SEATTLE - On Saturday, the first "Care Congress" in Washington takes place in Seattle. It's an offshoot of a national coalition, Caring Across Generations
, which says the only way to ease the critical shortage of home-care workers is to treat them better.
The coalition says in-home jobs have traditionally been seen as low-paid, menial work rather than careers. Hilary Stern, who heads the immigrants' rights group Casa Latina, says a change in that perception is overdue.
"This work is important work, and work that makes sort of all other work possible; it's important to have things working at home in order to be able to function as a family. And we entrust some of our most precious people to caregivers, and it's really important for that work to be valued."
The group points out that 90 percent of caregivers and domestic workers are women, and close to half are racial minorities. It also says four in ten in-home workers live on wages low enough to qualify them for public assistance.
Caregiver Sylvia Liang thinks it will take more training opportunities and better pay and benefits to attract new people to the field. And she says there's no time to waste, as the baby boomers are already starting to retire.
"Every minute, a bunch of us are turning 65. We would like to age at home instead of being in an institution, if possible. And what that would require is good caregivers."
The Caring Across Generations coalition supports a change in federal labor rules to no longer exempt some types of caregivers from receiving overtime pay. The Labor Department is taking comments on that change until February 27.
The Care Congress takes place this Saturday, Feb. 11, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., at the Greenwood Senior Center, 525 N. 85th Street, Seattle, and is free to the public.
Information about the campaign and the Seattle event is at caringacrossgenerations.org
See the proposed federal rule change online at www.regulations.gov