Guest View: Don’t leave our seniors behind this legislative session

http://bit.ly/2EGKOD0

Most Illinoisans are well aware of the hit social and human services took in our state during the last four years. Much of the damage will be difficult to correct: The agencies that closed, the critical services denied to countless members of our communities, and the many jobs that were lost as a result.

Illinois home care programs experienced some of these same struggles and it is incumbent on us all to do what we can to get back on track.

The Department on Aging’s Community Care Program keeps more than 100,000 Illinois seniors living safely and independently at home in every corner of our state. This successful program has allowed our seniors to live with dignity and maintain close ties to family and the wider community. It provides the kind of care that seniors want and need, and it does so at a fraction of the cost of nursing home care.

This program works because of the front-line workforce of 30,000 home care aides that wake up each day with one thing in mind: providing the highest quality care possible to the seniors they serve.

These workers are there for our seniors regardless of weather, personal conflicts or other unpredicted obstacles because they know the importance of the role they play in that senior’s life. From bathing, meal preparation, transportation to doctor’s appointments, and a myriad of other daily tasks that most of us take for granted, home care aides are there for our seniors.

However, these workers are relegated to living in poverty. Despite their devotion and commitment to their work, their pay has never been commensurate with the value they provide for the community. The lack of investment in this workforce has led to stagnant wages, with the average home care aide earning only $11.08 per hour. And that lack of investment has real consequences.

Skilled, reliable caregivers are leaving because they simply cannot support their families on the meager paychecks they bring home. We know that when a home care aide and a senior can build a relationship, care outcomes are better for that senior. When there is a revolving door of workers, our seniors suffer.

Statewide there is a 35 percent turnover rate and a serious workforce shortage. Agencies that employ these caregivers struggle to retain and recruit to meet our current demand for care. This shortage will only continue to escalate.

By 2025 the population of Illinoisans over the age of 65 will grow by a third, to 2.5 million. Employment projections show Illinois needs 19,500 more workers, an increase of just over 20 percent, but will also need to replace an average of more than 12,000 workers annually who will either leave for other jobs or exit the workforce.

We can correct the path we are on, but we cannot continue to kick the can down the road. Action must be taken now. The General Assembly can do right by our seniors and ensure there is a wage increase for this workforce that sets a new floor of a modest $13 per hour.

On behalf of the 100,000 Illinois seniors currently in this program, the 30,000 caregivers they rely on, and the tens of thousands of families connected to the Community Care Program, we implore the General Assembly to do the responsible thing and protect the care our current and future seniors need. As our state budget is finalized in the coming days, do not leave our seniors behind.

Greg Kelley is the president at SEIU Healthcare Illinois, the union that represents 30,000 home care aides in the Community Care Program.

15-Health,16-Econ,19-Legal,22-Talk,26-Delivered,E HCCI,AllPolGA

Region: Springfield,Feeds,Opinion,Region: Central,City: Springfield

via Opinion – The State Journal-Register http://bit.ly/2EMjS6J

May 28, 2019 at 08:15PM

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