As the national spotlight focuses on the future of care for older adults and people with disabilities, this Father’s Day I am thinking about my family’s experience, six years ago, when my dad was recovering from stomach cancer surgery and how home care enabled his full recovery. I deeply value and am grateful for my relationship with my dad, but without access to homecare, I’m not sure that I would be able to talk politics and play Scrabble with him today.
My dad was diagnosed with stage 3 stomach cancer in the spring of 2015. When exploring treatment options, he decided to undergo chemotherapy and then have surgery to remove the cancer.
The surgery, we had been told, was a common and simple procedure. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be one surgery, ended up being three operations and months of recovery in the hospital and a rehabilitation center. When my dad was finally able to return home, his body had taken a beating.
Image: My younger sister, mom, dad and me celebrating Father’s Day in 2018!
Fortunately, my dad had long-term care insurance which allowed my parents to hire a caregiver named Reynaldo through a local agency. Reynaldo helped my dad with bathing and dressing, testing his blood sugar, medication, and gradually supported him to build the strength to walk down the street again. Reynaldo also helped my mom with light cleaning and gave her much-needed rest from her own caregiving responsibilities.
While Reynaldo’s role in my dad’s recovery was just as essential as the doctors, surgeons and nurses, we were aware that he wasn’t compensated nearly enough. While my parents never knew how much Reyn was paid because he was hired through an agency, they knew he juggled many jobs and did not have a permanent place to live. They gave him bonuses, and if they could have afforded it, would have paid him more.
I know my family’s experience is not unique. 70% of people turning 65 will need some type of long-term care in their lifetime. Yet, for people with lower and moderate incomes, who are paying out of pocket for services, home care is simply not affordable. My dad was privileged to have long-term care insurance, but most people do not— only 1 in 30 Americans own a policy. Many people are placed in impossible situations where they are forced into institutions because it’s the only way for them to receive subsidized care. This is wrong and must end.
Fortunately, we have leaders in office now that understand that our long-term care system is broken. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan would provide $400 billion to expand access to home and community based services, and increase wages and benefits to workers. It’s crucial that it be passed.
I’m excited to celebrate my dad’s 51st Father’s Day this Saturday – he’s 83 years old. As my family celebrates his journey to becoming cancer-free, we also join the chorus of voices demanding public investment in long-term care.
Happy Fathers Day,
Stacy Kono, Hand in Hand Executive Director