Firm friends Natasha Wilson and Jess Aldred are two of a kind – hard-working, fun-loving and with an ‘obsessively clean’ streak.
However, these kindred spirits – ‘like peas in a pod’ – also have a working relationship which has led to them taking part in a campaign by local organisation Disability Sheffield to find people who will become Personal Assistants (PAs) for those with a range of impairments.Natasha was born with arthrogryposis, which causes fused joints and weak muscles in her arms and legs. She is a full-time electric wheelchair user and needs assistance ‘to do just about everything. Getting out of bed, getting washed, dressed, getting from A to B’ – which is where Jess comes in. Since last year she has been one of Natasha’s team of PAs who help her physically.This leaves the 27-year-old who lives in an adapted bungalow in Dore the time and energy to use her brains working for Age UK Sheffield, running their Wellbeing Centre, Dementia Advice Service and Young Onset Dementia service. She has a Master’s degree in Dementia Studies and is studying for an NVQ 5 in Leadership & Management in Health and Social Care “with a long-term aim of opening a dementia care home which will be totally different to how care homes are currently run.”The one thing Natasha insists on doing herself at home is what 26-year old Stannington resident Jess – manager in the beauty department of Boots at Meadowhall – has as her full-time job. “I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to my appearance so I’ve learnt over the years to do my own make-up,’’ she says.The pair originally met at a mutual friend’s birthday celebration and were Facebook friends until Jess passed her driving test last year and was asked by Natasha - who is currently taking lessons - if she wanted to become one of the PA team.
“I didn’t know her too well,’’ says Jess. “But now it’s just like having girlie weekends and we’re in contact even when I’m not working for her. I’ve built a friendship out of it. There are obviously things I do to help but I wouldn’t class it as a chore.”And when they’ve done what they have to do it’s time to relax. “Jess and I love nothing more than obsessively cleaning the house, rewarding ourselves with wine and then doing karaoke until the early hours,” says Natasha.”
With antics like that it’s no surprise that Jess intends to carry on with the role. “I think I’ll be doing it for a long time,’’ she says. Every day is completely different and it’s really rewarding. It involves assisting someone, but it’s still their life. I’d definitely tell people to go for it.Ali Hayward, Disability Sheffield’s PA Support Co-Ordinator, said: ‘'We’re doing this because we know that so many disabled people are wanting to recruit PAs but it seems there just aren’t the number of PAs around to fill the vacancies. So we want to encourage people wanting work to think about whether becoming a PA would be right for them.
There are full or part time PA jobs available now and they’re open to all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds, with different ages, education, work and life experiences – in fact everyday ordinary people.
The best PAs don’t have to have care qualifications, but they do have to have the right attitude and approach. Most importantly they need to respect and act upon the decisions and choices the disabled person has made about how they want to live – everything else can be learnt along the way. 'Disability Sheffield is hosting a Zoom webinar called Ever Thought Of Becoming a PA?, which takes place on Tuesday, May 11, from 2-3pm. Register by emailing [email protected]
You can find out more about Natasha on her Instagram page @adayinthelifeoftash