Putting the spotlight on the growing care crisis in America, Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata walked in the shoes of Janet Rodriguez - a home care provider and SEIU Healthcare 775NW member. During his “walk-a-day,” Mr. Licata worked along side Janet, assisting with many of her duties as a caregiver.
Janet has provided care for the same Seattle client for more than 15-years, and faces many challenges due to lack of support for quality long-term care.
The amount of people needing home care will increase in future years, with the number of seniors doubling to 1.5 million in the next 15 years. In response to the growing care crisis in Washington State and throughout the country, Seattle City Council Member Licata is supporting the Caring Across Generations Resolution that addresses the lack of affordable quality care options for older Americans and people with disabilities, and the struggle of caregivers for respect, support, and training.
During the walk-a-day, we interviewed Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata and home care provider Janet Rodriquez about the need for long-term care and how it can make a difference in the lives of millions of clients who rely on critical services. If passed, Seattle would be the first city in the country to pass local legislation around the issue of protecting critical services for our most vulnerable: people with disabilities and older Americans.
Interview with Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata
Why have you decided to take leadership on the issue of long-term care?
This is an issue that goes to the heart of what our democracy is about, creating a society where everyone has the opportunity to strive for happiness and a stable life. In my own experience, my stepson is disabled. I can see in his own experiences, if he doesn’t get sufficient on-going care, he leads a very limited and isolating life. And we don’t need to be a society that isolates people, we need provide opportunities for people with disabilities to come into contact with other people to make our communities stronger.
People with disabilities and elderly are human beings, they are part of our families and they are part of our community. We don’t have values that take people with disabilities and toss them out in the street and tell them you’re on your own. That is not part of what we are all about.
What difference does long-term care programs make in Seattle and the state of Washington?
The difference with long-term care is that we can free up people, so that family members can take on tasks outside of their home rather than just taking care of their loved ones. We also create new, good jobs for people to receive proper training and decent salaries to take care of those who can not leave their homes and are dependent on having professional care.
The best way to support long-term care is to is to get our governments at different levels to develop the type of public resources that we have to ensure that we have trained, professional healthcare workers.
We need to make sure that we are funding long-term care in the budget. When the candidates go out and meet the general public and go out for reelection, we need to raise long-term care as a critical issue for them to get reelected.
What difference does quality long-term care make for people with disabilities and elderly?
Quality long-term care allows someone like Rachel to lead a happy life as best as she can achieve. More importantly it provides her family with the piece of mind to know that someone they love is able to share their life with them, and that gets at the heart of the matter.
Interview with Janet Rodriguez, home care provider and SEIU Healthcare 775NW member:
What is the most rewarding part about your work?
My years of care for her have made an impact. Rachel’s smile is the most rewarding part of my job. I make sure she has good care. Rachel needs full care. I bath her, I dress her, I take care of all of her different sites. She has a gastro tube, a feeding tube, a colostomy, tracheotomy and she has to be catheterized by me several times a day, and then by her parents. I give her medication.
I ensure that my client is happy. I let her parents know if I have any concerns about her skin breaking down. I watch to see if she is troubled. I watch to make sure she doesn’t have signs that she’s going to have a seizure. I make sure she doesn’t fall. I do her hair. I trim her nails. I make sure that she feels very safe.
I bring good quality care to her. I have helped keep her alive longer than she may have lived if she had an inadequate caregiver. My works makes me feel very proud. All caregivers should be proud of the work that they do. It takes a very unique person to do what we do. My work is not glamorous.
What are some of the challenges in the work you do as a caregiver?
I do a lot of work that a nurse does. And I’m not compensated for a lot of the work that I do that requires a lot more hours than the state will give. My biggest challenge is that I am not trained in the specialized care that Rachel needs. I have 15 years of experience and learned with Rachel, because she has needed more care of the years. You can’t give adequate care unless you are trained.
We need to make sure that the state doesn’t cut our hours. We need to make sure that we will have a job tomorrow. We need to think of the client and not the budget.
What do policy makers need to do to ensure quality long-term care?
Policy makers need to visit the homes of clients and home care workers to see that we are not glorified baby-sitters. Our work is important to our clients. It keeps them in the home.
Caregivers deserve to be treated with the dignity that they show their clients. Our clients deserve fairness when the hours that they need are assessed, and the state shouldn’t assess the hours based on the budget. The state should afford more for our clients since we are going to have a growing elderly population.