Appreciating caregivers

Let’s face it.

At some point or another those of us taking care of elderly family members with physical disabilities or memory loss or both will look for help from outside aides.

We will look for them desperately — asking professionals, friends, other people caring for family members, agencies, etc. etc. They need certain characteristics, schedules, references, experience.

Though we know how hard some of them work, how relatively little they get paid, and the complications of their lives — such as their own domestic responsibilities — sometimes we act human. That is, we complain, we doubt.

It’s not easy being an aide, and it’s not easy being an employer. We don’t always appreciate.

But, according to Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance representing the rights of domestic workers (in a Q&A in The Washington Post), COVID-19 means there “has to be” a new appreciation in our society for domestic workers, caregivers, and essential workers across the board.

Poo called this a “transformative shift in our culture,” which will bring about, she hopes, an investment in care jobs, turning them into family-sustaining jobs with real benefits. Meanwhile, the Alliance has created the Coronavirus Care Fund to offer emergency care assistance to domestic workers in need.

Concerns of home aid

Nearly everyone wants to stay out of long-term-care facilities if it’s at all possible. The ability to do so depends on many factors, including a person’s condition and finances. Also a significant factor is a care provider, whether a family member or an outside help or both.

But COVID-19 brings new concerns even to those who are giving family members care in a private home, according to an article in the New York Times on June 9.

Even if a family caregiver gives primary care to the care receiver, he or she often feels it necessary to have that care buttressed by a professional. But in today’s climate, that often means protecting the loved one from coronavirus through locking down the house and possibly to ask one of the aides to stay home.

And one aide is asked not to come in, it is often because of the composition of that helper’s household. That may mean having a lot of children or an aide who visits other clients’ — all of which can result in greater risk of exposure. So does traveling on public transportation.

For those used to relying on hand-washing and gloves but not to masks, acquiring protective equipment can be hard, when nursing homes and hospitals are the priority. Morever, much of the attention in the press and elsewhere focuses on long-term-care facilities, as it should be, said The Times, since their residents and employees account for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s coronavirus death.

But far more Americans rely on paid home care.

Another problem is that 35 states set no requirements for home care aides. People who cut hairier licensed but not those who care for our elderly loved ones.

Whether coronavirus continues or fades away, there are clearly many issues to think about when it comes to home care of family members.