Share Your Care: Having Choices is Key

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By Colorado State Senator Irene Aguilar

At 92, my father suffered an injury and could no longer live independently. He went to a nursing home, but became so depressed because he is still quite healthy mentally and he needed more outlets and stimulation then the nursing home could provide. Nursing homes are trying to do better, but most of them can’t give patients the attention that they want.

Fortunately we were able to take my father in, and he is happy living with us. His longevity and quality of life would have suffered if he stayed in the nursing home. When faced with the fact that you can no longer live independently, having choices is key. Some people may feel like they are burdening their families by asking them to take on such a large responsibility.

Not only do I care for my father, but my daughter, who has multiple disabilities, also requires in-home care. Through Medicaid’s CDASS program (Consumer Directed Attendant Support Services), we are able to pay my two nieces to provide the assistance and care she needs. Before we hired them as her caregivers, finding reliable support was a challenge. It was hard to identify people to trust, particularly because my daughter does not have the ability to speak and advocate for herself. We had to let go of three caregivers before hiring people we could trust in our home to take good care of my daughter.

I am so privileged because my daughter is on Medicaid, and because of the severity of her disability she gets benefits for in-home care. I know not everyone is fortunate enough to have that kind of access.

Being able to hire someone and provide them with a living wage is very important. It can help prevent high turnover, which makes the people being cared for vulnerable. To hire someone great and lose them because you can’t pay them enough is devastating.

It was hard know what to expect as far as what was reasonable to ask people to do. You always think, “Am I asking too much?” But when someone is paid well, they feel more secure in their job and good caregivers are able to stick around because they can provide for their families instead of needing to find higher paying work.

Overall I think the people become caregivers because they have a good heart. The good people who take care of my loved ones deserve to be able to take care of themselves, and to make a living wage doing this work.

Share Your Care is a project by Caring Across Generations where elected officials and public figures tell their own caregiving story, to show that caregiving is an issue that touches us all. Telling our caregiving stories today will make it possible to build a movement to change caregiving policy tomorrow. Want to join the conversation? Email shareyourcare@caringacross.org.