When not helping is best!

I recently got to chat to Bill, a Personal Support Worker to Andrew (a user of our Housing and Support Service). Bill shared with me his approach to supporting Andrew, and how sometimes it can be best not to help…

Andrew and Bill (18) Andrew and Bill (1)

“I’ve been working for Henshaws for 4 years now. Every day is different, but the hardest (and most rewarding) part of my job is not helping. When someone who is visually impaired finds something a challenge it’s easy to step in and do it for them. Ironically this is the worst thing you can do!

Twice a week I support Andrew, a resident in a Henshaws Community House. Andrew lost his sight when he was 6 years old due to a brain tumour and he has epilepsy as a result. He moved to his current house from a Henshaws 24 hour care placement, and is always working hard to gain skills to make him more independent. Every week I support Andrew with life skills that enable him to live more independently, including cooking, washing, cleaning and shopping.

One of the most important things I support Andrew with is choosing a meal plan (his epilepsy medication is finely balanced to his weight so it’s important he plans meals in advance). We chat through his food choices and Andrew converts his menu for the next week into Braille. This is important so Andrew can check his meal plan on his own. I then support him to check what food he has already, and we make a list for his supermarket visit.

Yes, it would be quicker for me to read everything out to Andrew, go through his food and even do his shopping, but that would lead to Andrew losing important skills and undermine his confidence in other areas of his life.

Andrew’s into things that aide and help him, and we’re going to try using penfriend technology next. This will allow him to label tinned and packaged food, and Andrew can use the penfriend independently to scan the labels – it will read them out loud. Again, it’s another skill that gives Andrew more independence; imagine if you’re hungry and you have to wait for a personal assistant to arrive and tell you if it’s a tin of beans or a tin of peaches!

I really enjoy working with Andrew, and he’s always coped well with his lack of sight. Sometimes the more you do for someone, the less they do. You think that you are helping, but you end up ‘deskilling’ a person. That’s why the hardest thing sometimes is to do nothing!”

Want to know more? Listen to Bill and Andrew chatting about their relationship and how Bill helps Andrew to develop his independence.

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