Family Caregivers Should be Thanked, Not Ridiculed

I am a small businessman from California, a retired Air Force Reserve member and a lifelong Republican. I am also a single dad and an In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) home care provider for my 29-year-old daughter Barbara.

Our lives changed forever one dark night in 1996 when Barbara — then only 14 — was involved in a horrific accident caused by a drunk driver. While she survived, she had to have a portion of her brain removed. From that day on, she has been physically disabled and requires 24-hour constant care.

I am old school. I believe children must be able to feel secure that their parents will always protect and be there for them no matter what, so I accepted my role as her dad and my responsibility to care for her full-time. I could not have lived with myself had I put her in a nursing home.

Today, while Barbara still needs full-time care, she has made great strides physically and is fully aware mentally. I believe that if she had gone to a nursing home after the accident, her condition would be unchanged today.

Fifteen years ago, my small business was booming. I was looking forward to expanding and hiring more people. That all ended the night of the accident. Today, I earn $10 an hour caring for my daughter. When I can find small jobs, I am able to earn some additional revenue to help pay the bills. I consider myself fortunate. For many caregivers, IHSS is their only source of income.

What infuriates me in the current debate about the future of IHSS is the implication by some of my fellow Republicans and others that there is something wrong with family members receiving pay to provide IHSS care.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout our state, thousands of men and women have given up much-higher-paying jobs and even their careers to care for their loved ones. In return for this thankless job, many of them receive little more than minimum wage. They should be applauded, not ridiculed.

Without these caregivers, thousands more people would be forced into nursing homes or other institutions. Since nursing home care costs at least five times more than IHSS home care, do the math! This program saves California taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Despite what opponents say, IHSS is a budget solution, not a budget problem.

I am not looking for pity or seeking sympathy. I am proud and grateful that I've been able to help my daughter in her time of need. I wish I could provide 100% of everything my daughter needs myself. But I cannot, and I am thankful that IHSS makes it possible for me to keep Barb safe and secure in her own home.

That's why I want people to know the truth about IHSS.