Home health care workers Jasmine Almodovar (far right) and Artheta Peters (center) take part in a Cleveland rally for higher pay on Sept. 4. (Photo: Sarah Jane Tribble.)
By Sarah Jane Tribble, WCPN
Holly Dawson believes her job is a calling.
She is one of about 2 million home care workers in the country. The jobs come with long hours and low pay.
Each workday, Dawson drives through the Cleveland suburbs to help people take their medicines, bathe and do the dishes. She also takes time to lend a sympathetic ear.
George Grellinger, a former client of hers, has dementia. He recently fell down the back steps of his home. Dawson remains friends and regularly stops in to check on him. To remain living at home, Grellinger had to switch to an aide who is covered by his veterans’ benefits.
“A lot of us are barely home because if we don’t go to work, we don’t get time off. We don’t get paid vacations. And some of us haven’t had raises in years.”
When Dawson worked for him, Grellinger paid an agency $37 for two hours of her time each day. Dawson received $13 an hour, higher than the national average
for home health aides. She had to pay her own taxes and health care benefits. Dawson says she can’t remember the last time she could afford health insurance.
Dawson says she has been a home health aide for 31 years. She has never done it for the money, rather to help people like Grellinger, she says.
But the conditions of home health work are leading many aides to seek better pay and benefits.
On an early September morning, home health workers held a rally in Cleveland. Jasmine Almodovar, 35, chants with the crowd: “We want change and we don’t mean pennies!”
She says she earns $9.50 an hour, which is actually just above average for a home health worker in Ohio.
“We work really long hours, really hard work,” she says. “A lot of us are barely home because if we don’t go to work, we don’t get time off. We don’t get paid vacations. And some of us haven’t had raises in years.”
Almodovar says her last raise was four years ago. She makes about $21,000 a year so she makes too much to qualify for Medicaid, but paying for a plan on Ohio’s federal exchange doesn’t fit in her monthly budget. Continue reading