New York’s home care workers deserve a living wage

J. Gary Pretlow

My aunt Glorian Holmes lived to be 100 years old. I always called her Lantlow because as a child I couldn’t pronounce her name well. And when I grew up, I took care of my Aunt Glo as best as I could. But for anything my busy schedule prevented me from doing, Valerie — my aunt’s home health aide — did above and beyond anything we could ask for.

Unfortunately, Valerie and thousands of other home health aides in New York are struggling just to make it financially. They are struggling because you can make more money working at McDonald’s than you can as a home health aide. This is damaging for us as a society and for the home health care workers themselves. We all lose.

Home Health Aide trainees listen to classroom instruction at Selfhelp Community Services in Manhattan Dec. 12, 2019. Selfhelp Community Services provides home and community based services for older and vulnerable New Yorkers. They also provide free training for those wishing to become Home Health Aides.

When my aunt was unable to walk or take care of her own basic needs, Valerie was there. She was there when I could not be. Valerie volunteered to change my aunt’s diapers and sheets on the weekends, even though current rules stipulate that weekend assistance is not automatic. And Valerie has to string together several clients just to earn a meager living.

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