Value of caregivers for disabled people cannot be overstated

Aaron Andres

I’d like to call your attention to an issue that is effecting the lives of disabled people throughout the Upper Peninsula and perhaps throughout the country.

This issue has seemed to have gone unnoticed for some amount of time, or if people did notice they must not have noticed that it is a greater deal than what is currently known or perceived.

The issue that I am talking about is the lack of pay and/or benefits that many caregivers deal with on a regular basis. This issue goes beyond local communities and continues through the caregiving industry.

There definitely has been a noticeable change in the perception of how valuable caregivers are, whether it be in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or a hospital. One of the many agencies that deal with this issue exists right here in the Upper Peninsula.

This organization is called Upper Peninsula Commission on Area Progress, otherwise known as UPCAP. UPCAP has been serving the disabled community for 55 years. UPCAP has served the disabled community with great care and compassion, particularly with the start of the My Choice Waiver Program. This waiver allows for qualifying Medicaid and Medicare recipients to choose their own caregivers, which is unlike the other nursing and assisted living homes in the area.

That is one advantage that UPCAP has over its competition within the area and why UPCAP has been successful in giving people another alternative besides putting their loved ones in a nursing home or an assisted living facility. You can now choose who you want in the home taking care of your loved one in the hope that it will help improve the quality of life for those who need to be cared for. However, problems can come in all shapes and sizes.

One of the major problems that I’ve noticed over the past few years is the lack of concern for the hired caregiver in terms of providing adequate benefits and financial incentives for the caregiver.

It is very concerning when you look and the fast food restaurants are paying $10 per hour, meanwhile caregivers are getting paid anywhere from $9.50 per hour up to $11 per hour, when in my opinion the caregivers are providing a much more needed and higher quality of service to thousands of disabled individuals.

When you try to talk to the company or agency about a pay increase or adding benefits to a level that is more practical the company’s response is, “We simply do not have the budget or finances to raise your workers benefits or compensations.”

It is very ironic that they are saying these sort of things to the individuals that take care of the company’s source of income such as the client, because I am sure that once it comes time to give raises every year, they aren’t arguing over an amount such as the 25-cent raise that the current caregivers that are employed by UPCAP and its subsidiary companies are.

In order to get good quality workers to provide the kind of care that we would expect for our family members UPCAP and the caregiving community need to put more value on their current and future employees so that they may continue to provide the best quality of care possible for their perspective clients.

It takes more than one individual speaking out about this issue to change the current policies within the healthcare system.

I hope by reading this column it’ll encourage not only the individual companies but the ordinary citizen to put more value on the caregiver and the people that are providing care to our loved ones, instead of taking them for granted and not giving them the proper value that they deserve.

Editor’s note: Aaron Andres of Marquette uses caregivers on a daily basis for activities of daily living, as well as being a disabled advocate for individuals who feel like they can’t speak out for themselves.


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