Do You Really Want the Person Caring for Your Elderly Parent, Like Me, Paid Minimum Wage?

Three years ago, I spent three months and $500 to go back to Certified Nursing Assistant school so I could become a home health care aide. We got hours of training on patient care standards, use of basic medical equipment, emergency procedures and much more.

I could not have done any of it it without the help of a home care worker for my 28-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy. Without the wonderful woman who provides my daughter with trained care, I would not have been able to go back to school, let alone be able to work to help support us.

Since I graduated, I provide essential daily care for a client with disabilities. My client, like my daughter, needs support with food preparation, cleaning, bathing and other daily activities that most people take for granted. I would do anything in the world for her.

But after three years, I’m paid only $9 an hour by the company I work for.

Even so, I still go the extra mile for my client – like taking her out to lunch sometimes – because I know from my daughter how hard it is on a person to be isolated at home day after day.

Of course, my company doesn’t reimburse me for those lunches – I pay for it out of my own wages. They don’t even pay me for any days when I am sick or want to take vacation. There are trips I’d like to take with my daughter just to spend some family time, but – with no vacation pay – I can’t afford to.

Home care workers like me do hard work but don’t get paid enough to live on – just like fast food workers. Those workers have been protesting in my state and around the country for a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour. On Thursday, I joined them because I need what they need – a living wage, benefits like paid sick leave, and the right to form a union without retaliation.

Home care workers want states, the companies we work for, and our elected officials to ensure that seniors and people with disabilities can live at home with dignity and independence. They should be cared for by trained workers, like me, who also are treated with dignity and a little appreciation for the professional service we provide.

Over the next 10 years, more jobs will be added in home care than any other occupation in America. They need to be jobs that pay a living wage, not ones that keep working families in poverty.

People like me do work that the rest of our society counts on to help those that can’t help themselves. We serve our communities – and, often, we help companies make a lot of money. But we don’t see much of that profit, and workers like me and the fast food workers aren’t paid enough to provide a decent life for ourselves and our families.

Something is wrong in America when many of the people who do essential work that makes the country run every day don’t have enough money to live on, while big companies are making billions of dollars. Whether we work in home care or fast food or some other kind of job, it’s time for us to work together and change that.

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