Groups Look for More Caregiver Pay
By Dianne Anderson
If all goes as planned, a recent state proposal will help In Home Supportive Services caregivers in California, which could increase compensation for family members who are putting in long hard hours, many without pay.
As someone who cared for her mother with a broken hip, Kelita Gardner said the potential to access training and compensation to help family members at home is something she will be watching out for to share with their church’s elder community.
Gardener, Executive Director of Operations for Second Baptist Church in Santa Ana, said that older people want to stay in their homes as long as possible, and the church often receives calls about whether they provide caregivers.
While they do not offer that type of help, she said they do send deacons and deaconesses to the community to offer wellness checks and take communion.
By itself, she said elder isolation can be debilitating. Historically, the Black church has stood in the gap to build and maintain relationships for those who can no longer join in, and family members step up to care for the elders.
“Often the injury or illness occurs and the responsible party in the family becomes a caregiver by default because of proximity, and training is also very helpful, especially when someone has not been in that space previously,” she said.
Caregiver burden does hit the Black community harder, probably because they are so over-represented with health issues across almost all categories, especially with the elderly.
Rhonda Smith said that African American caregivers are usually not getting assistance, and almost everything is out of pocket.
“As you think about aging at home and caregiving, it’s a complex issue in California, just because the basic cost of living here is so high. Black folks tend to take family members in [care] without compensation,” said Smith, the California Black Health Network Executive Director.
Some studies show that African Americans are not only younger caregivers for the family, on average 44 years old, but also strained as the Black community deals with two to three times the health impact across most categories over other racial groups.
“As we are collectively taking care of our loved ones, it becomes a burden on us mentally and emotionally. Then, we end up having health issues, it’s a vicious cycle. What we’re trying to do with our series is first to educate our community and build awareness of resources out there and also give them the knowledge tools to be better prepared,” she said.
Caregiving is also important because many in the community are without long term health insurance, which gets more expensive in the elder years.
But ready or not, she said the issue has to be addressed in a socially responsible way because it is part of the cycle of life.
“At some point either we’re going to be the caregiver or someone is going to be the caregiver for us.”
Caregiving in the U.S. 2020, a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP, found that caregivers face health challenges and almost a quarter of caregivers find it hard to take care of their own health. About as many say that caregiving has made their health worse.
Of family caregivers, the report shows that 28% stopped saving money, and 23% took on more debt and used up their short term savings. Most caregivers spend at least 21 hours a week or more providing care, but one in five spends over 41 hours, all unpaid.
IHSS care providers may also include family members and friends, and those with aging parents or elders at home can also be paid, provided they get an In Home Health Services training and certification.
At the state level, recent legislation is calling for more compensation. AB 1672, authored by San Francisco Democrat Assemblymember Matt Haney, wants to establish that IHSS caregivers are paid what they’re worth, and that the decision-making is uniform statewide.
Currently, as counties conduct their own negotiations with homecare workers, with many paying out low wages and benefits, IHSS compensation varies from county to county.
“Sometimes it’s the county supervisors who are voting on that. It’s unnecessarily complicated, depending on where you live, your basic labor rights shouldn’t be changing based across county lines,” said staffer, Nate Allbee.
Support for the bill is strong. He said Governor Newsom will be in charge of making sure that negotiations are on a statewide level. Over the next two months, a task force will form to talk about recommendations when AB 1672 passes.
They are confident that it is an idea whose time has come.
The bill is in a 2-year session, continuing in January with a focused on negotiations over how much workers are paid, and how they are treated. IHSS is represented by different unions.
“The workers must be treated fairly,” he said. “That means it will be across the board and that’s been what the home care workers have been asking for years, and the legislature previously has pushed back on that. Now we’re at a place where people can’t deny we need this law.”
Earlier this year, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers.
The order highlights that long term care is becoming more acute on the national level, with twice as many adults over 65 anticipated by 2060 than in 2016. There will be some eight million job openings in long term care over the next decade.
It also calls for increasing high quality care and supporting caregivers, noting that women make up nearly two-thirds of family caregivers, and drop out of the workforce at a rate three times higher than men.
“It is the policy of my Administration to enable families — including our military and veteran families — to have access to affordable, high-quality care and to have support and resources as caregivers themselves. It is also the policy of my Administration to ensure that the care workforce is supported, valued, and paid well. Additionally, care workers should have the free and fair choice to join a union,” President Biden said.
To learn more about CBHN, see https://www.cablackhealthnetwork.org/
To learn more about becoming an IHSS Provider, see
AARP has information on other sources of caregiver compensation, https://videos.aarp.org/detail/video/6129568385001/how-to-get-paid-as-a-caregiver
Medicaid offers information on how to apply at