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 Diana L’Alcorta, a Personal Care Worker at Community Living Alliance in Madison, Wisconsin. She has been a direct care worker for 16 years.
On why she decided to become a personal care worker (PCW)
“I’ve always loved taking care of people. I worked in daycare for about 27 years. Then my neighbor got in a car accident. I’d go visit her with my little daycare kids because she loved seeing them. She told me she needed more help, so I would go to her home after the kids left to cook for her and clean a bit. Since I was just helping out a good friend, I wasn’t getting paid for it. But I eventually realized, ‘You know what? I want to do this as my job.’ After caring for kids for so long, it was time for something different, and I decided to become a PCW.”
On what it takes to succeed in her job
“You might have clients who are grumpy or snippy or call you names. That’s happened to me in a past. I’ve been cussed out and accused of stuff. But you have to have patience and have your heart in this work. You have to have the stomach for it, too. When I first started, I remember crying in the bathroom and calling my supervisor after something one client said. But now I can just brush it off.”
“I’ve been cussed out and accused of stuff. But you have to have patience and have your heart in this work. You have to have the stomach for it, too.”
On her relationship with her clients
“I’m a cheerful person, and I’m a people person. If I wake up in the morning and am having a bad day, I try not to bring that into clients’ homes. I don’t want to do that, because seeing me sad might bring them down, and I always try to pep them up. My client right now loves me, and I love him. He’s happy to see me every time. He talks about how he is feeling, and I listen. I try to make sure he doesn’t get depressed. He likes to be heard.”
If she could change one thing about home care
“I wish we were appreciated more. Sometimes we are treated like we’re nobody, but we are somebody. Because if it wasn’t for us, [the care] wouldn’t happen.”
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.