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Caregivers' Long Hours, Low Pay Make for Tough Holidays

December 14, 2007

Mercer Island, WA – This time of year is especially hectic for caregivers, who work 24/7 in nursing homes no matter what the holiday. A coalition of nursing home workers and senior advocates plans to ask the Washington Legislature for $15 million to improve their pay and benefits.

Lorena Anica is a certified nurse's aide at a Mercer Island care center. She says she trains new people all the time, but when they realize how much work it is, they leave.

"They just decide, 'Why I wanna be doing this job when I can go and sell hamburgers, or I can go in housekeeping, and make the same money?'"

She says you have to love the job to do it, in spite of the low pay, and her biggest concern is that she can't give people the care she thinks they deserve, because in most places, there aren't enough workers.

"If we don't have enough help, sometimes we have to take care of 15 people a day and you don't have enough time to do quality care. You don't provide enough care for them."

Anica says the typical wage for nursing home workers in Washington is less than $10 an hour, and only one in four jobs includes health insurance. She believes it's because many people still don't see caregiving as a profession.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA