My grandmother just turn ninety-two in August. She recently had a gastrointestinal setback — which was a seemingly minor hiccup, albeit very serious considering her age, in what many would call an overall pretty healthy life. To make sure she’s taking proper care of herself, Grandmother will now need an overnight assistance, a tough job that, until recently, wasn’t recognized as “real work.”
The Obama administration announced Tuesday that home-care workers can now receive the basic benefits most workers fight to maintain: basic minimum wage and overtime protections.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever taken care of an elderly person before, but it takes much patience and skill, which is why many family members eschew the task of caretaker. Inexplicably, many states still look at the home-care industry as “companionship services” (professional baby sitters). Conversely, most families who need these services are in regular contact with their elders and don’t see this care as a baby sitter service but meticulous, relatively inexpensive aide.
According to the New York Times, under the new rule, home care aides, unlike baby sitters, would be covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the nation’s main wage and hour law:
“We think the workers providing this critical work should be receiving the same basic protection and coverage as the vast majority of American workers,” said Laura Fortman, deputy administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division. “We’ve seen a lot of turnover in this industry, and we believe that this new rule will stabilize the work force.”
Most of these workers are women, ninety percent to be more exact, and nearly fifty-percent are women of color. This should be looked at as companion measure to Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the first bill signed into law by President Obama. Acknowledging the rights for these professionals, mostly women, especially during America’s unofficial, prolonged recession, will hopefully secure the industry for further growth and even better compassionate care.