Opinion: American families like mine urgently need Joe Biden’s caregiving workforce plan

I’m talking to everyone I know about the importance of voting for Joe Biden, because I want to live in an America where we care for one another, lift each other up and come together to solve our most pressing challenges.

Opinion: American families like mine urgently need Joe Biden's caregiving workforce plan

Courtesy of Delores Flynn

When my son Scott was two years old, he suffered a severe brain injury. Today, he’s 49 years old and requires round-the-clock care from me, my husband and a team of dedicated home care workers. This is my story, but it could happen to anyone, and it shows the crucial importance of home care workers, who most Americans will need if they become disabled or want to age in their own homes with dignity. Joe Biden has a groundbreaking plan that ensures quality home care services for families like mine and would create good caregiving jobs to rebuild our economy.

I love my son deeply and am committed to making sure he has the best life possible. It’s important to keep him at home where we can provide him with the specialized medical care and attention he needs. But my husband and I are 75 years old and cannot do everything ourselves, so we rely on home care workers to support our son’s care.

Both our home care workers and my husband and I are compensated for the care we provide through our state’s Medicaid program. Because of our union, we have been able to make some substantial progress toward improving home care jobs, including wages of $13-15 an hour, paid time off and job training.

But with the rising cost of living, home care wages are still too low in Minnesota. Conditions are even worse for other home care workers throughout the country, with a median wage of just $11.52 an hour, and a majority lacking healthcare, paid sick time or any job training opportunities at all. In 41 states, most home care workers don’t even have the basic right to join a union.

During the pandemic, like other home care workers, we’ve been left to fend for ourselves. We have to pay for masks and gloves out of our own pockets. Disinfecting supplies are difficult to find, so we make our own sanitizing wipes by placing folded paper towels in an old coffee jar and adding liquid Lysol.

There has been an historic devaluing of caregiving work in our country, which has been compounded by sexism and racism. Almost 90% of home care workers are women, and the majority are women of color. The Trump administration has continued to keep home care workers down, by excluding us from paid sick leave provisions in the coronavirus relief bill, pushing for funding cuts and failing to create any comprehensive plan for distributing personal protective equipment.

As the population rapidly ages in our state and throughout the nation, there’s skyrocketing demand for home care, but poverty-level jobs and the lack of basic protections have led to a severe workforce shortage. Here in Minnesota, we’ll soon have more seniors than school age children, and we’ll need 68,000 additional home care workers in coming years. It’s already extremely difficult to find caregivers for my son, and there’s very high turnover as workers leave for higher-paying jobs elsewhere.

Joe Biden is facing this crisis head-on and has created a plan to make sure every American family has access to the affordable, quality home care services they need. His plan would create a million and a half new long-term care and community health jobs to solve the workforce shortage and heal the economy. Biden’s plan would also transform home care jobs into family-sustaining careers by increasing wages, benefits and job training opportunities. Finally, he would make sure all home care workers have the freedom to join a union. I’ve been so grateful to have the strength and support of a union so I can advocate for my son, his caregivers and myself, and I want all home care workers to have this fundamental right.

This plan shows that Joe Biden cares deeply about the struggles of seniors and families who have loved ones with disabilities. I’m talking to everyone I know about the importance of voting for Joe Biden, because I want to live in an America where we care for one another, lift each other up and come together to solve our most pressing challenges.

This guest column has been lightly edited for style and clarity.

This guest column was submitted by Delores Flynn, an in-home caregiver for her son and lives in Roseville, Minnesota. She is a member leader of her union SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.