I have provided personal care services for my grandmother for the past 15 years. To me, this work goes beyond being a mere job; it’s a source of joy and fulfillment. I am grateful for the opportunity to work as her dedicated Personal Care Attendant (PCA).
But home care workers, as so many other essential workers, are struggling to survive in Connecticut. Our wages and benefits are too low for the services we provide. The numbers don’t add up. The job is not up to the standards of a living wage. Even worse, sometimes it takes a lot of energy and patience just to get properly paid for the hours we worked. And some of the benefits that we’ve won through our union contract in recent years seem to be dragged out and delayed on purpose by the state.
More people are choosing home care for their long-term care needs. It’s one of the fastest-growing job sectors in our economy. PCAs must be paid living wages and benefits so we can dedicate our lives to this critical sector of our healthcare system.
Inflation and rising housing costs have left me homeless for more than a year. Sometimes I couch surf, sometimes my fiancé and I have to pay for a hotel, and sometimes we sleep in our car. It’s really tough to live like this.
My dream is that this job gets the same respect that all healthcare providers deserve. We need a pathway to $25 an hour. We need health insurance for all PCAs. We need paid time off and retirement security.
As a direct caregiver for my grandmother, I’ve learned that you need a strong work ethic and attention to detail to do this job well. There’s no other way around it. After all, you’re often caring for folks in their retirement years. Some of us care for individuals with physical or developmental disabilities.
The bottom line is that no matter who you’re caring for, it’s not that easy to take good care of someone else. These are human beings. They deserve our full respect and dignity, even if my paycheck is too low to make ends meet at the end of the week.
Most of all in my own experience as a personal care attendant, I feel satisfied to know that my work is making a difference in my grandmother’s health, her happiness, and her overall well-being. With my assistance, people like her can continue to live independently at home, in their communities. And today, she is 69 years young and thriving, with a little help from the people that love and support her. Like me.
It all began when I noticed that my grandmother needed more help around the house. Back then I was working two jobs. But I decided it was time for me to step up and help her out. I quit my other jobs to be able to care for her full-time. It means a lot to her to be cared for by me, because we have a long-established relationship of trust and love. She knows that I know what she needs, and that I’ll be there to accommodate her and meet her where she’s at.
I love the fact that I get to spend significant time with her. I get the opportunity to be with her, to take a leading role in her care, and to give her the best quality of life in her golden years. If you’ve ever needed help to provide long-term care for a loved one, you know in your heart that all you want is for them to receive the best care possible. Having the peace of mind to know that your loved one is in the hands of people you can trust is priceless.
Yet, home care workers confront the uncertainty of our paychecks every Friday. Just a few years ago, the payroll agency acknowledged over 6,000 timesheet errors in a single year. Not getting paid outright for your week, or missing many hours from your paycheck is a common occurrence.
I have a lot of dreams for the future. I’m newly engaged, and my fiancé and I are dreaming of a wedding, and having kids someday. I want to go back to school and continue growing in the healthcare sector. I want to continue providing the best care for my grandmother and people like her. But these things only become possible with a job that allows us to thrive in a wealthy and expensive state like Connecticut, not just scrape by and barely survive.
Joyner is employed as a personal care attendant