It’s often the most vulnerable among us who face the harshest consequences of economic, political, and societal crises. During the pandemic, these inequalities have been exacerbated and increasingly laid bare.
One area where we are seeing this play out is in home-care health. Stephen Henderson speaks with two reporters who recently highlighted how the pandemic has made the ongoing home care crisis in Michigan even worse for disabled people and the low-wage workers who care for them.
Listen: Why families and professional caregivers of those with in-home health needs are struggling during the pandemic
Anna Clark is a Detroit-based journalist who has a piece in Crain’s Forum titled “Low wages, long hours contribute to a critical shortage of health care’s unsung heroes.” Clark says that pay disparities among in-home health care workers are a tricky situation for not just the employees, but also for the agencies that employ them. “A lot of the folks who employ these caregivers… the agencies know they deserve better pay,” says Clark. She adds that oftentimes these agencies are competing for their employees alongside big-box retailers and fast-food restaurants that pay comparably low wages. Clark explains that these caregivers have some difficulty staying in their roles when “their own ability to make a living is really under threat… it’s a dysfunctional cycle.”
Chad Livengood is senior editor with Crain’s Detroit Business, and he has a piece in Crain’s Forum titled “In dollars and cents, Michigan’s home health care labor model is broken for the most vulnerable.” Livengood knows the in-home health care model better than most as his brother, who is 16 months younger than him, was catastrophically injured in an accident that left him permanently disabled more than a decade ago. Livengood explains that his brother requires 24-hour care and lives with his parents as a result. Through Medicaid, Livengood’s brother gets a little more than 64 hours of nurse aid each week, but the rest falls to Livengood and his parents. “In 16 years there have been 150 people who have come through my parent’s house [to care for my brother],” says Livengood, who notes that the current helper has been with the family for more than 8 years, but the majority have been around for 18 months or less. “My parents have seen it all, they try manage between their small business in town and my brother,” says Livengood.