The Star Tribune in Minnesota published an article about the state’s shortage of support staff for people with disabilities. Although I don’t live in Minnesota, it is hard for me to find PCAs in Massachusetts. I went through three PCAs in three semesters of college. This was frustrating and stressful for me.
PCAs are essential for me to live independently. They help me get dressed, use the bathroom, and prepare my meals. People can’t go days without eating, showering, and using the bathroom. It would be impossible for me to live in my apartment without my PCAs. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to go grocery shopping, to doctor’s appointments or to my PT appointments.
Support staff is often difficult to come by. This is partially due to low pay. PCAs and other home healthcare professionals in the United States earn just $13.02 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the New York Times, the average hourly wage in six states is only $11, and one out of every five home care employees lives in poverty. Sometimes, people can make more working at a fast-food restaurant than in direct care positions. According to Altarum, a nonprofit research and consulting firm focused on health care, the number of workers in home health care professions nationwide declined by roughly 2% in 2020.
In addition, waiting lists for services for disabled people have ballooned since the COVID-19 pandemic began. According to the industry group representing these providers, more than 3,500 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Minnesota are still waiting to return to day and job centers where services have been cut since the pandemic began.
Hundreds of people are on waiting lists for day programs, where people can build social connections and participate in various activities. While they are on these waiting lists, people are often stuck at home during the day because they have nowhere else to go.
Wages need to increase nationwide so that support staff is easier to find. People shouldn’t be able to make more working at fast-food restaurants. Direct care staff is dedicated to helping keep disabled people alive, so they should be paid fairly. All disabled people deserve to live their lives to the fullest, and the proper support allows us to do that.
AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020. https://doi.org/10.26419/ppi.00103.001
Donovan, Liz, and Muriel Alarcón. “Long Hours, Low Pay, Loneliness and a Booming Industry.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Sept. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/25/business/home-health-aides-industry.html
“Home Health and Personal Care Aides : Occupational Outlook Handbook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 Sept. 2021, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home-health-aides-and-personal-care-aides.htm.
Serres, Chris. “’The System Is in Ruins’: Minnesotans with Disabilities Feel Left behind amid Workforce Shortage.” Star Tribune, Star Tribune, 4 June 2022, https://www.startribune.com/the-system-is-in-ruins-minnesotans-with-disabilities-feel-left-behind-amid-workforce-shortage/600179296/.