Like many people with disabilities, I rely on the support of personal care attendants to complete activities of daily living. These supports are vital for us to live our day-to-day lives, however, working as a personal care attendant is not an easy job. Personal care attendants should be treated with more respect.
Hiring Personal Care Attendants Through Medicaid
In Michigan, when using Medicaid dollars to pay for personal care attendants, you have two options: to hire staff through direct-hire or through an agency. When hiring staff through direct hire, the person with a disability is the employer and they hire and manage their own staff. When utilizing an agency, a third-party company is the employer and does all the hiring. There are pros and cons to each staffing option. Before the pandemic, both options provided consistent support to people with disabilities, for the most part.
The Struggle of Finding Attendants
In the last two years, I have been told by multiple personal care attendants that my wages are too low (the rate of pay is set by Medicaid). I’ve also been turned away by several staffing agencies because they do not have enough staff to provide support.
Lack of Training
Since the beginning of COVID-19, it has been difficult to find people who are willing to work as personal care attendants. During the pandemic, those who were working for staffing agencies were working 60+ hours a week to support those in need. This staffing shortage is due to poor working conditions, lack of proper training and low pay. Lack of proper training causes an unsafe environment for the staff member and the person receiving support. Everyone has unique needs and desires for how they want to spend their days and should be treated as such.
Many people working for agencies earn about $10 an hour and those working for someone through direct hire earn about $12 an hour. These wages have been proven to not be livable or not enough to compensate for the skills needed to provide personal care services.
The Need for Change
The personal care staffing shortage directly impacts the lives of people with disabilities and is another barrier that prevents us from being fully integrated into our communities. Lawmakers need to pass laws to increase the wages and provide more individualized trainings to personal care attendants.
About Isabella Bullock: Isabella, or Izzie for short, is an employment specialist for the Center of Independent Living. She is an iced coffee enthusiast who enjoys getting lost in a good book. Click here to learn more about Isabella.
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