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Aging Boomers Will Be Dependent on Poor, Immigrant Women

Aging Boomers Will Be Dependent on Poor, Immigrant Women

 

by†Shani O. Hilton

“You can’t breathe, you can’t sleep,” said White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, as she described the stress of worrying about an aging parent who needs assistance, and explained the comfort she gets from knowing her own parents now have a live-in caregiver.

Without that caregiver, Jarrett says that she would have had to leave the Obama administration and move back to Chicago.

Yet the three million professional, long-term home caregivers today are faced with a rapidly aging Baby Boomer population and a lack of adequate support, compensation or respect. Tuesday in Washington, the National Domestic Workers Alliance held what they called a Care Congress, an event where they introduced a campaign to “transform long-term care.” The campaign is designed to push legislative changes to Medicare and Medicaid — creating jobs by increasing the amount of money eligible people can spend on at-home care and allowing a rapidly aging population to avoid institutionalization.

The importance of home care workers, but poverty wages

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis praised the work of home care workers — a group comprised primarily of immigrant women: “In Spanish, we call these women luchadoras, because they are fighting. They are strong women who fight and let nothing stand in their way.”

Solis spoke directly to the audience full of caregivers, saying, “You are their friend, you are someone who listens, you give so much of yourself — physically as well as emotionally. You are professionals, and you should be treated as such.”

Workers in California experienced a victory earlier this month when a key state senate approved the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, legislation that the NDWA says would extend “basic, humane labor protections to thousands of nannies, caregivers, and housecleaners and improves the quality of care for California’s families.” The law can also increase wages for workers — a mixed blessing, since so many elderly are on fixed incomes. New York State passed the first such law in the nation last year.

Still, Solis says, millions of home caregivers survive on poverty wages, with median earnings of $17,000 a year, and they’re vulnerable to harassment and exploitation.

The NDWA campaign has five points: Create more, good care jobs; create labor standards and improve the quality of existing jobs; train and allow for career development of workers; develop a new visa for care workers and provide a path to citizenship, and support families who need care.

One speaker noted that one-fifth of people currently living in nursing homes do not want to — and that reforming Medicaid to pay for home care would be a superior choice.

Ironically, in this week’s budget and debt-ceiling debate, Republicans are pushing for deep cuts to funding for Medicaid and Medicare — which would have the likely effect of reducing how much money the ill and elderly can spend on home care, which in turn could leave caregivers jobless.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the majority of the 1.5 million Americans requiring home care are white women over the age of 65. The CDC expects that number to skyrocket to 27 million over the next 40 years, as Baby Boomers age and the 65-plus crowd becomes one-fifth of the U.S. population.

This post first appeared on Colorlines.com, a project of†the†Applied Research Center (ARC)

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68 comments

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8:23AM PST on Dec 26, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

6:55PM PST on Dec 7, 2012

Thank you.

6:55PM PST on Dec 7, 2012

Thank you.

2:43PM PST on Dec 1, 2012

sad but true

3:04AM PDT on Mar 24, 2012

And this is where I get down on my knees and thank god that I live in a country with government health care and aged care. I have just turned fifty and I am now looking into my future so that my kids won't have to take care of me. There are a number of things that we have in Australia to help carers and the elderly such as special pensions and benefits, healthcare and cheaper medicines that are available. It does a lot to asssist the elderly and allow them to be able to stay at home for longer. There are also services such as Meals On Wheels, home care and services that call the elderly to make sure that everything is okay. If that person does not answer someone goes out to check on them.
I am hoping that I won't need any of these services for a long time, but then you never know.

3:53PM PDT on Mar 15, 2012

This is really no surprise

3:05AM PST on Jan 17, 2012

Thanks.

3:35PM PST on Nov 11, 2011

...change your disease-causing lifestyles and choices.

3:34PM PST on Nov 11, 2011

to "get my slice of the healthcare pie."

How about more fascinating reality shows on the real people who have used natural, and often inexpensive approaches, beaten cancer, arthritis, Crohn's disease, hepatitis C, stroke after-effects, tuberculosis, appendicitis, psoriasis, allergies, chronic pain....? How did they do it? Why do they think their approach worked? Some scientific debate about it....and resources to check out. And sure, if we have to, toss in those warnings like they do after drug commercials on tv (where a soothing voice tells you that if you have a stroke or liver failure or kidney failure or commit suicide, you probably should stop taking the drug).

We should be doing more to take care of our families and neighbors (everyone needs a break when caring for the ill) without feeling like we need to be paid for every minute.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against a living wage, but we need to look at the problem: we are CREATING a health care crisis that is burdening ourselves and our neighbors, and we don't have the money to pay for it.

Would you rather able to take care of yourself when you are 80? Would you like to live in a culture where everyone is expected to keep an eye on their neighbor's well-being because it is the right way to live? Or do you foresee using a wheelchair, walker and a caregiver to get through the day? Let's get the message out: yes, you CAN be healthy and care for yourself pretty darn well if you just change you

3:33PM PST on Nov 11, 2011

This article reminds us of the impending and dramatic burden of unhealthy aging boomers. Creating more jobs - out of thin air, I might add - is saying "let's have more of what isn't working."

Lighting a persuasive fire under boomers to get healthy and to stay that way, by whatever allopathic or holistic method necessary, would do a LOT to control the size of this problem.

Here's a simple example - flood the airwaves with information on POSTURE, for example. If people knew how to walk and stand and bend and lift using the best info available, the rate of incontinence, poor oxygenation, impaired mobility and balance (and all accidents and diseases that can be eliminated or moderated by a pre-emptive strike against poor posture) would decrease dramatically, and whoopsy-daisy, less demand for caregivers, and result in a more independent, happier and longer life. That is just ONE simple, ordinary, holistic thing we could do. Posture problems are not simple, people need to understand how their bodies respond the the way we sit, walk, stand and sleep in our culture, how the fascia gets stuck trying to hold us in inappropriate postures, how certain exercises create space between vertebrae, and balance muscles that (exercised diligently into imbalance) are creating part of our problems.

That is just ONE thing.

We need education, a publicly supported media blitz of public service announcements and shows, a vision to get healthier together instead of trying "get my s

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