Are Carers Cared About Enough in America?
Home Care is a huge industry over in America, but it is not typically one of the first that comes to mind when one is asked to consider important businesses.
The industry, despite being used by millions of Americans, is often one left ignored. It still faces many issues, such as low pay, discrimination and underrepresentation in the workplace.
There are approximately 2 million home care workers in America, and this number is set to rapidly increase to meet demand, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting that the field will add more jobs than any other occupation by 2024.
So why does the American Government seem to care little about the home care services offered in its country?
June Barrett’s Story
June Barrett is but one of the many home care workers currently working in America. A typical day for her requires her to work from 5pm for an average of 16 hours.
Currently, she looks after an elderly couple in their home, where her roles include preparing meals, bathing the clients, ensuring the clients take their medication, and many other tasks. It’s hard work she says, and yet she is only paid $10 (A$13) an hour.
Despite this, Ms Barrett says her current clients are a lot better than some she has had in the past, where in some cases she encountered racism and sexual harassment.
“The humiliating part about it was that I wasn’t able to leave right away,” she says. Ms Barrett had little money at the time due to being out of work for a while, meaning she could not leave the job immediately.
And yet regardless of these encounters, Ms Barrett does not seem to be wanting to change her career anytime soon. She says her motivation and drive to be a home carer comes from wanting to help others, in the hope the same help will be provided to her when she gets old.
“Remember now, you and I, we are not sure what is going to happen to us when we become ill,” she said.
“We don’t know. So with this work I do, I do it from a place of empathy and from a place of love. I am 53 now. I am giving that care the way that I, June Barrett, would like to get that care when I am old.”
Home care and respite care services received a boost of support back in 2013 under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which allowed more funding for care and for more home care workers to be insured while employed.
Yet while a push for a rise to $15 an hour was prompted, this change proved more difficult, and tackling issues of racism and discrimination, harder still.
Now, in 2017, the future of America’s home care workers still seems uncertain. A new government led by Donald Trump does not seem very interested in aiding the care sector, with a seemingly much more prominent focus on the infrastructure of roads and buildings. Once again, home care and its workers are left unrepresented, despite continued efforts to be heard.
A fight to be heard
Earlier this month, Ms Barrett attended a press conference to bring to light these issues and to fight for her industries problems to be addressed.
“People look down on you when you do this work,” she says. “They have to remember that they too are going to get old and this work will continue until the end of the world. There is always going to be somebody needing care.”
And while Ms Barrett and many others continue to campaign for what they believe in, unless real change is made, the condition of home care in America looks to unfortunately remain the same.