Caregivers & Health Care Aides are Underpaid & Underappreciated

It’s been years since I lost my mom and retired as a hands-on personal caregiver. The care I provided her was supervisory, not physical, and it was exhausting.

As a physician caring for my patients who end up in a skilled nursing facility for post hospital rehab, I have always been amazed at how under paid, under trained and overworked these well-meaning caregivers and aides truly are. It’s easy to see why burnout is common amongst them and turnover is ranges from 50% – 100 % annually with these jobs.

The devastation created by COVID-19 at senior care facilities brought this all into sharp focus. These poor employees living in multi-generational homes, and not having the luxury of working remotely, have suffered staggering losses due to this disease. With no quick accurate test for this virus available, they show up at work not knowing if they are infecting their elderly patients inadvertently or being infected and bringing it home to their loved ones. There has certainly been no organized program on a national or state level to protect the patients or the caregivers.

With lockdowns in place at these facilities, these hardworking aides are now functioning to some degree as mental health counselors as well.  But it’s the physical nature of their work that amazes me – routinely lifting and grooming men and women weighing a hundred or more pounds.

My poor little 24-pound rescue pug suffered a neurological catastrophe last weekend with an embolus to her spine leaving her paralyzed in her rear legs. I have a harness and soft belt to support her so she can walk on her front paws and squat to void and defecate. If I don’t hold her up high enough, she scrapes the skin off her knuckled rear paws and they bleed. She hates the booties I tried to protect her with.

The canine neurologist asked that we don’t use the rear rollers you see paralyzed animals use for mobility because she wants her to walk again or at least give her a chance. Once a day I go into the pool with her and support her midsection while she paddles away with her front paws and I move the rear legs through their normal range of motion. Lifting those 24 pounds is exhausting for this 70-year old but she is making progress pushing back now against my hand in those previously flaccid limbs.

I do this out of love. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to lug a 100+ pound person around all day while risking COVID-19 exposure, all for $15 per hour.  I tip my hat to these health aide angels who are the glue that keeps elder care together in a dreadful profit driven system.  They do it to give their loved ones a roof over their heads, food on the table and a chance at a better future.

As the U.S. population ages, we need to find a way to compensate them fairly and appropriately to show our appreciation for what they do and recognize how difficult and dangerous their essential work is.

2 Responses

  1. I really love the content you posted, it is always super helpful and informative. Keep posting such amazing article, I love reading all your blogs.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I appreciate your feedback. Regards S Reznick

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