Direct care workers are the certified nurse aides, home care aides, personal care attendants and others who serve our family and friends on the front-lines of nursing homes, assisted living centers, in private homes and apartments, in centers serving people with disabilities and various other settings.
The work they do helps keep people as independent as possible, and leading the highest quality of life possible.
They are in one of the largest and highest-demand occupations in the state. And as The Gazette has written, it’s an occupation in crisis — too few enter it, and too few stay in it.
For too long, these workers have been called “essential” but treated as “expendable.” Their wages, benefits, training and career opportunities have been inadequate; few incentives have been provided to encourage Iowans to view this as a good job that can lead to a great career.
COVID put a spotlight on the importance of this workforce, and what happens when it’s taken for granted.
2021 presents a choice to those who employ direct care workers, and elected officials who make policy regarding them. They can: 1. Learn nothing from COVID and go back to business as usual, and be content with poor jobs that often produce poor care, or 2. Shift gears and create better jobs that produce better care.
This is doable. It will take this — a few strong leaders to step up and say “Let’s Do This!”