Better pay, benefits will boost caregiving
July 1, 2021 | View PDF
I’ve had a front-row seat to the growing senior care crisis in Alaska, and I am worried. I’m worried about our seniors not getting the care they need, and I’m worried about professional caregivers leaving this field or Alaska to find better jobs elsewhere.
I’ve proudly served as a professional home care provider to help Alaskans age at home safely for almost a decade. Caregiving is a valuable and rewarding job. Over the years, severe cuts to Medicaid services and care hours undermined the ability of professional caregivers to provide the care that our seniors need. It is scary how many Alaskans need care but do not have access due to the cuts. Many of our elders and people with disabilities struggle on waitlists, are denied in services, or are forced into nursing homes at an even greater cost to the state. At worst, seniors are forced to leave their homes and move to a state where care is available.
At the same time, the pool of professionally trained caregivers is decreasing because cuts to long-term care in Alaska have made it impossible to access the number of hours necessary to financially support our own families. There are many people who have a passion for this work but can’t continue because we are not valued.
Alaska has the fastest-growing elderly population in the nation — yet we continue to face cuts to care and fewer Alaskans choosing home care as a career. If Alaska is going to do right by our seniors and those who support them, now is the time to invest in care, in seniors, and in family-sustaining jobs.
Right now, a bill is before Congress that would provide millions of dollars as an investment in home- and community-based care that Alaska needs: the American Jobs Plan. The American Jobs Plan will also protect those most vulnerable by funding expanded access to home care for our elders and people with disabilities and chronic health issues and keep more caregivers in the profession by raising wages and benefits.
Aging with dignity at home is possible for all Alaskans if we invest in care now. The American Jobs Plan gives me hope that in Alaska, we will finally do right by our seniors. Please join me in urging Congress to support desperately needed funding for in-home and community-based care.
Debbie Mulholland is 63, resides in Anchorage, and has lived in Alaska since 1971. She has worked as a caregiver since 2012 providing in-home support to Alaskan seniors.