Care Congress launches new campaign for quality jobs and quality home care
New York, NY—Hundreds of seniors, people with disabilities, care workers, faith leaders, advocates, and friends and family of people who rely on care services came together to share their experiences and discuss strategies for improving home care nationally and locally.
Billed as the New York Care Congress, the town hall event drew approximately 500 attendees from all walks of life. Several care workers, seniors and people with disabilities spoke about the challenges they face with home care.
Marlene Champion, a domestic worker and elder caregiver for 40 years, shared a story about her close relationship with the first senior she cared for.
“The work that we do is very important—it makes independent living possible for so many people,” Champion said. “Unfortunately our work is not seen as important, and many of my sisters in this industry do not get the respect that they deserve.”
The crowd also heard from Michael Levine, a senior and member of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, New York’s LGBTQ synagogue, who was a caregiver for a friend who passed away after a long battle with HIV/AIDS.
“I know that my community of gay and lesbian Jews is more likely to be alone at the end of our lives,” said Levine. “I also know that well-trained and well-compensated homecare workers are the ones who can and will provide greater dignity to us in the aging process.”
Alejandra Ospina, a woman with disabilities who provides care to her disabled partner, was unable to attend the Care Congress but sent her story for her friend Park McArthur to read.
“The personal attendants who support me and my partner make it possible for us to live our lives and contribute to our community,” Ospina explained in her testimony. “We need fair treatment of home care workers to ensure our continuity of care, and protection for programs like Medicaid that make it possible for us to live at home and out of isolation.”
Throughout the day, panelists discussed how low wages, lack of training and associated turnover in the home care industry threaten the quality of care and the stability of the home care industry. Panelists also discussed problems that care recipients have in accessing high-quality, affordable home care and the associated strain put on families deciding on care for their aging, ill, or disabled loved ones.
The Care Congress featured several nationally- and internationally-renowned speakers. Award-winning playwright and performer, Sarah Jones recreated characters from Bridge & Tunnel and other work sharing their experiences of care. Ireland’s Inez McCormack, a strong international human rights voice for women, spoke about her experiences organizing predominantly part-time home aids and protecting elders against cuts in services.
Matt Ryan, Executive Director of ALIGN, described how the current challenges to ensuring dignity and respect for both caregivers and care recipients are anticipated to grow as baby boomers age and people with disabilities increasingly stay at home.
“New York’s senior population is expected to skyrocket in the next 30 years and we’re simply not prepared,” said Ryan. “The home care industry is New York City’s highest job growth industry and one of the lowest paid. ”
Ai-jen Poo, The co-director of the national Caring Across Generations campaign and Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People Award nominee described the opportunity we have to transform care in America.
“The growing challenges with home care also present an opportunity to create two million new quality jobs and provide our loved ones with high-quality, affordable options that increase their independence and dignity.”
People who attended the Care Congress broke into small groups throughout the day to discuss the different local, state and national solutions that speakers had presented. Participants also built relationships during the day.
“It was great to meet people from all different sides of the care issue that are coming together for the first time and learning to work together,” said Park McArthur.
The Care Congress marked the beginning of the Caring Across Generations campaign in New York. Dozens of endorsing organizations, faith leaders, elected officials and individuals discussed the next steps they would take to build awareness of care issues in New York and work together on solutions.
Marjorie Dove Kent, Executive Director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, summed up the day. “Care is an issue that affects every one of us,” said Kent. “The truth is we need to act now to transform the current system into one of dignity, respect and justice.”
ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York’s mission is to create good jobs, vibrant communities, and an accountable democracy for all New Yorkers. Our work unites worker, community, and other allies to build a more just and sustainable New York. ALIGN was formed in April 2011 through the merger of New York Jobs and Justice and Urban Agenda. Visit www.ALIGNny.org for more information.
Caring Across Generations is a bold new campaign to defend what we have earned and create what we need for future generations so we can be a nation that takes care of one another across generations. Visit www.caringacrossgenerations.org for more information.