I know the importance of fighting for what you believe in. I’ve known battle lines all my life. At a young age I fought for our country. After my mom passed away I fought for my family. And now that I’m a caregiver, I find myself having to fight for the work that I do.
I was 17 years old when I enrolled in the U.S. Army. I was young but the lessons I learned then I still carry with me to this day. First and foremost, our motto — This We’ll Defend — is something that is a theme in my own personal life. When my mom passed away, my sister was left without someone to care for her. My sister is 50 years old but has the mentality of a child as she needs 24 hour supervision. I feed her, bathe her, take her to doctor’s appointments, provider her medication and make sure she doesn’t run off on her own. I knew that I had to step up to the plate for my sister, to protect her and help her even if it meant I had to quit my career so that I could be her full-time caregiver.
Thanks to the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, my sister is able to receive care in the comfort of her home and be cared for by someone she loves and trusts. I’ve witnessed firsthand the benefits the IHSS program brings to those it serves, experienced the struggles that come with being a caregiver, and know the importance of defending both.
The second lesson I cherish is from our Soldier’s Creed: I am a warrior and a member of a team.
I am not the only IHSS caregiver in San Bernardino County nor am I the only veteran. In fact, there are over a thousand other local veterans like me who are caregivers. And my sister is not the only person who needs in-home care. There are more than 30,500 San Bernardino County seniors and people with disabilities in the IHSS program and over 26,000 IHSS caregivers – of whom I consider to be a team.
It’s because of our team of caregivers that our low-income seniors and those with disabilities are able to remain in the comfort of their own homes instead of being institutionalized – saving taxpayers millions of dollars and resulting in better health outcomes for those receiving care. Yet, in San Bernardino County caregivers are paid only minimum wage and our county leaders have not been willing to support a contract to lift caregivers out of poverty. As a result, we are often forced to choose between paying the rent and putting food on the table.
If the county is truly committed to fulfilling its vision of “offering a home for anyone seeking a sense of community and the best life has to offer,” it should start with providing its largest workforce – its caregivers – with a respectable and livable wage.
The third lesson I carry with me today is also found in our Soldier’s Creed: I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. And that is exactly what I intend to do.
I’m a fighter. I fight for what I believe in. I don’t quit.
With November being National Family Caregivers month and also the month in which we recognize our veterans and give thanks with friends and family, I hope our County leaders hear my story, recognize the importance of caregivers, and take the necessary action to bring dignity to this vital work.
Submitted by Ronnie Taylor