September 22, 2019

Home Care — A Right, Not an Option

Those of us who help to guide human spirituality understand well the old adage of preaching with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. When we give religious counsel, we cannot ignore reality.The plight of Los Angeles County home-care workers and those they tend is a case in point. In a time of great prosperity in the United States, scores continue to suffer while the headlines play up the overnight IPO millionaires, human genome project and voter apathy, among current topics. The new silent majority are the homebound, infirm and elderly – vulnerable to the public system that serves them less well than it could and should.

The prophet Jeremiah said centuries ago: “Woe to him who makes neighbors work for nothing and does not give them their wages.”

Home-care workers feed and bathe, shop, cook and clean for elderly and infirm people throughout Los Angeles County. Not only do these workers allow these 90,000 people to remain in their own homes and retain their dignity and independence, but they also save the system money. Nursing homes and hospitalization, the alternatives to home care, is many times more costly. Yet the sad reality is that home care workers earn a working-poor wage of $6.25 an hour and receive no health benefits.

It is incumbent upon the civilized world to empathize with caregivers who are paid so poorly and to do what we can to influence our lawmakers to make things right.

One of the distressing ironies for home-care workers is that they take care of the poorest when they themselves are barely above the poverty line. We ask them to keep those in their care healthy, when we do not do the same for them. To ensure a stable, qualified and reliable home-care work force and keep people out of nursing homes and hospitals, we must provide these workers with a living wage.

We must all wake up to the fact that our population is aging and the need for more home care workers will increase. To attract and retain quality home-care workers, we must provide them the income and benefits they need to provide for themselves and their children.

John, in the New Testament, said: “Love is not in word or speech but in truth and action.” This defines human goodness. Caring for those who fought for this country and worked so hard to build the prosperity we enjoy today is the decent thing to do. Allowing seniors and those with disabilities the opportunity to remain in their homes – familiar places with personal history and memories, surrounded by those who love them – is only right.