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Gas Prices Making Home Care More Tenuous

May 27, 2008

Virginia Beach, VA - Another side-effect of soaring gas prices is the effect it's having on home care for seniors and people with disabilities. Lakeisha Branch, Virginia Beach, is a personal care attendant, and making the half-hour trip to her client's home, sometimes twice a day, is putting her in a pinch. Like most PCAs, Branch makes less than $9 an hour, mileage not included. That's a rate set by the state budget, and Branch says gas costs are hitting so hard that even her client is calling Richmond for help.

"She's voiced her opinion plenty of times for raises and stuff, but that's a process we have to go through as caregivers to get that if we want that."

Branch could take the bus, but that would turn her 30-minute commute into a three-hour trip. With children of her own, she can't leave earlier, so using public transportation would leave her client without care until later in the day.

"I had to discuss that with her, because on certain days she wants to go to breakfast at her community room in the morning, and she wants to be there on time. She can't be going to breakfast at 11 o'clock -- it's lunch time then! And who wants to be laying in bed until 11 o'clock?"

Branch and her husband share a single vehicle, and he works two jobs. They spend as much on gas as groceries, and if gas prices keep going up, she says she'll have no choice but to take the bus and collect empty cans on her way to the bus stop to turn in for the deposit.

John Robinson/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - VA