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Coping with the Challenges of Home Health Care

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Thousands of IHSS workers and consumers from both ends of California ringed the capitol today in a continuation of their 10 day campaign to convince the governor and the legislature to end the financial assault on home care in California.

I spoke to care providers from around the state while preparations were being made for the march around the capitol. I learned that from Los Angeles County alone, forty buses, with fifty passengers apiece, had travelled all night to bring caregivers and some of their disabled clients to Sacramento for this demonstration.

Gabrielle Thomas told me that she works for a consumer who is totally dependent on his caregivers to stay alive. He is tube fed, has a tracheotomy and needs twenty-four hour care. Along with his son, a team of three caregivers collaborates to make sure that he has round the clock care, even though a good portion of the hours are unpaid, since IHSS has a limit of 65.5 hours per week.

Another Los Angeles care provider, Laura Henderson says that due to the last budget cuts, she was unable to keep up payments on the vehicle that she uses to serve her clients. She often will have to stay overnight, spending 48 hours at a stretch away from home in order to provide the care her consumer needs.

Michele Smith’s autistic twenty-four year old son is able to remain with her rather than being placed in a board and care home. He needs constant supervision, and she believes that he is more comfortable and safe in her home.

Nina Chavez-Earp, from San Diego, left her job to care for her husband, who suffered a brain injury in an accident twenty years ago. Since she is the spouse, she is not able to be paid by IHSS to provide much of the care that he needs. Although he needs constant care, IHSS only pays for three hours per day.

Nina Chavez-Earp

"Take the challenge." says Kathleen Collins. "Work seven days as a home care worker, and then discuss the budget. I campaigned for Brown and put him in office. I was a supervisor of phone banking in the 2010 election." Kathleen had worked for many years as a care provider herself before she became disabled and in need of home care herself. If they cut her hours much, she says, her grandchildren, who now care for her, will have to find other jobs, and she will lose their services.

"My husband has made so much progress in recovering from his stroke," says Kim Bradford of Glenn County. If the hours Kim is paid are cut, they will be forced to move into housing that will not allow him access to the resources that have helped him recover. She says that the stress and worry is having an adverse affect on her husband’s health.

While the sun blazed down on babushkas, hijab, baseball hats and sun visors, the diverse crowd marched and chanted around the capitol building. Despite bottled water and spray bottles, at least four of the participants required medical assistance before the day was over.

"We don’t want to keep coming back every year," say the marchers. There are people who need care and can’t afford to pay for it themselves. The state will foot the bill one way or another. The marchers say that this is the less expensive option. 

Protesters walked into the Rotunda around 12:30pm.
Protesters in the Capitol Rotunda. 50 were arrested.

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