working full time isn't enough to pay the bills

America needs more caregivers for our rapidly aging population, but we don’t provide them with a living wage or adequate workplace protections. Low wages lead to high turnover and poorly trained staff. Stressed out workers come to work sick because they have no health insurance or sick days. Workers are less reliable because they can’t afford reliable transportation or childcare.

Many caregivers make less than $10 an hour — meaning they’re impoverished, even with a full-time job.

Learn more about Fair Pay for Quality Care on the North Carolina Justice Center. Keep reading to hear from family and professional caregivers who are struggling to make ends meet.

Professional caregivers

I was an in home caregiver for 4.5 years. While always living frugally I always had to have a roommate. My income was not consistent due to the eventual passing of clients. It would take some time before I could acquire a new client. In the interim my check would drop dramatically and I would struggle to survive. How much is competent and compassionate care for your fragile loved ones worth? Minimum wage? I think it’s worth much more. – Judy H.

I’ve never understood why caregivers make as much as someone who works fast food. I’m taking care of a life. – Donella B.

I am a professional CG and I work 60 hours a week and I spend 10-12 hours a week in traffic. People think I am a bad mom for working so much because I do not get to spend much time with my son. The reality is that I wish I would spend more time with him but this job does not pay a decent wage so I can afford to work only 40 hours a week. People assume that because this is a job that requires skills and continue education, lot of knowledge because of the nature of the people we work with (vulnerable adults) we make lots of $$$, the true is most caregivers work very hard but they are at the limit of poverty, they are sleep deprived and their health is poor. – Andreea S.

My son is a home healthcare worker and a good one. He says that his company has to hire the worse people because of the low pay. – Marty C.

My mother pays a fortune to live in a memory care alf but the caretakers themselves don’t seem to make much money, some work two jobs unless they are nurses or administrators. – Gay R.

The US only recently extended basic workplace protections to over 2 million home care workers. Help make sure these protections are enacted.

Family caregivers

Family caregivers should be paid. Informal caregiving is the largest part of long term care. Other countries pay informal caregivers a living wage. It can be done. – Jeananne E.

It makes no sense to me that I should be in danger of losing my home when my IS passes, or starving to death or letting my own health go to hell because Ive had to give up any income I had in order to take care of him. Family caregivers deserve to be paid, same as homecare providers. We lose everything over the course of our loved one’s illness. – Lona S.

Financially, it is devastating, not only at the time of being a caregiver, but will catastrophically affect the caregiver financially for the remainder of their life. Prospective employers don’t care about the reason for the gap in employment history, nor do they consider the skills, knowledge, or work ethics involved. The IRS gives tax credits on so many things, but not on the most important thing… caring for life. – Dawn K.

We need to get louder and stop feeling like ‘oh, it’s out of love.’ Of course it is, but do we need to lose everything out of love, too? -Cinnamin M.

Use the Eldercare Financial Assistance Locator to sift through the maze of programs to provide financial assistance for eldercare. Then contact your elected officials and let them know you need more help.

We’re in it together

I am currently using a health care agency that sends a home health aide for my mother. I have left my job to care for my mother, but needed additional help. The problem is that these agencies charge $20/hr, which is high. However, the aide only gets paid $9.00/hr. These agencies are big business that are capitalizing on the elderly. Pay these caregivers more and make a little less for the business. I regard these jobs as very important. We are entrusting them to care for the people that mean the most to us. – Josephine F.

I’ve seen in the past [families] who can’t afford to pay much and only hire someone for a few hours and then leave them home alone the rest of the time. The whole thing is a mess. – Tracy T.

I’m a caregiver for my husband and CNA money isn’t that great. I can make more as waitress. – Debbie T.

Why would anyone NOT want to pay (handsomely) those that care for the ones that we love most? – Cherie R.

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid help keep seniors out of poverty and in their communities. Sign this Caring Across Generations petition to urge your elected officials to support these programs.

Some responses have been edited. You can view the originals here.

Written by Michelle Daly

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  1. Ive been caregiving for my husband for 10 yrs now, 247, 365, all we get is his little bit from dissability

  2. Forced free labor for caring for the vulnerable so they do not die.

  3. I work for free 24/7, have spent down most of our savings that we worked for years to earn and sacrifice for our one day retirement that includes now, advanced parkinson’s for my husband and my dad is needy as well. One has no clue how hard it is too NEVER have a day off or a vacation or decent medical care. Finally this year my husband turns 65 and so there will be medicare, for him!!!!

  4. I am a nurse. I work 55 hours a week as a paid caregiver. If I don’t get my over-time I don’t buy groceries. I haven’t bought new clothes in years. I am also a family caregiver, taking care of my Dad and his home. A little more money on either front would be amazing. The company that I work for doesn’t give raises. Whatever salary rate you start at is what you will get until retire

  5. I work 24/7 one week on and one week off. 910.00 per week. 21,840 per year- 5.41 per hour. I live in a converted metal shed because it’s all I can afford. But the clients I’m sent to are wealthy.

  6. Blame that on the administration of these caregiving companies


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