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Illinois Rep. Schakowsky Shadows Home Care Worker

August 27, 2014

U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) participated in a “Come Care with Me Day” sponsored by PHI on August 26. The event gives policymakers the opportunity to work alongside direct-care workers to learn firsthand about the fastest-growing occupations in the nation.

“Today I witnessed the wide range of caregiving tasks that home care workers provide to make it possible for seniors and people with disabilities to live independently in their homes. Clearly this work is very challenging, but it is also extremely vital in our communities,” Rep. Schakowsky said.

“Home care workers must be adequately trained and compensated to ensure that our nation has the strong, stable workforce it needs to meet the rapidly increasing demand for quality in-home services,” she said. “I will continue to do all I can to fight for resources for home care workers.”

Rep. Schakowsky shadowed Gilda Pipersburgh, a 57-year-old home care aide who for the past year has provided in-home services and supports to Toni Zaferson, a frail 81-year-old who lives independently in her home in Chicago. Pipersburgh recently immigrated to the U.S. from Belize where she taught school and retired from being a vice principal. She has been employed for over a year by CJE SeniorLife, which has been providing in-home care to Ms. Zaferson since 2007.

“It is very rewarding to help Ms. Zaferson live in her home where she prefers to reside despite her poor health,” Pipersburgh said. “The relationship that we have developed over the year not only decreases her isolation and gives us both great pleasure, it makes it much easier to attend to her care needs.”

Rep. Schakowsky prepared food, washed dishes, and swept the floor for Ms. Zaferson, like Pipersburgh does during her three-hour shifts three times a week. Pipersburgh also assists Ms. Zaferson with bathing, grooming, laundry, other light housekeeping duties, and grocery shopping, as well as helping her ambulate at home and escorting her to doctor appointments.

“The work of home care aides like Ms. Pipersburgh is vital to maintaining the independence and dignity for seniors across Illinois,” said PHI Midwest Program and Policy Manager Tameshia Bridges Mansfield, who helped to organize the event with Rep. Schakowsky. “The only way we are going to be able to attract and retain people is to raise the floor to make these jobs better. It will take the government and employers to improve wages, equip the workers with the skills they need to care for clients’ changing needs, and build ladders for professional growth.”

In Illinois, the median hourly wage is $10.18 for home health aides, $10.56 for personal care aides, and $17.18 for all occupations.

“We were happy to partner with CJE SeniorLife as an employer that pays above average wages — both nationally and statewide — and offers benefits to their staff,” Mansfield said.

For information on the direct-care workforce in Illinois, visit the PHI State Data Center.

— by Deane Beebe

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