This week is direct support professionals week. I have received PCA services through Medicaid since I was around eight years old. My PCAs help me with activities of daily living, including showering, toileting, and dressing.
Being a PCA is sometimes a difficult job. Sometimes my PCA has to help me when I have an incontinence episode or feel nauseous. My PCA also allows me to go grocery shopping, to the movie theater, and out to eat at restaurants.
My PCA allowed me to move into my own apartment in 2020. Moving out is a milestone for most young adults. I knew I wanted to move out, but I didn’t know if it would be possible. I didn’t want to end up living in a facility. As a disabled person, I am proud to live in my own apartment.
Hiring PCAs has been one of the most challenging things for me to manage since becoming an adult. There is a nationwide shortage of support professionals for the disabled and the elderly. New York has one of the most serious shortages of home health aides in the country.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, PCAs and other home healthcare workers in the United States are only paid $13.02 per hour. According to the New York Times, home care workers in six states earn an average of $11 per hour, and one in every five of them lives below the federal poverty line. Low wages can make it challenging to find staff. Sometimes, people can make more money working at a fast food restaurant. Direct support professionals are some of the most hardworking, dedicated people I’ve ever met.
Direct support professionals are vital in the lives of people like me. Without support, I could end up being institutionalized. I wouldn’t be able to make my own decisions. My independence means everything to me.
Life would be different if I didn’t have my PCAs. My PCA assists me with using the restroom, getting dressed, and taking a shower. I’m able to live independently thanks to him. He takes me to the movies, the grocery store, restaurants, and the mall. Without PCAs and Medicaid, I would have little access to my community. Nobody should be required to live in a facility. We must address the shortage immediately since people’s lives are at stake.
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.
McKay, Morgan. “NY Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers Raised to $15 per Hour.” Spectrum News , Spectrum News , 1 July 2021, https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/politics/2021/07/02/ny-fast-food-worker-minimum-wage-raised-to–15-per-hour.
Larsen, Carrie. “National Direct Support Professionals Week 2022.” Prader-Willi Association USA, Prader-Willi Association USA, 2 Sept. 2022, https://www.pwsausa.org/national-direct-support-professionals-week-2022/.
Taddeo, Sarah. “Caregiver Shortage: ‘No Pool of People to Pull from Now’.” Buffalo News, Buffalo News, 11 June 2022, https://buffalonews.com/business/local/caregiver-shortage-no-pool-of-people-to-pull-from-now/article_769c12ce-e754-11ec-a974-4f66fec59629.html.