«On the beautiful island of Wrangell where my family has deep roots spanning generations, hard work is not just a way of life; it’s ingrained in our very existence. As a caregiver in this tight-knit community, I’ve always embraced the notion that our work is critical to the well-being of our elders and those in need of extra support. It’s a labor of love, despite its backbreaking nature, because it brings a profound sense of satisfaction to know that I’m making a difference in the lives of my neighbors, friends, and family.

But lately, the work of a caregiver has taken a toll on my heart. Our system devalues our efforts, offering little in terms of pay and security. We’re expected to provide care with minimal resources and inadequate time, leaving us to scrape by on the bare minimum. Yet, because of who we are and what we believe in, we often find ourselves going above and beyond without fair compensation.

The sad reality is that fewer people are willing to enter this profession, not because they lack compassion, but because they simply can’t afford to choose it. The financial strain of caring for oneself and one’s family outweighs the desire to help others, leaving our communities with a shortage of caregivers. The heartbreaking truth is that many of our elders are left without the care and support they deserve simply because there aren’t enough of us to go around.

Yes, caregiving is hard work, but that’s OK. What’s not OK is the unsustainable conditions under which we’re expected to operate. It’s time for our work to be recognized, honored, and fairly compensated. Let’s come together to support caregivers and uphold the values of hard work, compassion and community that define us as Alaskans.»

— Laurie Overbay-Barker, caregiver, Wrangell, Alaska

Read the full op-ed in the Anchorage Daily News.

Read more about SEIU 775 in Alaska.

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