ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — November marks both National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregiver Month. As nursing homes face capacity issues due to the pandemic, many New Yorkers have started moving to in-home caregiving.
With this increased demand from customers comes a push for wage increases.
Maritza Buitrago has been caring for her father who has had Alzheimer’s disease for about 12 years.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a brain disease that affects cognitive ability, personality changes, and basic functions. A caregiver providing for an individual with Alzheimer’s Disease is caring for all these issues and more.
“The Papi I had yesterday — it’s not the Papi I have today,” she said. “It’s not the Papi I’ll have tomorrow.”
She started as a long-distance caregiver, checking in on her dad virtually while he was in Puerto Rico. Then, after Hurricane Maria hit the territory 5 years ago, she became an in-home caregiver.
“There are so many [challenges],” Buitrago said. “You have to coordinate care with the doctors, communication […] make sure they still have that social stimulation.”
That’s a big role to take on when you may have a full-time job or other obligations. According to a report by the Consumer Directed Personal Care Assistance Association of New York, 450,000 caregivers will be needed by 2025 to keep up with growing demand.
On October 1, the Department of Health increased Medicaid reimbursement rates, which allowed for caregiver wages to increase by $2 an hour.
But with minimum wages for the position in Upstate New York remaining at $15 an hour, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association, Teresa Galbier said the increase doesn’t cover it.
“It’s very physically taxing, emotionally taxing […] they have to balance their finances and be able to provide for their families,” she said. “They are taking care of our greatest generation. And they absolutely deserve to be compensated fairly for the work that they do.”
And many caregivers are figuring out how to best look after their loved ones on their own.
“No caregiving story is the same,” she said. “I am a very ‘rules’ person, and there’s no book.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, New York alone has 410,000 people living with the disease and 563,000 people providing unpaid family caregiving. As millions of baby boomers continue to enter their 70s, the number of Alzheimer’s patients is only expected to rise.