town called Truro about 45 minutes from Halifax and did some test drive program. This was where I could see if the human services side of school (the part before the Child and Youth concentration) was for me. Taking this you could go a bunch of different routes. You could do occupational therapist, child and youth, corrections officer, and many more related to helping others. I like the idea that the pay was above minimum wage by a bit and as challenging as it was it seemed like a job you never got bored of either.

I went to school. My first year human services I stayed in the dorms and went that route and my stupid abusive boyfriend nearly helped derail my life, had so generously decided to help me blow my whole line of credit which was supposed to help with my second year. So after living there for 1 year I moved back home.and finished my concentration in child and youth there.

When I had started in with working with adults who have disabilities it was more or less to gain some sort of experience working with populations at risk. In Halifax there really wasn’t a lot of child and youth jobs and a lot wanted you to have some sort of an “in” so to speak. Know someone, did placement there or whatever you want to think of. Working with adults who have challenges in different aspects of their lives is close enough in the human services field that you can kind of do both but by doing this job I would need what is called 7 core competencies. This was paid training of 7 specific courses by the company that hired me and after I had these I was ready to go.

I never thought the job would be so challenging. Aside from being a mom, this has to be one of the hardest jobs I have ever done. You can walk in and have a day that runs so smoothly you feel like you are dreaming or you can have a day where it is so off the rails you feel like you are free falling. You can be hit or punched or kicked by someone having a bad day. The key for me was remembering that they aren’t necessarily targeting you, they just are lashing out and you are the 1st person available. Then the medications are insane for some of the people from sleeping pills, anti-psychotic medications, bi-polar capsules, and whatever else you have. Some people were upwards of 30 pills a day to help balance out their moods and feelings to help them “feel” normal. Which again is a huge responsibility. Thankfully there is teams around to help that know all of the Ins and outs so you aren’t flopping around like a fish out of water. Not to mention you also have to assist with bathing them, dressing, sometimes bringing them to work. Lets not forget the food preparations and meal making also! And most times you also are doing the housework from laundry and sweeping and mopping also (unless it was a bigger group home of 6 or more people which hopefully have a housekeeper to do this during the week). I started as a house keeper and worked my way up to a counselor assistant.

Though not every job has the best circumstances and things. A major con and a solid reason why I wont be going back to this career anytime soon would be the shift work. starting in a field like this you start off at the bottom of the list. Chances are people.who have seniority in an agency will have the Monday to Friday and day time hours. For me starting off I would need to start at the bottom working most likely 2+ weekends per month as well as evenings. And I just am not ready to do that especially with children and it being the exact opposite schedule as my partner. The only way I would work this is if I got a job at a workplace that hires adults with disabilities. Those jobs are typically Monday to Friday and holidays off as well as day hours. Another con is if someone calls in sick chances are you will be stuck as a lot of people wont cover the shifts. This sucks when you are stuck working nearly 24 plus hours straight.

If you can get past this the pay is pretty decent even when starting out. For me it was nearly 3 or 4 dollars above the minimum wage due to being in the health sector. This helped to pay for bills and things as well too. It helped me save money and pay my debt from college off too. It is also probably one of the most rewarding jobs that I have ever had. It makes you realize the little things that may seem so big to us are really very small to someone with a disability who has overcome more in a day then most in a lifetime. They deal with discrimination and obstacles that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Not to mention the fact they have to have help for their entire life to ensure their safety and that may be challenging for the strongest of people. They overcome so many challenges daily that we often fake things for granted. The job and the value you have in someones life is huge. And for that alone I would recommend anyone who has this desire or drive to do so.

The question I ask myself is, would I ever go back to this type of work? As of now, no. It would entirely depend on where I am in life and if the right opportunity had to arise. I would have to have the right schedule and something a bit flexible to work with my growing family. And if everything worked out I would consider it. Even still the job is very demanding physically and mentally, and with a family and children, they will be coming first for a very very long time!

Do you have a job you enjoy?
How did you come to deciding that as a career?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!!

– Stacey

(Mailed in an envelope so you can use it to send a message to a loved one!)
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