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Representative Jan Schakowsky Shadows Home Care Worker for Firsthand Experience with Fastest-Growing Occupation in Illinois and the Nation

August 26, 2014

— PHI's "Come Care with Me Day" Exposes How Home Care Is Hard Work Requiring Multiple Skills —

Chicago, IL — Today, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) participated in a "Come Care with Me Day," an occasion in which policymakers have the opportunity to work alongside direct-care workers in their district to learn firsthand about the fastest-growing occupations in the nation.

Come Care with Me Day is sponsored by PHI (Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute), the nation's leading authority on the direct-care workforce (pdf) — home care aides, home health aides, and nursing home assistants. This low-wage workforce, primarily women of whom more than half are of color, provide 70 to 80 percent of the paid hands-on long-term care and personal assistance to older Americans and people living with disabilities or other chronic conditions.

"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. I will continue to do all I can to fight for resources for home care workers."

"[L-R: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," Ms. 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 shift 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 today's Come Care with Me Day 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."

The Illinois direct-care workforce numbered nearly 163,000 in 2013: 39,660 home health aides, 33,430 personal care aides, 28,600 independent providers employed through Medicaid-funded consumer directed programs, and 61,200 nursing assistants. Between 2010-2020 in Illinois, home health aide and personal care aide occupations are projected to grow by 42 percent and 33 percent, respectively. The median hourly for wage in the state 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 notes.

Nearly half (46 percent) of the direct-care workforce in Illinois relies on public assistance such as Medicaid or food stamps.

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

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PHI, the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, works to transform eldercare and disability services, fostering dignity, respect, and independence — for all who receive care, and all who provide it. The nation's leading authority on the direct-care workforce, PHI promotes quality direct-care jobs as the foundation for quality care.

Since 1972, CJE SeniorLife has enhanced the lives of older adults and their families through an innovative, comprehensive network that includes life enrichment programs, supportive resources, healthcare, research and education. CJE is a partner in serving the community, supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. For more information about CJE services, call 773-508-1000 or visit www.cje.net.

Deane Beebe, PHI, 646-285-1039, dbeebe@phinational.org

Lee Whack, Rep. Schakowsky's Office, 202-225-2111, Lee.Whack@mail.house.gov

Nicole Bruce, CJE SeniorLife, 773.508.1026, nicole.bruce@cje.net

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