SAN ANTONIO – Shirley Montalvo, who has quadriplegia, is proud of her independence, but she relies on a caregiver that helps her live her life and get ready to go out and work.
She’s been waiting months to find someone to help her full-time.
“If I don’t have caregivers, then I can’t be active. I can’t be employed because I need stability to get up out of bed and to get there,” Montalvo said. “And if nobody’s showing up or nobody’s here, then how do I do those things?”
Montalvo is grateful that family and neighbors have been able to help while she waits for a full-time caregiver.
She said caregivers can’t afford to live on what the state pays them -- a wage of $8.11 an hour. Home care workers are nontechnical and don’t need a certification.
Marjorie Costello, a chief administrative officer at Disability Services of the Southwest and LifeSpan Home Health, is advocating for legislators to increase the rebate for those who help the most vulnerable.
“It’s all the things that a person who doesn’t have a disability takes for granted, so being able to walk to the bathroom, go to the bathroom by yourself, being able to bathe yourself, being able to make your own meals, being able to feed yourself,” Costello said.
She said many of those who are drawn to the field are friends or family of those in need. They are usually females with an average age between 30 and 50 years old.
Costello said the low pay wage was a problem before the pandemic, but now it’s a crisis. Before 2020, she says they were staffing about 80% to 90% of their hours. Currently, they’re staffing about 40%.
“We are losing these people who have this heart of service to basically all these other industries because they can’t survive off of the wage that Texas has allocated for them,” Costello said.
She’s advocating for a pay increase to $16 an hour, about $2 billion annually. She said failing to increase pay will turn more people away, causing many to go to nursing homes at a higher cost to taxpayers.
“We need a long-term sustainable solution,” Costello said.
She said those who want to support their cause should reach out to their state lawmakers. Visit savehomecare.org to learn more.