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A female support worker and a young man smiling at the camera In Community Stories

What Every Support Worker Should Know

December 03, 2020

What should every support worker know? My answer is always the same – “be the best you can be. Then the person you support has a better chance to live the life they deserve.”

Firstly, always remember that we are paid to be friendly, not to be a friend. There is a difference. We are a part of their support network and it is our job to assist in creating and strengthening friendships. Not BEING a friendship. It’s important to not cross this line. And remember, the hours you work should be 100% focused on the person you support – not about you. From the beginning to the end of your shift, be friendly, be nice, but be professional.

Secondly, and I cannot stress this enough … LISTENING. Listen to what the supported person wants. And if you’re not sure, do not be afraid to ask. When you’re supporting someone new, it’s important to know what they want and need from you. If you’re ever unsure about a specific activity or don’t know what to do in a particular situation – ASK, ASK, ASK. Make sure you’re open to any and all suggestions, both from the person you support and their family members, friends, or other supporters and networks. Often the person you support might have a different vision of what a good life looks like to them. Just like how your own unique version of a good life looks for yourself, it is the same as the people you support. Just because you may not approve of something, doesn’t make it wrong.

It’s important to make sure that the way you communicate suits all involved. You must assume competency in people you support, always. Just because some people can’t communicate in a typical way, does not mean they do not understand. Being open to various forms of communication and learning different styles and techniques is an extremely important thing for support workers. And remember, the way we talk, act, and support people in the community informs those around us. If you treat an adult like a child and assume they are incapable of things, then the wider community will think that’s OK … it isn’t.

And last but certainly not least, try to enjoy it all! Finding out what the person you support loves to do obviously makes it easier to find meaningful jobs, connections and experiences in the local or wider community.  You might have to try doing a lot of different activities at first to find that special activity that both you and the person you support enjoy doing together. You might even find an activity that the person you support doesn’t even know they love yet! And that’s part of the joy of being a support worker. We too get to experience and enjoy the journey with the person. This builds trust and equity within the working relationship and shows we are listening and assisting the person to live the life they want and deserve. Remember, sometimes we have to kiss a lot of frogs till we find our Prince…

No frogs or Royalty were harmed in this blog.


Written by Ian Hulse

Community Wellness Mentor