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Homecare workers need living wage

I’ve been a home care worker for 15 years, caring for seniors and people with disabilities throughout the Tucson area. During the pandemic, I’ve risked my life to keep doing my job because I’m driven by faith to care for my clients who depend on me. But even though I’ve dedicated my life to meeting the needs of others, I only make $12.50 an hour and can’t make ends meet for myself.

Poverty jobs for home care workers are creating a crisis-level workforce shortage and making it very difficult for Arizona families to find the support they need. That’s why I’m calling on our representatives to support President Biden’s plan which would invest in home and community-based services, and create good union jobs, so our aging population gets the compassionate care they deserve.

I became a home care worker after going on a personal journey of faith, and really thinking about my core values. There was a strong stirring in my heart and soul, and I knew that God was proud of me for following his teachings and devoting myself to assisting home care clients.

During my career, I’ve cared for someone who was a quadriplegic, and other clients who had Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or suffered a stroke. Currently, I have two clients who are seniors, and I carry out all of the duties that allow them to lead good, comfortable lives with dignity in their own homes and communities. In the morning I get them up, showered and dressed. Then I prepare their meals, buy groceries, pick up prescriptions, and take them to doctor’s appointments.

I not only care for my clients’ physical health, but I’ve also become very close to them on an emotional level. Many of my clients have no one else, and it breaks my heart to think about what would happen to them without me. I have a saying that keeps me motivated even when I’m dead tired, “If I don’t show up, they don’t get up.”

I love home care work, and it is very rewarding on a spiritual level, but certainly not on a financial level. I’m a widow and struggle every day to pay my bills and make sure I don’t become homeless. At 61, I have no retirement, no savings, nothing. I have to spend my own meager wages to buy masks and gloves, because even though home care workers have been called “essential first responders,” we haven’t been supplied with enough personal protective equipment. My story is common among millions of home care workers–the majority of whom are women of color like myself–across the country.

For many years, home care workers have been raising the alarm, and declaring that we must be respected, protected and paid living wages. Now, President Biden has listened to our voices and proposed a plan that would invest $400 billion to create a million new home care jobs, raise up workers, and improve services.

This plan would mean the world to me if it passed, because I’d finally be able to have a little savings and some security when I retire. The plan would also ensure that home care workers have the freedom to join a union so we can speak out together for ourselves and the best quality of care for our clients.

Our elected leaders need to remember that we voted them into office because they promised to fight for working people–not just line the pockets of corporations–and invest in seniors, loved ones with disabilities, and those of us who care for them. Home care workers show up every day for our clients. If Arizona’s representatives want us to show up for them at the ballot box, they need to show up for us. 

Ana Camacho has been a home care worker in Tucson for the past 15 years. 

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