Taking time to honor those who care by fixing our long-term care crisis

El Dorado County IHSS provider Lisa Scott providing care for her client Adele Burris

Homecare is the fastest growing industry in the country. Every day, 10,000 people in this country turn 65—but even as the need for long-term care increases daily, the work of homecare providers remains undervalued and underappreciated.

November is Homecare Provider Appreciation Month, as well as National Family Caregiver Month. We can use this month and those that follow to pay closer attention to the workers who keep seniors and people with disabilities safe and healthy at home.

People with disabilities and the seniors who rely on in-home care do so because they would prefer to remain in their homes rather than nursing homes or facilities, where studies show they live longer, happier lives. But as it stands now, we are not equipped to care for the millions of people who will need long-term care in the coming years.

In California alone, four million more people will be over 65 by 2030, comprising 20 percent of our state’s total population. To keep up with demand, our country will need one million new homecare workers by 2022. But how can we expect to attract and retain quality homecare workers if average wages amount to less than $20,000 a year?

“You have to love this job to do it,” said Michelle Wise, a UDW member and homecare worker in San Diego. “You have to care about people to work at these wages.”

UDW is a union made up of 89,000 homecare providers throughout California, and we’re committed to protecting and growing the state’s homecare program for workers, clients, and families. This year, after a lot of hard work, homecare providers helped end a 7% cut that was harming their In-Home Supportive Services’ (IHSS) homecare clients.

Homecare providers uniting with fellow workers in the Fight for $15

With each new victory, we renew our fight to win justice for homecare, because poverty wages aren’t enough. Michelle and her fellow homecare providers are highly-skilled workers who do everything for their clients from household work to providing paramedical care like wound treatment, administering medications and injections, changing catheters, and so much more. The care they provide is as diverse as each of their clients’ needs.

Despite this, most homecare workers in California make on average just $10/hour, and many work without paid sick leave, vacation time, benefits, or a retirement plan.

Let’s use November to honor in-home caregivers like Cynthia Wilson from Madera County, who moved from Arizona to California to become a friend’s in-home care provider. Let’s honor people like Gregory Barney, a veteran from Merced County who cares for two seniors in his community.

Let’s honor and appreciate the millions of other caregiving heroes in this country who do the work because they love it, and because they understand the need for it. Let’s honor them by amplifying the conversation around repairing our long-term care system, and addressing the needs of caregivers and those who rely on them.

Throughout the month, we will share stories of every day heroes like Michelle, Cynthia, and Gregory.  This month, like every month, we honor and are thankful to those who provide care in our communities.