As the nation’s population ages – an American turns 65 every 8 seconds – more families are turning to paid caregivers and taking on caregiving responsibilities themselves.
The local launch of the national Caring Across Generations movement (which kicked off last summer in Washington, D.C.) took place on Saturday. Nearly 200 people gathered at the Greenwood Senior Center for Seattle’s Care Congress to tackle the challenges presented by the growing need for affordable, quality long-term care.
Caring Across Generation focuses on five major efforts:
- Job creation: Create 2 million new jobs in home care, and explore new funding streams for job creation.
- Job quality: Establish stronger labor standards to protect workers and recipients of care. Improve job quality, wages and access to health insurance.
- Training and career ladder: Build a career ladder and improved job training and certification programs.
- Path to legalization: Create a new visa category to create a path to citizenship for participants in training and certificate programs.
- Support for individuals and families: Preserve and expand Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and the Affordable Care Act. Support unpaid family caregivers who are taking time from employment with Social Security credits and paid family leave.
One of the presenters was Sylvia Liang, who left her career to care for her autistic son. Once Sylvia’s son turned 18, she was able to receive some compensation for the hours she spent providing care. But state budget cuts resulted in a reduction in the hours for which she is paid. This loss of income coincided with family tragedy when her husband suddenly passed away. Now the family is struggling to stay afloat financially, and Sylvia fears that if she is forced to return to other employment her son will lose his ability to function in society.
As others shared their experiences in smaller groups, it was evident that Liang’s story wasn’t unique. Families across Seattle are facing economic, emotional, and health challenges because of the current inadequacies of our systems and standards. Better pay and training for caregivers, and paid family leave to provide adequate time to respond to changing needs for levels of care, are among the changes our society needs.
Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata spoke to the crowd, sharing his personal experiences in caring for family members. City Council Member Mike O’Brien and representatives from the offices of Senator Murray, Senator Cantwell, and Representative McDermott were also there to show support.
Other presenters included domestic workers and caregivers, who shared their struggles to receive adequate training, secure fair wages and benefits, and obtain quality, affordable care for their loved ones.
Seattle is the third city, after Austin and San Francisco, to host a Care Congress. At least seven more are scheduled in cities across the country through this summer. The Congresses are the start of an exciting movement. The next meeting of the Seattle Council will be on Wednesday, February 28 from 4:00-6:00 pm at Casa Latina (317 17th Ave South, Seattle 98144). All are welcome to join!