I Thought Only Movie Stars and CEOs Had Personal Assistants?

Life in Loja talks with North American clients residing in Loja about their experience of having a personal assistant...

Jona:  Hi Mr. and Mrs. G.  Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. We’ve worked together for several years now, and I thought other expats would like to know what it’s like having a personal assistant.

Mr. and Mrs. G.:  Of course, Jona, happy to talk to you about it.

Jona:  Let’s jump right in and get to the questions. Why did you decide to hire a personal assistant?

Mr. G.:  To be honest, I sort of thought a personal assistant was someone who took your suit to be dry cleaned and pressed, or arranged reservations at busy restaurants. There was an education curve to realize how useful a PA could be for the average person or couple like us.

Mrs. G.: We moved to Loja to retire. We knew if we were going to ‘Age in Place’ as it is currently called that we would need help. ‘Aging in place’ is the idea that you and your spouse lay the groundwork for living as full a life as possible in the home of your choice for as long as possible. It isn't just about growing old. It means preparing for the changes that inevitably happen as you grow older. We would need this type of help to live in our home no matter what our location.

We knew we would need to start finding help as soon as possible because our grasp of Spanish was a complicating factor. We understood we would require help with shopping, medical appointments, home cleaning and maintenance, transportation (because we don’t drive any longer), and with any legal or government issues that came up. The national health emergency fast-forwarded many of these plans because we are part of what is considered a vulnerable health group. Having a personal assistant like you, Jona, who coordinates all these services - some that are required occasionally and some on a constant basis - has been the best way for us to accomplish our goals for living here.

Jona:  What were you looking for in a personal assistant?

Mr. and Mrs. G.:  We hoped to find someone who was a professional. You definitely qualify as that with your National University graduate background in tourism and travel. We also wanted someone who was dedicated to doing the job, not just a part-timer, and who had excellent English skills. You have fulfilled all these expectations as well. Last but not least was reliability. If there was an emergency, and we have already had several, we needed to be able to get a hold of you without delay. Along with the national health emergency, there were the October political issues several months earlier that gave us a preview of not being able to go out because of a public transport strike at the same time. You were able to get us the medical and food supplies we needed without delay.

Jona:  What are the services that are most helpful to you in the current national health emergency?

Mr. and Mrs. G.:  You are coordinating our supplies to our home because we are not going out to shop at present. This has been enormously helpful because supply and suppliers seem to come and go. If a supplier, a delivery person, or a particular item was no longer available, you were able to find someone else to provide what was needed. Like many people who have started using home delivery around the world, we plan to continue with it after the emergency subsides. We like the delivery because it is an opportunity to support local merchants and suppliers. It is also much easier for us, at our age, to have the bulk of what we need delivered to our home. Home delivery is a constant for us and will continue to be so in the future.

What has not been a constant but still very important is getting medical attention. Your help with that has been invaluable. We had several instances of needing telemedicine consultations with prescriptions required. You were able to arrange the consultations, interpret for us with the doctor, translate the prescription, have the medicines delivered and give instructions for electronic payments, all within the same day. Telemedicine is also something we would like to continue with in the future as well. The health emergency has been quite a situation to deal with, but it has also changed a number of things in our life for the better, such as having home deliveries and the availability of telemedicine.

Jona:  Before the two national emergencies you describe above, what were the most important services a personal assistant could provide for you?

Mr. and Mrs. G.:  We had a number of immigration, financial, and legal issues that required your help as our assistant and interpreter. What we found in all instances is that even if the professional we were consulting understood English, the issues were complicated enough that we needed you to help us. In some cases, professionals would offer to provide an interpreter for the proceedings, but this was hit or miss, and made the whole thing much more stressful. It is better at the outset to begin with an interpreter like you who has the translation skills required for the task. Also, we found it important to have a neutral interpreter like you so that we could get an objective perspective on what was happening. Of enormous help is that you are available by phone to interpret. That made it much easier to get complicated, multi-step proceedings accomplished.

To just say a bit more about the financial stuff - you helped us open a bank account and set up recurring payments for our health insurance - both of which were more complicated than expected. We're also grateful for your assistance in exploring the issues around SRI taxes and starting a consulting business in Ecuador, such as obtaining a RUC and an accountant.

Jona:  What do you anticipate needing assistance with in the future?

Mr. and Mrs. G.:  While the national health emergency is ongoing, we hope that we will not have anything happen that requires hospitalization. However, if it does, we will certainly need your assistance with that. This will also be the case after the emergency is over. If either of us loses mobility as part of the aging process, we will need to find home healthcare workers. We are confident you will be able to help us with that. It may also be necessary for us to change our location to another neighborhood in Loja and look for an apartment or house. We know you have experience finding rentals, property for sale, and buildable land, so we look forward to having your help with that.

Jona:  Thank you Mr. and Mrs. G. for answering the questions. I think you’ve clarified the role of a bilingual personal assistant.

Mr. and Mrs. G.:  Our pleasure. You’ve made our lives in Loja much easier in the past few years.


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