The plan could increase their pay and training, helping a system that affects millions of Americans.
Hillary Rothrock got into the home healthcare industry because of love. Her brother has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a disorder that means he needs constant care.
Rothrock will do anything she can to help her brother live with the dignity he deserves, whether that means bathing him, dressing him, or advocating for people like him to get the best care they can.
That’s why she joined other home healthcare workers and US Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Lackawanna) this week to talk about how the American Jobs Plan could help people like her.
“We do this because we love it,” she said.
About 85% of home health workers are women, according to US Census data.
Currently, the average pay for a home healthcare worker is $12 an hour. According to the American Association of Retired Persons, “These workers tend to have low pay, no benefits, and uneven hours.”
Cartwright said that needs to change and home healthcare workers need to be treated with dignity. He argues President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plans—the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan—would help make those changes.
“Beefing up the home care sector of the healthcare economy just makes sense because you pay people right, you get good people doing the work, you get better outcomes and you free up … family members from that career interruption that not only hurts their own pocketbooks, but it hurts the gross domestic product of the United States,” Cartwright said.
“That’s all the economic reasons, the country will save a lot of money if we do this, and that’s before you scratch the surface of the moral reasons that we have as Americans to take good care of the people who need home care the most.”
Rothrock and the other home health workers said the low pay, varying hours, and lack of benefits can lead to high turnover. Many home healthcare workers get involved in the industry because of experience taking care of loved ones.
“The turnover rate actually decreases the care that people are able to get. It also decreases the quality of care they are able to get,” said Lynn Weidner, of Allentown.
Weidner and Rothrock talked about their own personal experience with how turnover can affect a loved one’s care.
Weidner saw a friend lose his home health worker because the friend couldn’t afford gas.
“It took months for him to find somebody else,” she said. “When that happens, the quality of care goes down.”
Weidner said job training, which is part of the infrastructure package, would help.
“If we could train, oh man, if we could train home care givers the way they needed to,” she said.
Krysten Xanthis, a home health worker from Scranton, said the patients the workers care for also need respect.
“People at home with disabilities, they deserve their independence,” she said.
The three women talked about how much they love their jobs, but that extra financial security would make it easier for everyone.
“Once you start doing this job, you do it for the rest of your life,” Xanthis said.