Too often when we talk about caregiving, we focus on the immediate needs of caregivers — to take care of children, elderly parents, and other family members. That’s understandable, because the first mission is always to keep people alive and well.
But it is critical not to let ourselves lose sight of what is happening to our older adults in long-term care — a grave neglect and injustice that must be recognized by us all, and honored. A long-term care care crisis that began decades ago, which increasingly pits some aged and disabled individuals against their families, has come to paralyze our health care system.
As you have probably heard, Ontario’s new premier, Doug Ford, has made it very clear that he will be taking a hard line against the government workers who have spent decades in the province’s long-term care system. Ford’s so-called “Ford Nation” is divided over the issue, but most agree that they will fight hard to keep worker pay in line with that of the people doing the same work in other Ontario workplaces. That fight will pit employees against families, adults against children, and older adults against children.
As a social worker who grew up as the only daughter in a long-term care facility, I am one of those who recognize the crisis in Ontario’s long-term care system as a justice and equity issue. As families and long-term care workers spend their life’s work caring for vulnerable older adults, we have gone on strike to bring attention to the truly grave injustice of pay disparities, as well as the extremely costly and exorbitant care needed in the home-care system. These financial issues have contributed to the profound and growing need for home-care programs that would make care much more affordable.
When a private home-care firm provides excellent services at a dollar and a half a day, is that the correct price to pay to my mother, or could we demand a more realistic rate to compensate those who work hard and provide good care to my mother?
The work of long-term care workers is enriching, life-affirming, and life-saving. They protect vulnerable adults, they help get people back out into the community as independent as possible. That’s what care is all about.
It’s important to remember this as we witness the struggle by Ontario families to maintain them in their families, to care for their loved ones after long-term care, and to hold our elected officials to higher standards and better standards.
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Sonoma County relies on charity for Sutter cancer care These care forges lasting bonds between loved ones and caregivers. We want this bond to last, and we want our loved ones to have the quality of life they deserve.
As we see the oppression in my home province of Ontario — where families have gone on strike to seek fairness in care — we can’t help but be reminded of the fight for justice by the legendary Gloria Steinem. She and her sister, Buffy, were among the first women to protest for workers’ rights, coming out against the Board of Trade of Greater Los Angeles in 1967. They were instrumental in establishing the International Women’s Strike in the late 1970s.
I live in Los Angeles, and while Gloria is no longer alive, I feel the same commitment to protect those who care for our elderly and all individuals facing caregiving. That’s why I will be participating in the California Walk for Long-Term Care Care Workers next Saturday, July 21, in Los Angeles. Please join me and some of the care for our elderly who are responsible for their care.
As we rally together to fight for justice, our families and our caretakers, I hope that Ontario and California can move past the rhetoric and work toward an arrangement that recognizes the intrinsic and important needs of those who give us the highest quality of life.
Debra Bender is a family care advocate and the author of “On the Side of Caregivers.”