SEATTLE - In-home caregivers rarely have a day away from their clients. This weekend, however, they're meeting in Seattle to strategize about how to boost the public awareness and professionalism of their industry.
Caregivers such as Cylvia Laybourn of Bremerton say having more training would help. When she came to Washington three years ago, she received 32 hours of training and says it isn't enough for some of the complex situations in-home caregivers face.
"Quadriplegics, people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, wheelchair-bound, bed-bound patients - as their health declines, they need more care. In order to provide them with the best care possible, we need to be trained properly, so that we can better assess their needs and help them live as independent a life as they can."
Laybourn thinks some people assume that because in-home care can include chores and errands, it is unskilled work. She says that's far from the reality.
In Washington, the Service Employees International Union
(SEIU) Local 775 is backing a November ballot measure, Initiative 1163, which would create a certification process and mandate background checks for in-home caregivers. It will be among the topics at this weekend's conference.
A new report
is sure to be a conference topic as well. It ranks Washington second overall in long-term services and supports compared with other states, but it says the state could do better in multiple areas, including its number of in-home caregivers.
Laybourn, who has been working in the field for 13 years, says it's a tough career to convince others to try.
"It barely pays over $10 an hour. We're all living at poverty level. We as caregivers live at the poverty level because we don't get paid that much. We don't get respected and recognized as a profession, and yet we do the same work that nursing assistants do in nursing homes."
If Washington improved its performance to the level of Minnesota, the top state in the rankings, AARP estimates more than 3,000 people could receive in-home care rather than as nursing-home patients.
The conference will be held Saturday and Sunday at the SeaTac Doubletree hotel, 18740 International Blvd., Seattle. The AARP report is online at longtermscorecard.com