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Why is One of the Most In-Demand Jobs So Low Paid?

Ms. Magazine

Beth Baker - Ms. Magazine

Those who care for our elders continue to be stuck at the bottom as far as wages and respect, despite rapidly growing need for their services. No matter the setting in which they work—nursing homes, assisted living, individual homes—direct care workers are low-paid, often without health insurance and confronted with back-breaking labor and challenging clients with complex medical needs. And, no surprise, nearly 9 out of 10 direct-care workers are women, 28 percent are African-American and 23 percent are immigrants.

These caregivers provide the most intimate care imaginable to frail and vulnerable people. We depend on them to give competent, compassionate attention to our grandparents—and to us as we age.  Their clients' lives are literally in their hands. "What we do is important," says Tracy Dudzinski, a direct-care worker in Wisconsin since 1996. "One of the most rewarding experiences you can have is to go in and help make a difference in a person's day."

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