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 Erika Honan, a Care Supervisor on the Care Emergency Response Team (CERT) at Homebridge in San Francisco, CA. She has been a direct care worker for 1.5 years.
ON WHY SHE DECIDED TO BECOME A CAREGIVER
“I became a Home Care Provider at Homebridge in June 2019 after I completed a recovery program for alcoholism. Most of my career before that point had been in the restaurant industry or taking care of animals. But when I went back into the workforce after my program, I knew I wanted to give back to the community in a more significant way, and I found in-home support service care. My work feels very meaningful now. Rather than just going to work to make money, I’m working to make sure people get the attention they need so they can be okay. It can get pretty intense at times, but the care is really important to the clients and that gives me motivation. I am very passionate about helping people, and I recently just went back to school part time to earn my master’s degree in social work.”
ON HER RELATIONSHIP WITH HER CLIENTS
“I make sure to always remember that my job is to honor and respect my clients and help them keep their dignity. I help them change their clothes, bathe, keep their environment clean, and get the food they like to eat. A lot of them want to maintain their independence, so rather than just doing things for them, I start by asking them how they like things done. To me, that is their basic right as a human and that’s how I establish trust with them. Before COVID-19, I had six to eight clients I would see regularly. We were close, and I know they looked forward to seeing me. For some people, I was really the only person they would ever see regularly. As part of Homebridge’s Caregiver Emergency Response Team (CERT), I’m mostly seeing clients who are sheltering in place at hotels because they are homeless. Similar to many of the regular clients I used to see, they are also living in poverty and rely on government support, have disabilities or are older adults, and several face issues with drugs or alcohol. With CERT, I am seeing up to 25 clients now at times.”
“A lot of them want to maintain their independence, so rather than just doing things for them, I start by asking them how they like things done. To me, that is their basic right as a human and that’s how I establish trust with them.”
ON THE IMPACT OF COVID-19
“I was really scared at the beginning of the pandemic. Nobody knew what we were walking into. But our training prepared us for how to protect ourselves. We have all the protective equipment we need and systems in place to change into PPE before and after seeing clients. But I’m still terrified of getting somebody else sick. That’s my biggest fear, and because of that I don’t really spend time with anyone other than my clients. My mom has cancer and my best friend has a pre-existing condition. My boyfriend and I used to spend every weekend hiking together, but we basically don’t see each other anymore so he won’t get exposed. Outside of work, I’m by myself all the time now. That part has really affected me. I think isolation in general is a challenge for caregivers, but with the risk of COVID added, it has really been very taxing. I’d say that’s the hardest part of the job for me.”
Photography: Constanza Hevia H. @constanzaheviah
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.