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"Taking Care" of Personal Care Assistants

December 1, 2008

Richmond, VA - The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in the next 20 years, Virginia's elder population will increase by 130 percent, and this month, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is scheduled to review a possible raise for personal care assistants to help those aged Virginians. It's a job that keeps thousands of elderly people in the state out of expensive nursing homes, yet most care assistants are paid just $8.60 an hour for work that's highly technical and emotionally draining.

Joel Murray is the chairman of the living wage committee for the Virginia Association of Personal Care Assistants. He also provides at least eight hours of care each day for his step-brother, JR, who has a disease, similar to muscular dystrophy, that requires round-the-clock care.

"There are probably many people that go to nursing homes that could use a care assistant; there'd be a lot more jobs available and less taxes spent on building nursing homes. This is good for the economy, in my opinion."

Murray says that, thanks to his own job caring for his brother, JR didn't have to move into a nursing home and essentially become a ward of the state.

"So many of the people that go into homes would be able to continue living and even working at home, with the way technology is these days, if they had the right kind of care."

Murray adds that his brother continues to work as a Web site developer.

Currently, Virginia ranks 45th nationally in wages for personal care assistants.

For more information, go to www.virginiapca.org

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA