I first became a Personal Support Worker so I could care for my daughter, Katina, who has Down Syndrome. Few can advocate better than a parent because they simply know more about their own family member. Katina attends a large group daycare program one day a week, but is much happier making choices about how she spends her time. Getting out into the community and having interests has decreased her wandering significantly.
When Katina graduated from High School, I left my career as a therapist so I could be her full time Personal Support Worker. This had a huge impact on our finances. We were relying on social security disability payments to get by, and barely making it. We went into foreclosure and almost lost our home. When the union came in, it literally changed our lives. For the first time in years I had access to healthcare and could see a doctor.
After Katina turned 21, I was able to get respite care so I don’t have to do this all by myself since she needs full time supervision. We became financially secure enough to get off social security and support ourselves with my wages as a PSW. I’m even able to put a little money away for our retirement. We have an emergency fund now, which is something we never imagined before. Finally, we have a vision of stability and Katina is getting the 24/hr a day care that she needs.
While SEIU 503 has changed the game for care providers, we still have a lot of improvements to the system we have to work on. The payroll system for HCW workers is still antiquated and has issues that result in people not getting paid and running the risk of being evicted. Now that we have come together as homecare workers I know we can fix these problems. Care providers are often isolated from each other, caring for loved ones in homes, but through the union we have built a powerful community of support and are working on ways to communicate better among ourselves, the union, and the state. We’re in this together, and we can do anything when we stay united.
I would encourage everyone who is a care provider to get active in our union. You can start right now by attending the rally on May 20, where we can send a message to the people in power that it’s time to fund long-term care for people like my daughter, and support care providers like me. Caregivers deserve the dignity and respect that is afforded other industries, especially now that the boomer population is ‘booming.”