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RewardingWork Solves Caregiving Dilemmas - continued

 
Katelyn and Brittany play together

Rewarding Work is a Brookline-based non-profit corporation that created and manages a Web-based directory for elders, people with disabilities, and their families to connect with the caregivers they need.  Its goal is to help elders and people with disabilities continue to live in their own homes and communities, rather than in nursing homes and institutions.

The Rewarding Work directory is a password-protected, searchable database that includes the names, contact information, and expertise of thousands of applicants. 

Massachusetts consumers who receive PCA (Personal Care Assistant) services through MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, have free access to this information at www.Mass.gov/findpca, a separate website created and managed by Rewarding Work. People not on MassHealth also may use the service for a small fee of $10 for a month of unlimited searches.
 
Rewarding Work helped Cassandra—a mother who needed a PCA for her daughter—reach Katelyn D of East Bridgewater, a college student studying nursing.  They found each other in a fraction of the time and effort involved in thumb-tacking a notice to a bulletin board in a supermarket or even posting an ad on Craigslist.  The website allowed both Cassandra and Katelyn to customize their searches and evaluate their suitability to each other in a manner that was easy, efficient, and comfortable for everyone involved. 
 
“This is all about dependability, and the Rewarding Work website is designed to address this need,” Cassandra says.  With the Internet and wireless communications, people are flooded with options—yet many are anonymous, murky, or even risky.

Cassandra’s 13-year-old daughter, Brittany — born with a chromosome abnormality, Partial Trisomy 1q Mosaicism and Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum and later diagnosed with epilepsy — is “drastically globally delayed in all areas.”  Brittany is wheelchair-dependent, able stand with assistance from one to three minutes before becoming fatigued.  She can only sign a modified yes and no on occasion, but is non-verbal.  “Brittany is one-hundred percent dependent on the PCA,” Cassandra says.  “If she wants a drink she can’t say that.  The PCA has to monitor her body language and facial expression.”  Through all of this, Brittany remains a brave and resilient child who stays positive even after cancer (Wilm’s Tumors) took away her left kidney and one quarter of her right kidney.
 
When Cassandra tried other methods to hire a PCA, even posting an ad at a nursing school, she found that many applicants “thought this was just a babysitting job” rather than one requiring focus, sensitivity, and care-giving experience.  Cassandra used the search capabilities on the Rewarding Work website to narrow the field and find a PCA who was a non-smoker able to care for a child, a person who could arrive early, at 6 AM and who lived within 15 miles of her own home.  In addition she chose to pay $10 to post an individual ad online: “I could see each applicant’s profile before I decided to have a face-to-face interview and give them a call.  It was a huge time-saver.”  In just a week, Cassandra received eight candidates.
 
When Katelyn visited the household, she bonded with Brittany.  Says Cassandra, “Instantly Katelyn sat down with Brittany, and Brittany was passing her blocks and playing with a ball.  I knew right away that Katelyn was the right person to be our PCA.”
 
Katelyn is a nursing student at UMass Dartmouth.  She is Red Cross-certified as a Certified Nurses Assistant.  As an applicant seeking work, she found the Rewarding Work website very user-friendly: “I set up my profile and put it out there.  It’s a step-by-step process and Rewarding Work gives you tips along the way.” 
 
Being a nursing student, Katelyn was already primed with classroom medical experience, and she had worked with children; she knew how to operate a van equipped for a person with a disability because a family friend uses such a vehicle.  But Katelyn has learned a lot by being with Brittany:  “I’ve learned that this is definitely a caring job—that it’s the little things that can help, being there for someone—that make a huge difference, especially in Brittany’s case.  You can tell when she’s having a good day by her little gestures.  I love being with her, watching her face light up when she’s happy.”
 
Katelyn is unsure where she wants to practice nursing—in a hospital, rehab facility, or other setting—but she was sure to recommend Rewarding Work to friends seeking employment.  “I told my friends about my great experience, how easy it is to search for jobs and how you can find exactly what you’re looking for.”

Cassandra says, “The more people that hear about the Rewarding Work website, the more people who need or give this kind of service will find each other.  Connecting people like this will enhance the value of individual lives.”

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