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Personal Care Aides working at povery levels in many states

Posted Aug 06 2010 4:31pm
Imagine working hard every day, caring for people who depend on you to help them with the most basic physical and emotional tasks. Your daily work involves helping your clients slowly, patiently move from their bed to a chair.  You bend and lift, do laundry and vacuum floors every day.  Some of your clients refuse to let you help them, or yell at you when you come to work.

When you go home at the end of the day, your back is sore and your feet are just a little bit swollen.  You want nothing more than to put your feet up and rest a bit.

But you can't. 

You have to go to a second job, or care for your neighbor's kids, or figure out how to pay the utilities before your power is turned off.  You've got to put food on the table and try to figure out how to serve your family satisfying, nutritious meals spending any money.

Your kids are always fussing at you, asking when they can get a new cell phone, a bike, or even a skateboard like all their friends have.  You know you can barely afford to go back-to-school shopping for them, so you just sigh exhaustedly and say - again -  "Not this month."

Welcome to the life of the caregiver today.  In the majority of this country, according to a recent study by PHI , this typical Personal Care Aide earns near poverty level wages - which means less than $10.42 per hour. This caregiver, who works one of the hardest physical jobs and experiences one of the highest risks for on-the-job injury of any worker, not only lives paycheck to paycheck, she also is likely receiving some form of public assistance just to get by.

It's about time we focus on the way caregivers are treated in this country - not only by carefully examining their training and certification prior to working with vulnerable elders, but also in how we compensate them.  It's no wonder that even those most dedicated find they cannot afford to stay in this line of work if they face wages that don't increase year after year, keeping them mired in poverty.

As we baby boomers age, we'll need lots of these caring, compassionate Personal Care Aides, fully trained and prepared to help us live at home, or in care communities of our choosing.  We'll want the good ones to stay, and we'll want them to look forward to coming to care for us and our loved ones, without the looming worry about their economic survival.

As we're beginning to address the vast health care needs in this country, it's the perfect time to get educated about this problem - and begin taking concrete steps to fix it.


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