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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In the last years of her life, my mother was a home care worker for hospice.

Janey Schultz showed up early and spent entire days with people whose relatives could not care for them. They had their reasons: geography, jobs, squeamishness or their own infirmities. I never heard my mother judge any of them. She just showed up, day after day.

Politicians and employers often call women like my mother “companion caregivers.” To the people who depend on them, they often are called angels.

My mother’s co-workers joked that when Janey showed up, people lived longer. She’d be hired for days that stretched into weeks and often turned into months. She cooked for her patients and bathed them, too. She laughed with them as they thumbed through old photo albums, and she nodded silently by their beds when they needed to talk about their fears and regrets. She went to her own grave with their secrets.

It is not an exaggeration to say my mother loved her patients. That’s the word she always used when she talked about the elderly people she tended. “You can’t help it,” she once told me. “You always end up loving the people who need you.” In that way, she was not unique among home care workers. So often, they come into a home as strangers and leave as family.

This is not to romanticize home care providers or the work they do. It’s a tough job, and not everyone embraces it as God’s work. Still, most of the people I’ve met who do these jobs are, indeed, committed to providing good care. They’re also shamefully underpaid. In most states, they don’t even make minimum wage.

The U.S. Department of Labor is poised to do something about that. It may eliminate a 28-year-old exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act so that home care workers receive minimum wage and overtime pay.

  • William Deutschlander

    OHHHHH, my goodness the GOP could care less, pay them less and definetly deny them any health care or other benefits!

    The GOP does not understand or care to understand HUMANITY!

    The GOP does fully understand personal GREED!

    • 13observer

      William, how about you give half of your finances to help FUND all of what you want for everyone? It is easy to spend someone elses money!

      • You seem so heartless ! Many people would give more to these people that care for dying relatives. Their problem is, they are barely making it financially themselves. Are you wealthy or just have no sense of compassion or justice? I don’t want to guess that you are a Repub., that would be judging regarding your party. I know there are a lot of good Republicans. I have hope.

      • DurdyDawg

        And just how much would money you expect to receive if there were nobody available to take care of one of your close loved ones but you? Or would you slap her in an old folks home and wipe your hands of the whole deal? Oh! I see, you’d barter for the care.. Lowest bid gets it, never mind the quality.. They don’t work out, there’s more waiting in line. Typical Pub logic.

  • tokoloshi27

    A very moving piece; while most compassionate people will be moved to sympathy for the writer’s mother’s situation – I’m not sure the actual issue is adequately covered. Without the capitalizations of the previous commenter, there really are some valid concerns that are not raised in the articlette/sound byte.

    Logically most of the persons being cared for are likely on fixed incomes. Concern for them and their financial status should also be considered. The level of commercial skills needed for caregivers is also likely a very real concern with respect to how lawmakers (of all stripes) need to consider wage structures. By bringing these workers into a formalized employment structure (aside from those already within a ‘corporate’ for profit enterprise), wouldn’t such legislation tend to drive caregivers with less formal/commercial skills/education out of the ‘business’? If Government gets involved then confusing documentation is inevitable. This is why many conservatives righteously balk at passing such legislation.

    Like immigration, we need to consider the whole picture of an issue and not simply propose to fill an emotional need (and honestly look at our own motivations) with something that will dry the well up.

    • RichardPatrock

      You are absolutely hilarious. If you can’t pay, you shouldn’t be served. The case in the story has a bank vice-president who wouldn’t give the worker another $0.25 an hour, or $90/month at 12 hour days, 30 day months. It is pure exploitation. Heaven forbid we give people a decent wage lest there be confusing paperwork.

      • tokoloshi27

        Interesting sense of humor you have. On the one hand we have the writer’s mother working 10-12 hour days; from which you extrapolate 12 hour days at 30 days per month. At no point in the article do we actually get how many days a week the caregiver was seeing the Banker’s Mother. While it could have been the 7 that you’ve assume, it’s more likely given the ‘industry’ model that it was closer to 3-4 days a week. Nor is it entirely possible that ’employer’ has the same meaning in this field as for others. The Banker could just as easily been simply representing his Mother, who may not have been more financially constricted than having a banker as a son might imply (and noting that the caregiver’s base salary was not actually given).

        Not to directly dispute your position, just pointing out that the writer herself might not have countenanced having her Mother actually providing slave-labor.

        • RichardPatrock

          You are right that no specific information is given about the writer’s mother. My point was to show that even if she was doing round the clock coverage, there would be only a minor change in the salary. The worker thought this would be significant but given that the article is about under minimum wage, I would expect that the total amount expended would be a less significant change for the employer relative to the mother.. Of course, you are also right that the banker has no obligation to put up an extra $45-90 a month for his mother’s comfort, especially when he can see the worker is not going to stop caring. He can but she won’t. As the writer puts it: “the existing exemption mainly serves home-care franchises, an $84 billion industry that is one of the most profitable in the United States.” You can’t cut profits or take money out of a banker’s pocket.

      • 13observer

        ORGANIZE A UNION or take what you get!

        • I agree with organizing a Union. The Republicans and a greedy percent of the Very wealthy will put a stop to that! I feel some Very wealthy do care, but I doubt there are many.

    • 13observer

      The National Labor Relations Act provides workers the avenue to bargain collectively with their employer. That is how it is suppose to be, not to legislate labor agreements.


      I am a 50 year old male with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis confined to a wheel chair, hospital bed, and a lift for showering. I pay my home health aid $10.00 an hour; she baths me, dresses me, performs numerous other duties. I pay her $210.00 a week out of my own pocket and she is worth a lot more than that! She is an angel………….

      • Bless the two of you ! ! !

  • There is a chance for abuse if home care by relatives is paid minimum wage. I believe children should take care of their aging parents routinely because they took care of you when you were a child.

    • Enough of these relative are either selfish, afraid, unskilled, need to work full time to support their own families , relative doesn’t live in same area, and many other reasons, it would not be a good idea for a family member to take care of their needed parent. That is life.

  • 13observer

    Those caregivers need to ORGANIZE A UNION and negotiate a labor agreement, not ask the government to pass new laws to affect change. These workers have to do some work themselves to get better pay! The National Labor Relations Act provides them the opportunity.

    • Have you noticed an increase in anti union in this country ? The Republicans are bad mouthing the Unions big time ! Companies that hire these caregivers want to make big money at the caregivers expense. The Republicans are on the companies side, and will keep bad mouthing the Unions. Wisconsin is just one example of greed.

      • 13observer

        Bunny, let me educate you on the system…corporations have reached out to get what they want and got it right. Good for them. Workers on the other hand have also played a large part in “BASHING” unions…saying they once had a purpose etc. Truth is, workers don’t have the “stuff” to stand up for themselves and demand their rights under the National Labor Relations Act which provides for them to organize a union and negotiate a contract with their employer. Instead, they want to see if their “PARTY” will legislate them a contract however, it just doesn’t go like that. Workers need to reach out just like the corporations did to get theirs… If they don’t, SHAME ON THEM. I don’t want to hear about those so-called GREEDY corporations, as it is time for oppressed workers to get up and fight for better employment interests and not blame everyone else.

        • I don’t care that you don’t want to hear about the greedy corporations. They exist and have the money on their side. I do agree that the Unions people have to hire better people to represent them, and speak out for themselves, but it still does not justify greed. The corporations did not get it right. Greed is not right. Also, I have heard some workers bashing their Unions. They are bitting the hand that helps feed them. SAME ON THE LARGE CORPORATIONS WHO’S NUMBER ONE GOAL IS GREED !

  • Another example that the GOP and tea baggers want and are KILLING SENIORS!

  • bluegirl52

    I am a registered nurse who had a quadraplegic mother for 16 years who was dependent on home care for most of her daily needs. I could write a book on the quality of workers and the lack of competent supervision for the workers with the agencies we hired. Once we decided to hire our own people without a FOR PROFIT agency involved, the care was much better. We also were able to pay the caregivers more because half of it was not going to the agency. Unfortunately, we could not afford benefits. Hopefully the new healthcare will address these issues that have existed for a long time and are so unfair to both the workers and the patients! God bless our present administration!

  • jerder

    I’m not sure about overtime pay, but I do think home care givers should receive more than minimum wage by at least a dollar. Home care givers do multiple tasks, they change bandages, monitor blood pressure and the pulse rate of their clients, make sure they get their meds, clean up after the client and change bedding etc. at times, and may even be required to do laundry, etc. But why would the GOP care, they can afford the best private nurses, hospice workers, etc. that money can buy.

    • Flower777

      You are “NOT SURE” about overtime pay? “At times they may even be required to do laundry??” We are not babysitters! We are not Angels! We are not servants! We are real working people who have lives, families and concerns of our own!! We provide a real service. Because we are there to do everything, the laundry is the least of it I can assure you! Because of all that we do people can stay in their own homes instead of in a nursing home!! They can be in the comfort of their own home with their friends and families and pets their own belongings their QUALITY of life! Because we are there working all kinds of hours cause this is life and its 24/7 Baby!! On call!!

      • jerder

        I sincerely apologize for my statement on overtime pay. My intent was not to insult your job. I just did not, or rather do not know, the hours home care givers work, around here most are only part time, especially since state budget cuts began in the area of home health over 5 years ago. Forgive my ignorant statement, I honestly was not trying to be disrespectful.

      • 13observer

        Do you have a UNION or are you represented by Mrs. Romney?

  • onedonewong

    These women should receive a fair wage when employed. Its time the children pay up rather than wait for the inheritance

  • 13observer

    There is just so much money to spend and then I suppose this administration will have to impose the remedy determined by Obama’s “death panel”. Sorry…..Dr. Kavorkian, the NEEDLE PLEASE.

  • joceandre

    As a registered nurse I can tell you this no easy field. The home attendants should be paid more and get benefits for the work that they provide. Remember folks ,we all are going to get old if we are lucky. Politics should not have any place in the care that our sick and needy relatives are getting.

  • As a women who wore the caregiver’s shoes I know how hard the work is. Sometimes you must deal with angry personalities who make it impossible to please the person, the home care equipment is sometimes very inadquate-no lifts to help move a person that weighs 275 lbs., you must be awake all night & then work another 8-10 hrs, some patients want to be changed even though they are completely dry & some patients tell you thay want something for supper & then refuse to eat it. Of course sometimes you get lovely people that really appreciate what you do for them, they are the ones you never forget, but the pay is low with no benefits, the companies make sure that you never work enough hours to qualify for health insurance or paid holidays.

  • Do not Believe In …….. but anyone Believe in us ……. If Belief That It’s No Longer Divided but Amanah Mortgage Trust Heart and feelings ……….. ……..? Proverb The tongue was boned (Jangan Percaya Pada Siapapun……..Tapi Percaya Pada diri kita …….Jika Kepercayaan Sudah Terbagi Itu Bukan Lagi Kepercayaan tetapi Amanah Tanggungan Hati Dan Perasaan KIta ……………….? Pribahasa Lidah Tak Bertulang )

  • Can’t wait until that bank vice president need assistance, all I can say is what a Pig!!! The bank VP could be there for her mother, GOD will discuss it with her, and the treatment of the care giver. Hope he lays you out!!!!