Saturday, November 16, 2013

Less time and more money

6:00am- Wake up.
6:15am- Okay, Really wake up this time.
6:20am- Grab banana for breakfast. Nothing else to eat because I worked 13 hour days the past two days and the grocery store was closed after work.
6:45am- Head to work.
7am- Try to wake up a client while completely sympathizing the desire to not be awake right now.
8am- Help client clean up room and dishes while remembering the pile of unfolded clothes from several days ago at the foot of my bed.
9am- Drop of one client for the day while heading to work with a different client.
10am- Arrive at second client’s house and try to get him up.
11:30am- Stress about paper assignment that’s due in a few days and wondering when I’ll work on it.
12:30pm- Go have lunch of pb&j and apple thinking about when I’ll have the time to go grocery shopping.
2pm- Help a client clean their room realizing their “messy room” is cleaner than my room right after I clean it.
4pm- Continue working on paperwork, organizing schedules for my clients, and helping to plan their lives.
5pm- Leave second client and head to work with third client.
5:30pm- Arrive at third client and stress the importance of a well balanced dinner as I grab my Tupperware container of pesto pasta from my lunchbox.
7pm- Help a client pay their bills only then realizing my phone bill was due last week.
8pm- Leave last client and head to gym home grocery store.
9:00pm- I some how end up only with a bag of chips, box of spongebob macaroni and cheese, a load of bread, chocolate, and bananas because I can't think of what I really need to buy for the week. I've also been wandering up and down every aisle hoping to job my memory of what I need.
9:20pm- Make dinner while ignoring the dirty dish mountain in the sink. I've spent too much time helping everyone else clean today, I need a break.
10pm- Totally plan to be productive and work on things related to my life.
10:05pm- I'm going to take a nap because I can barely keep my eyes open and have no energy to even answer emails.
11:45pm- I'm just going to take care of myself tomorrow as I pass out in my bed with my shoes still on.

This was my life this past year. People wonder what happened to me when I poofed away and here's the answer outlined almost hour by hour.  My days off were spend playing catchup on my life. I can do more in just a few hours than some people get done all day and that is how I survived. It wasn't living; it was surviving.

Now I do love my job as an inhome support worker. I really do. The reason I got into the field was to make a difference in the life of someone in the disability community. I did make a difference and that was why I stayed with these crazy shifts for so many months. If I didn't do it, no one else would have. New staff can be very hard to find and my *cough* skill set is very unique as not just a person with a psychology degree, but also as a person with disabilities. Needless to say, promoting self-advocacy is my biggest strength working with my clients.

So it is with so my happiness I heard this week that minimum wage and overtime protection will be given to the over 2 million workers who work with the disability community and the elderly community in 2015. I say, it's about time! I've seen too many problems come from staff leaving for other jobs so they can afford the price of living and other staff members who are not qualified but quickly hired to fill in for the other workers.

Why does this matter?
I'll make it really easy.

As a worker, I've been brought into homes where clients have never been able to trust anyone. People leave them and see them as a burden or as something to 'fix'. This creates a warped sense of self when a person does not feel they deserve to have friends or relationships. These people deserve to have a support network of people who care about them and want them to succeed. What do we tell them when a staff member needs to get a second or third job to support themselves? We cite it as a 'scheduling conflict' and try to find someone else to fill in for the former staff member.

These staff members who leave need to leave because they cannot support themselves on some of the salaries we are paid. I have a college degree, active experience in the disability field, and was once paid less than my high school brother who got his first job as a janitor. We are responsible for the health and safety of our clients, but are not compensated for our time or energy. It's not the fault of the companies I have worked for, they are in the exact same overworked and underpaid position I am in. The problem comes from the community not recognizing the value of our work.

In America, we do not support our caretakers. We overwork them and undervalue them which directly negatively impacts the people who need the support in the first place. No one ever goes into the field to become rich, but instead people who entertain us by their athletic prowess have riches beyond our wildest imagination. We celebrate a boxer who wins all the titles, but what about if he develops a disability due to head injuries received while preforming? Wouldn't the person who takes care of them be just as much of a champion?

These workers are the people we entrust to protect and support the ones we love. Isn't it about time we help support and protect them?

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