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Proceedings and Relevant Parties

Caring for Caregivers

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Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, made a call in the 21st annual Sheinberg Lecture for better wages and benefits for an often-ignored section of the workforce—home care workers.

According to Poo, a 2014 MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant recipient and author of The Age of Dignity, 90 percent of Americans would prefer aging at home to aging in a nursing facility. To accommodate our desires, she urges the US to support the home care worker.

The Caring Across Generations campaign, which Poo helped launch in 2011, aims to protect the work of caregivers. Long excluded from federal minimum wage and overtime protections, their skilled work written off as “companionship,” home care workers earn less than nine dollars per hour. Thirty percent rely on public assistance for food security. “We can stay on this same dark path of unsustainable working conditions and wages, which reinforces an unsustainable overdependence on nursing homes that no one wants to live in,” Poo said, “or we can seize upon this moment of demographic change…to create a whole new system to care for our families and care for the workers, too.”

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