You can also download the PDF version of this publication. Hard copies are available upon request by calling 614-466-5205.
This brochure will answer some of your
questions about how to work with
a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) at
meetings, conferences and special events.
PCAs are attendants, caregivers, aides,
support workers, and others.
What is the first thing I need to know?
People with disabilities who use PCAs are the employers.
What is a PCA?
PCAs give personal support and help with the activities of daily living to people with
all types of disabilities. This support can give individuals with disabilities the chance
to be included in activities outside their homes.
Many people with disabilities use PCAs to care for them every day for many hours
a day, while others use PCAs only from time to time. Employing a PCA for services
outside the home, such as for a meeting or special event, may be a new experience to
you. This brochure will help you learn how to work with PCAs in these situations. It
is directed toward you - the employer. It does not explain the day-to-day support of
full-time caregivers or overnight care at hotels.
Who is a PCA?
PCAs can be family members,
caregivers or assistants hired by
the people needing them, or
by agencies. They can be paid
through different sources.
How do you get started?
Whether your PCA is a family member, someone you have worked with before, or
someone you are working with for the first time, there are some beginning steps you
should follow. These steps will help you build a successful, working relationship.
- As a good employer, you should respect the way you speak to and treat your
PCA. You always should treat a PCA as you would want to be treated. Be
polite and respectful. Use good manners. Work as a team with your PCA to
- If this is the first time you’ve worked with the PCA, hold a meeting to get to
know each other and to let the PCA know your specific needs. Even if your
PCA is a family member or daily caregiver, you should hold this meeting to
talk about activities and needs that don’t usually happen during your regular
day but might happen at a special event. Your PCA will not know what
help you need unless you tell him or her. Even family members need to be
reminded of what help you need and not what they think you need. Set clear
guidelines for your PCA. Examples include:
- Getting beverages and food
- Drinking and eating
- Grooming and dressing (such as
- Opening doors and elevators
- Making or answering phone calls
- Putting folders and materials
- Setting up computers or other
- Putting on earphones and
adjusting sound levels
- Turning pages
- Signing documents
- Making purchases
- Walking or feeding a support dog
Review each one of these activities to make sure you both understand them. Let your PCA know if you want him or her to give you the help you've discussed, or if you want them to wai until you ask for help.
You and your PCA should tell each other the best ways to contact each other.
For example, exchange phone numbers, text phone numbers, and email
addresses. Tell each other if the information is for home or work and the best
time to contact each other.
Your PCA should not take part in the event. Explain that he or she is there
to assist you so that you can participate. Your PCA is not the member,
representative, or guest. You are. However, if you have difficulty speaking, or if
the audience cannot understand you, explain to your PCA that you might ask
him or her to speak for you.
Remind the PCA that while you are working together, both of you need to be
as quiet as possible in order not to disturb others. This is very important if you
arrive late and have to get settled.
List items and supplies that you always need to take with you, such as
medications, straws, a sweater or oxygen. Make sure you have these items
before you leave home.
Talk about the clothing your PCA should wear, based on the type of event you
will be attending. Uniforms usually are not required.
Your PCA may or may not have training in First Aid or CPR. Therefore, you
should always give your PCA information that will help you in an emergency,
such as how to be moved or what medication you are allergic to.
If you take medications, explain what they are for and whether you need help
taking them. Give your PCA a list of your prescriptions and over-the-counter
medications and how much and how often you need them.
If you have a support dog, let your PCA know if you have to go out with the
dog, or if the PCA can take the dog out without you. If possible, your PCA
should practice walking and caring for your dog before the event. Some service
dogs will take direction only from their owner, so they need to get to know
How do you plan for an event?
- Find out the date, time, place, fee and other important information about
- Pay registration fees before the deadline. Also, register your PCA and inquire
if there is a fee for him or her. If you cannot afford the PCA fee, ask the event
planner if they will assist with the payment. Do this before the event.
- Tell your PCA what they will need to know about the event, such as:
- Type of event: small meeting, large conference, luncheon with
speakers, musical program, etc.
- What the event is about.
- Whether you are a member of the group hosting the
event, or a guest.
- The reason you are going to the event, such as
for your job, training, or for fun.
How do you plan for your transportation?
- Find out what kind of
transportation you will need
and make arrangements. Will
you rent an accessible van,
use a taxi, come with a group
from an organization, use your
own car, or use another type of
- Some PCAs can drive. Others
will go with you in a vehicle that
has a driver. Make sure your
PCA knows what he or she will
- Show your PCA how you enter
and exit a vehicle, and explain
what assistance you need. If you
use a wheelchair, show where to
place your chair and how to use
tie-downs. Make sure you buckle
- Explain how temperature affects
you. Do you need to be kept
warm or cool?
- Bring the right clothing, such
as a coat, gloves, hat, scarf,
raincoat, poncho, or umbrella.
If you use a power wheelchair,
explain that it is important to
keep the controller (joystick)
dry. You may use a plastic bag to
cover it in wet weather.
- Explain how long you can
travel before needing to take a
break, use a restroom, or have
food or beverage.
- Tell your PCA and driver the
exact address of the event so he or
she can plan the best way to get
there and how long it will take.
Leave plenty of time to get to the
event on time. Before arriving,
find out where to park and if
there is a parking fee. You or your
PCA should have the correct
parking payment with you. If you
need to use an accessible entrance,
ask the driver to let you out at
- If you know you are going to
be late to the event and people
are expecting you, phone or text
them so they will not worry. This
will let them know whether to
begin the program without you.
When you arrive
Ask your PCA to do the following, when you need help:
- Go with you and carry all your
needed materials, such as tickets
and printed information.
- Find the room or location of the
event, and the closest elevator,
restroom, and emergency exit.
- When you get to the room
or event, sign in and pick up
your materials. PCAs should
not pick up a second set of
materials for themselves, unless
a host offers them.
- Follow you to an open place
to sit and remove a chair if
needed. Try to sit at the tables
or a central location so that you
can participate with the other
attendees. Ask your PCA to sit
beside you or directly behind you,
whichever is the easiest to assist
you. Some of you will not need
your PCA to be right next to you,
but he or she should always be in
the room where you can get his or
- If changing from a wheelchair
to a regular chair, ask your PCA
to move your wheelchair out of
the way. Do not block or ge in
the aisles. Also, keep walkers,
crutches, canes and electrical
cords out of the way.
- If needed, remove your coat and
make sure you are comfortable. If
event is offering refreshments, get
you a beverage, straw and snack.
- Set up materials and electronic
devices in front of you. As the
meeting moves on, open folders
and change pages when the group
is working on them. If using a
talking computer, keep the sound
at a low level or use earphones.
- Turn off the ringer on cell phones
during meetings. Answer texts,
calls or voice mail during breaks.
- Do steps 3-8 before event begins
so that you do not disturb
others and you will be ready to
During the event
- If you cannot raise your hand, ask
your PCA to raise his or her hand
to show people you want to be
called upon or to vote.
- If you have difficulty speaking,
or if the audience cannot
understand you, ask your PCA
to repeat your words. Your PCA
should try to repeat your words
exactly and not change the
meaning of what you said.Your
PCA should never speak on your
behalf unless you ask. At no time
should your PCA give his or her
opinions, make requests, or ask
questions unless you have asked
him or her to do so.
- Take notes either by hand or on a
device as needed.
- If microphones are at the table,
use them so everyone can
hear. Your PCA should hold a
microphone for you, if needed.
- If you have a support dog, let
your PCA know when to take
the dog out, or when the dog
- Ask your PCA to tell you when
he or she leaves the room. They
should never participate in a
different meeting than you are
attending. Your PCA should
never leave the building or
location while you are at an event.
- Although you may be able to
take care of yourself during
parts of an event, you may need
assistance when your PCA is out
of the room. If this happens,
you usually should wait for your
PCA to return and not ask other
participants to help you.
- If a meal is served as part of the
event, ask your PCA to assist
you. The PCA should be served
a meal, too. If the meal is buffet
style, tell your PCA if you want
to go through the line, or what
you would like him or her to
bring to you. If you have asked
for a special diet, the PCA should
make sure you get it.
- Before, during breaks, and after
meetings, let your PCA know
when you would like to socialize,
get to know and talk with other
people. As needed, ask the PCA
to assist you in meeting others.
After the activity
- If your PCA is not your driver, check ahead to make sure your driver will be
meeting you at the time you need to leave—or to let the driver know if you
are running late. Ask your PCA if he or she can wait with you, if needed,
and for how long.
- Meet your driver at the agreed upon time and place, or
wait for your PCA to pick you up.
- Discuss with your PCA how the day went. Did you work
together well? Did you have problems? What could make
things better? Before saying goodbye, always thank the PCA for
- If the PCA was sent by an agency, let the agency
know how happy you were and if you’d like to use
this PCA again. On the other hand, if you feel
the PCA did not help you with what you needed,
or you did not feel you worked well together,
ask not to have the person assist