Everyday Advocacy: Personal Assistance on the Go

Michael_CollinsQ. I need help locating personal-care attendants or caregivers to cover my needs in Los Angeles and other cities where I travel to meetings of a council I have recently been appointed to. We meet in major cities about five times per year, and I am finding it much more difficult to locate assistance than I do in my hometown in New York. Where can I find people to assist me for the short time that I am in their towns, and are there are some things that I should be aware of in advance?

As background, I am an upper-level quad and require full assistance with transfers. I weigh about 200 pounds and use a power wheelchair. In the morning, I require care for roughly four hours before whatever time I would need to leave for work. This requires a particularly early start each day, and I need to find personnel willing to arrive at the hotel by 5 a.m. For the purposes of a home health agency, they would need to know that they should consider me 200 pounds of “dead weight” and that none of the “stand assist” transfer techniques will work. I will need to rent a Hoyer-type lift to have available in my hotel room. 


My evening routine is less intensive, requiring about two hours of assistance starting at 8:30 p.m., including putting me to bed. During the day, my needs are minimal and I’m hoping that fellow council members or staff members will provide that help if needed.


I am happy to work with anyone to identify potential leads, but I do not have access to those resources for Los Angeles or the other cities where our meetings are scheduled during the next year. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

— Quad in a Quandary

A. Locating, hiring and training someone to meet personal care needs at a distant location is always one of our biggest challenges, especially for those of us whose needs are complex. Many airlines are now insisting that individuals who cannot evacuate themselves in an emergency must travel with an evacuation assistant, so it often makes more sense to pay the extra money and bring along a reliable caregiver from home to provide care at the distant location as well. While that might seem more expensive, it does assure that training is not necessary and that the person would always be available and on time when needed. The cost of a plane ticket and extra hotel room can be worth it for the peace of mind that it brings.

If not possible to do that, Nursefinders will usually help locate qualified medical professionals for anyone, no matter how briefly they will be in the area. That service is used a lot by people who are on vacations, and I have used their aides several times with great success. A similar option is available through a wide variety of visiting nurse organizations or home care agencies. Simply check in the online yellow pages under Home Healthcare Agencies for Los Angeles or whatever town you will be visiting.

The other two options I would recommend will have varying degrees of success in meeting your needs. There are over 12 separate offices for the Centers for Independent Living in Los Angeles County, so there may be more than one office near the location where your meetings will be held. Since it is rare for a CIL to employ personal assistants for hire, be sure to ask the receptionist to speak to anyone who handles personal assistance service referrals. You can find all of those offices by checking with the Independent Living Research and Utilization Project in Houston. ILRU’s directory lists independent living centers in all 50 states and territories.

Aging and Disability Resource Centers have been established in each state for the purpose of coordinating the efforts of CILs and services provided by Area Agencies on Aging. Because they have been established fairly recently, those offices will likely refer to their affiliates in the area rather than providing any services.

Good luck with this, I hope you enjoy Los Angeles, and that your future travels are enjoyable as well.

Resources
• Aging and Disability Resource Centers, 202/619-0724; www.aoa.gov/AoA_programs/HCLTC/ADRC/index.aspx.
• List of Centers for Independent Living, 713/520-0232; www.ilru.org.
• Nursefinders, 800/445-0459; info@nursefinders.com, www.nursefinders.com.

Michael Collins is the former executive director of the National Council on Disability and of the California State Independent Living Council. Send questions to tgilmer@newmobility.com.

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