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Brian Lehrer Show Spotlights Home Care in the Bronx

June 3, 2014

The Brian Lehrer Show aired a segment on June 2 about home care in the Bronx, as part of WNYC public radio’s eight-part series on health and health care in the Bronx.

Before interviewing his guests, Lehrer noted that one in seven low-wage workers in New York City is a home care worker. 

Carmen Zeno, a home health aide at the Bronx-based Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA), explained how she has been caring for a bedbound client 12 hours a day, four days a week for more than a decade.  

Lehrer asked Zeno how she handled the emotional aspect of her job and whether she was trained for it. She said that it is not a problem for her as she knows how to “lift her client’s spirits.” She added, “We laugh and cry together.”

Ancil Alexander, a CHCA peer mentor, went on to explain that in her role she provides emotional support to aides, especially if they are becoming overwhelmed. “This is not a job for everyone,” she said.

A caller to the show concurred, saying that when his home care client died, he chose another line of work.

PHI New York Policy Director Carol Rodat discussed the shift in New York State from Medicaid fee-for-service to Medicaid managed long-term care plans. This change is an effort to provide consumers with more efficient, coordinated care. 

Rodat explained that as part of this shift, New York State enacted the Wage Parity Law to improve wages for home health aides to $10/hour plus $4.09 toward benefits. Another caller said that this wage is still not enough; Rodat agreed.

Lehrer asked why wages were so low. “Do we value home care aides and child care workers so little? Why are bankers being paid millions to shuffle money” while human service workers who care for the elderly and disabled are getting paid just $10 an hour?

“That is a good question,” Zeno said.

— by Deane Beebe

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