Through interviews and original photography, PHI is working with direct care workers nationwide to document their stories and share their ideas for transforming jobs in long-term care. This interview is with Comfort Railey, a Home Health Aide at Home Care Associates in Philadelphia, PA. She has been a direct care worker for seven years.
On why she decided to become a direct care worker
“I like helping others and have always wanted to take care of people. It is something I’ve had passion for since the beginning. Before I came here from Liberia, I used to take care of my sister when she was sick. And through that care, I helped her to walk again. From there, I grew more interested in the work and knew it was something I wanted to keep doing. Then when I came from Africa in 2015, the first job I got was as a home health aide at Home Care Associates (HCA). I like interacting with clients and doing things for them, like bathing them, telling them stories, or washing clothes. I really love the job.”
On what it takes to succeed in her job
“I feel that we should take care of our clients like they are a part of us. I put myself in their shoes and take care of them how I would want someone to treat my own parents, and make sure they are comfortable while they are in their home. From the moment I leave my house in the morning to go to work, my focus is on doing a good job and keeping my clients happy.”
“This is a job where you always have to be patient. Your client might not be in a good mood every day, and you might not be either, but you must perform your duty.”
On working for a cooperative home care agency
“HCA feels like a loving family where we work as a team. That support helps keep me at my job. It also feels very good being a worker-owner. As a worker-owner, I’m part of different committees with other home health aides where we come together to make decisions, or to share problems with the administration to make things better. I’m very proud to be part of the Safety Committee, where we educate other workers on how to take care of clients in case of an emergency, like a fire. One of my other committees plans functions to bring people together. This lets me talk with other workers who were brought up in different places and maybe have different ways of thinking or doing things than I do. We encourage each other.”
Photography: Kristen Blush @kristenblush
The Direct Care Worker Story Project aims to enhance the visibility of this workforce, amplify its voices, and draw on workers’ unique wisdom to inform policy and practice. The Project seeks to address the lack of representation of direct care workers in public narratives and ensure images used to depict long-term care work are grounded in workers’ and clients’ real experiences. If you’re interested in sharing your story as a direct care worker, please email us at info@PHInational.org.