July 15, 2024 9:32 pm
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With Workers Helping Lead the Way, Colorado Can Build a Better Care System | Opinion

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by Earlene Anderson, Colorado Newsline

A few years ago, as I grieved my mother’s death and made arrangements for her funeral, I was faced with another dilemma: Who would take over the care for the two individuals that I care for every day?

In my line of work as a home host provider for people with disabilities, the lack of benefits and a growing shortage of available care workers makes it hard to take time off. Even for a parent’s funeral. In the end, I had to bring my clients with me and balance caring for them and being present at the funeral.

As a direct care worker, I always go above and beyond to make sure older adults and people with disabilities can count on high quality, compassionate care. It is time care workers are able to take care of ourselves, too.

This session, Colorado lawmakers have the chance to build a new way forward that gives care workers a strong voice in our industry and a seat at the table to help fix long-standing problems.

In my decades in this industry, I have seen firsthand employers cutting corners to keep more money in their pockets. When I had my hard-earned wages stolen by a dishonest company, I tried for years to recover my wages but I didn’t have the support I needed. Care workers deserve to have a seat at the table to address concerns and ensure our rights are protected.

In Colorado, nearly 9 out of 10 direct care workers are women and 1 in 3 is a people of color. Every day, we push through physical and mental exhaustion to ensure our clients have a good quality of life. The way things are now, we are forced to make tough sacrifices: working long hours to pay the bills, missing out on time with our families or time to care for our own health.

Without action to correct course, Colorado will continue to lose dedicated care workers in droves.

The result: People get fed up or burnt out, leading to high turnover and a crisis-level shortage of workers. Surveys show that a lack of available continuous care can lead to worse outcomes for clients and their families. When there’s not enough care workers, people are unable to access the care they need to thrive and families may lack the support they need.

Without action to correct course, Colorado will continue to lose dedicated care workers in droves. At this rate, we have to ask, will there be any care workers left when any of us or someone we love needs care?

To be clear, the need is growing fast. Colorado is the second-fastest aging state in the country. Our state’s elected leaders have a responsibility to act to stabilize this critical industry.

And workers like me — the people who understand best what needs to change — must have a voice in how we move forward. In response to the calls of care workers, state legislators introduced Senate Bill 23-261, the Direct Care Workforce Stabilization Board. This board would ensure that care workers, along with people receiving care, government and employers, have a seat at the table to make recommendations for standards to create better care jobs and ensure quality dependable care for communities.

There is no time to wait. With this board, Colorado could take a step toward a more sustainable future of care in our state. The workers providing that care deserve a voice in decisions to ensure we take care of ourselves and give the very best to our clients.

This story was written by Earlene Anderson, a home care worker and contributor to the Colorado Newsline, where this story first appeared.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.