The saga of the Cleaner from Disability Support or how hard is it to get a little help?


For the last few months I have been very sick and spent most of my day lying down.  My house is a mess. I’ve missed appointments.  I’ve not been managing.

So I applied for disability support.  Friends told me about their cleaners and gardeners and personal care workers and I tried to get help like that for myself.  Especially as some of these people have partners at home who could keep their houses clean, and help them with their needs.  I do not.

Whether or not two teenaged kids should be responsible for all household tasks is a valid debate, but if people have disability assistance, cleaners and carers so that their adult, romantic partners don’t have to take care of everything, then my kids shouldn’t have to do everything either.  They do some. They should do more, I’ll admit to that.  But my kids do more than most of their friends do.  And they are still kids.

Anyway…I was told that the local area service was full.  I asked what that meant, what other options I had, and I was told none. I have to wait until someone gives up their care worker for me to access the services.  But let’s face it, no one would do that.  There aren’t any review systems in place, so it is entirely dependent on a person doing the right thing and giving up their cleaner if they no longer ‘need’ the cleaner and have recovered enough to do the work themselves.

Sadly, it’s just not that kind of world.  A person who does that is one in a million.  Though I do know one or two who would.   And without a review process, and constant assessments as to whether people are still injured, ill or disabled, people hold onto their services, even if they have healed.  And no one stops them from doing so.  The system is very flawed.  Help is not going to those who need it most.  I guess this why the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) is being introduced, to address the inequity.

Bottom line?  No help for me.

I got pissy about it, had a rant, and then accepted that I’ll just have to draw money from my mortgage and pay for the services I need myself.  And be grateful that I have this as an option.  Dwelling on the fairness, or otherwise, of all this will only tie me up in bitter knots and won’t get me any closer to my goal.

Then I finally reached the top of the Occupational Therapy (OT) list at the local hospital.  I’ve been on the list for years, and was told that chronic conditions may never make it to the top, as acute cases (brain injury, stroke, heart attack, etc) are sadly constant, and will always take priority over chronic diseases.  That seems fair to me.  It’s just another under resourced service. But acute care should take priority.

And yet I made it to the top.

The OT assessed me, and tried to get me on a program. Same result. But because I had surgery scheduled she was able to schedule me for short term help.  Six weeks post op.  She arranged a cleaner.

And this is what happened.

The cleaner was going to come on the Tuesday before surgery, so that I would have a nice clean house to come home to. I didn’t clean on the weekend, because the cleaner was going to come.  She didn’t show up. I waited all day.  Communication problem apparently.

She would come the following day, Wednesday. They booked her in at a time when I had a medical appointment. I had to cancel her – pre-op appointment trumps cleaner.

Then the service provider booked her for Friday morning, even though she knew I wouldn’t get out of hospital until lunch time.  Communication problem again.  Or not paying attention problem.  We’re at three misses now.  Three attempts and the cleaner hasn’t even shown up yet.  Hate to say it, but had the service provider thought to ask me when was convenient, we would not have had these problems.  But no, that’s too simple.

So she booked the cleaner in for the Monday, post surgery.  By now my house was rank. I had been  waiting for the cleaner to come for a week now. Why clean up when a cleaner is coming?  And I’d just had both arms operated on.  My kids did the basics, but still, you can imagine.

So the cleaner actually arrives on Monday, 15 minutes early for the arranged time. I ask her how long I have her for.  One hour she replies.  So I ask her to clean the toilets, clean the bathroom basins and then mop the kitchen floor.  It takes me about 35-45 minutes to do that, when I have a good day.  She starts with the kitchen. I’m recovering from surgery, and I have a cold, so I dose off.  She wakes me a short time later and tells me she’s all done.  I’m disoriented. I thank her. She leaves.  I go into the kitchen, and though the floor is wet, it is still dirty.  She just slopped some water around and made grubby swooshes.  Nice.  Still great big sticky stains on the floor.  Hmmmm.   She left all the hard work.  That was kinda the point of having her. So she did the hard work that involves getting  down on hands and knees and scrubbing.  I hobble into the toilet. It hasn’t been touched. And I mean she didn’t even enter that room.  It was still dirty.  Into the bathroom.  Again, not touched.  What in the world did she do all that time? I check the clock.  Its 10:15.  She was here less than 45 minutes, even though she was very clear that she was supposed to spend an hour.  I looked at my ensuite, no surprise that she hadn’t been in there either.

Great.  She actually showed up, but she didn’t do most of the work. And what she did, she did badly.  That’s four strikes.  ‘Help’ like this is no help at all.

I texted my provider and told her what had happened.  She apologized and sent another cleaner.

Attempt number five.  The lady arrived, and she asked what I needed done.  I told her, in order of priority, please clean the toilets, because it’s very hard for me to get down and clean them.  Please clean the basins because IF people come over, they are very visible.  Then if she had time (she should as far as I was concerned) please mop the kitchen/family room floor.   Same brief.

Again, I dozed. It was early, and I had the eye sparkles and icepick through my right temple that meant a full blown migraine was on its way.

She woke me. I checked the clock.  It was an hour later exactly.  So far so good.  Then she started to ask me about my cat.  *sigh*.  Then she started to tell me about her cat.  Then she asked me about my dog.  Because, of course, she has a dog too.  And she’s on her own too. And, and, and…I won’t divulge any more of her more personal history.  People often talk to me.  Unload their stuff.  I usually think it’s a great privilege that people trust me with their stories, and that I help by being a good ear.

Except when I have a migraine.

I was lying there with an icepack on my head, and a towel over that blocking out the light. And still her voice droned on.  Finally I asked her to leave.  One hour and twenty minutes – twenty minutes of that her talking.  And I felt bad asking her to go. She made me feel bad.  But she left. She said something about cleaning the basins next time as she closed the door.

Oh no.  Really???  The basins that I asked her to do???

Adrenalin surge.  Hobble to bathroom.  Basins not clean. Basins filthy.  OMFG.

Look at toilet. Toilet NOT clean.  Floor has been mopped, but the toilet is gross.  Check ensuite, same deal.  Mopping is easy.  Cleaners are happy to swoosh water around, apparently. But they are above cleaning toilets!

Kitchen is untouched.

What the actual fuck.

What did she DO for an hour????

She mopped one toilet, one bathroom, and one ensuite.  Toilet is small, ensuite is average as is bathroom.  No one can take an hour to mop three small rooms.  All together they are smaller than an average bedroom. And the floors weren’t very dirty.  It was, at the risk of repeating myself, the basins and the toilets that needed cleaning!

I lay back down. Too effing hard.  What is wrong with people?  I told her what I needed done.  In order of priority. Do I have to write it down?  Stand behind her checking?  She checked her phone a lot, maybe an app?  An email?  Maybe if I’d texted her she’d have understood my directions.


I laid back down to ‘enjoy’ the light show and banished it from my thoughts. Stressing doesn’t help migraines one iota.  Shut the blinds.  Icepack and towel back over head.  And went to sleep.  Ride the migraine out.

A few hours later, when the migraine had faded to a mild headache, I checked the bathroom again, and realised that she had cleaned my shower screen.  Yes, my shower screen had a lot of soap scum on it.  It was dirty. Now it’s reasonably clean. But it wasn’t my priority. I didn’t even notice, initially, that it had been cleaned.  It was NOT what I asked to be done!

And that would be the point. She did what she wanted to do. She ignored the jobs she didn’t want to do. Toilets aren’t glamorous, but hey, if you don’t want to clean other people’s toilets, maybe don’t be a cleaner.   I don’t want her back, because she can’t/won’t follow simple directions.  It also took her an hour to mop three small rooms and clean one shower screen door.  Really?

If she cleaned anything else, it didn’t need cleaning because I can’t tell.

So.  Complain again? Or just accept that many people really suck at their jobs.

The most uncomfortable thought about the whole thing is people working in disability services, taking advantage of people with a disability.  I am disabled by a painful disease.  But I am currently still able to check what has and hasn’t been done.  What happens when she goes to service a client with an intellectual disability?  Or someone bedridden, who can’t check if she’s done her job?

She coasts on someone else’s suffering, and she’s fine with that.   I’m sure she doesn’t see it that way at all. But that’s the truth.  And it kinda makes me sick.

And she was the good one. The first girl didn’t even try.  But she will collect her pay.  They both will.  Neither deserved to be paid for their one hour’s work, in my opinion.

I wasn’t’ going to complain. Too damn hard.  But she was going to come at the same time next week. That doesn’t work for me. That’s when I have dog training. I have paid for those lessons, and I’m not missing them for her substandard work.

So I texted my service provider.

She was curt and told me she could send someone else but I had to realise these people weren’t cleaners.  They are only there give things a light clean and clean the toilet and bathroom.  So I got annoyed and told her that my toilet and bathroom basins were still filthy and hadn’t been touched.  And the service wasn’t useful to me, because they didn’t do what I asked.  They did what they felt like doing.  She sent me a curt message telling me she would cancel my package and to leave the folder at the front door for her to collect.

She doesn’t even have the balls to come in and talk to me about it.  She’ll just write me up as ‘difficult’.  I am not difficult. She told me that I would have a cleaner.  I expected a cleaner. An hour isn’t much, but if you WORK you can get a lot done in an hour.

So now I will clean my toilets and basins myself. Thanks for nothing.  And people wonder why I am fiercely independent and push myself to do things myself.

Because I have to. Because I’m very used to being let down. Promises, promises.  Talk is cheap.


  1. Wow that is unbelievable. I have had some care providers who just felt like doing the bare minimum which wasn’t in their list of things my mom had for them to do. These care providers do not know what it’s like to have chronic pain and be pretty much dependent on others do clean and help with household chores. One of these days these care providers will need care themselves and the next generation will not be around to fill their every cup to the brim. Man this really pisses me off to hear your care provider was curt with you 🙁

    • And in the end when I told her that the people she sent weren’t worth having, she cancelled my case! Nice, huh? We’re supposed to be grateful for whatever we get, even if its not what we asked for and were promised! I’m just lucky I’m doing better than expected. It will be different if I need surgery on my feet!

  2. I’m so sorry you had to get that, I get a cleaning two hrs per fortnight. She changes my bed and cleans my ensuite. She is very good, but the funding states she can only clean areas used by me, so the kids bathroom is not done, the main house areas not done. Only my bedroom and ensuite. But she always makes a great job and her chatter mostly cheers me up? If I’m asleep she dosnt disturb me. One day I was a crying mess, she just talked to me that day, held my hand and chatted about normal things. The cleaners sent by disability services are not trained cleaners, they do light stuff, but their main job is to make sure your ok, not dead in bed!! Etc. I really think you need to contact disability services in your area and really put it on them, if you do not send me help for my ASD son I will drop him off to your office for them to rehome. Demand respite for him, demand on going support. The kids respite units will be able to activate a whole range of options not usally avalible. All my help comes from Marcus’s respite people recognising as a parent I was drowning due to his autism and my RA. Try that way.

  3. I will! Thanks Sarah. I pulled out the paperwork, and it clearly states that they provide household, commercial and industrial cleaning. So she’s moving the goalposts to cover her butt! It’s a messed up system! Your lady sounds lovely. And has a lot of common sense. AND she does a great job – jackpot! I just don’t care about the toilets and bathroom anymore. My kids can do theirs and I’ll do mine. It’s just wrong on principle. And I have no faith in their transport service!

  4. Yes, principal is something important to care about. I think you have shown great restraint. But then again it is easy to not get upset when they have you on the couch with an icepack on your head.

    • Yes Rick, some of these people, at least, count on the fact that their disabled clients aren’t going to, or aren’t able to, complain. And when these people are being paid $40 to stand around my house doing nothing it really grinds my gears. I have nothing to lose by complaining now, she’s cancelled my case. How dare she make me feel like this is my fault!

  5. That is just disgusting. If I were a cleaner for a living, something I’d be more than happy to do if I weren’t disabled and no longer able to keep on top of my own house cleaning, I’d take a damn pride in what I did, for my own personal satisfaction and for the client who was unable to do it themselves.
    Too many people these days are happy to take a wage for half a job done and when someone has to rely on someone to clean for them it should be a priority to listen to what they need doing and do it well.
    I’m almost more disgusted at the lady in charge for shutting the door on you than I am at those who didn’t do the job. Take them to task over it, they shouldn’t be able to do that, people are relying on this help. And if you do get another cleaner, from them or independently I would write a list, in order of priority and I’d be hovering around watching to make sure the job was done well. A good cleaner would check that you were happy with each job anyway before leaving. Don’t give up on getting someone, there are wonderful cleaners out there who do take a pride in their work and the help they are giving someone.

    • Exactly Gillian. I have a private cleaner who I know will do a good job. She’s a friend of a friend and I have no doubt she will do a great job. She charges a fair rate. I will call her when things get worse again. I’m just lucky I’m doing better than expected, and my arthritis has been strangely milder. So between my kids and I, the house is relatively clean. And I agree with you, even when I had jobs that I didn’t enjoy, I did them to the best of my ability, and took pride in my work. And if I were working for someone disabled or disadvantaged, there is no way I would shirk the job. There is a great lack of professional pride these days, too many people want the money and don’t want to do the work. Sad.


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