I have been the primary caregiver for my wife, who has MS, for over 15 years and have been fortunate enough to be able to hire outside caregivers for the past 12.
During that time, I have given tens of thousands of dollars to help these wonderful helpers make it from paycheck to paycheck. I’ve given our beloved caregivers money to pay for auto repairs and replacements, appliances, clothes, Christmas gifts for their kids, etc. — all for the purpose of relieving their financial burden so they can concentrate on quality care for my wife Margaret. I know for a fact that many other clients of caregivers do the same thing.
Caregivers working in franchise agencies have it particularly rough and are exploited by the home care industry. They are paid less than 45% of the hourly rate that is charged, have no benefits, and are treated like temporary, expendable workers.
It all came to a head for me in June of 2013 when I was laid-up with a compressed disk for four weeks. Because my wife and I both needed care, the agency raised my rate from $27 per hour to $31 per hour, but the caregiver got none of that even though she was taking care of two of us. It was all for more “admin.” Multiply $31 per hour for 24/7 care over four weeks and … well … you do the math!
The caregivers were getting between $9.57/hour (minimum wage in Washington State) and $11/hour out of the $31 and were not allowed overtime, while the agency raked it in.
During that four weeks when I was laid-up, this situation really got to me and so I explored alternative business models for caregiving. That’s when I discovered homecare cooperatives.
There are only five caregiver coops in the U.S. and they are all thriving. And it took years for them to get up to speed for two reasons: the business skills required to be an employee/owner are not common among the people who are drawn to caregiving; and it is extraordinarily difficult for coop entrepreneurs to obtain startup funding.
Due to the current and growing shortage of caregivers for us Baby Boomers and our parents, innovative solutions for the homecare issue are getting support from the likes of AARP, the Dept. of Agriculture (for rural seniors and disabled) and foundations like the National Cooperative Business Association and the NW Cooperative Development Center. In fact, these agencies recently collaborated to develop a webinar on “How to Start and Run a Home Care Cooperative.” And grants and micro-loans for social entrepreneurs are also
The HomeCare Foundation is packaging those solutions - along with some innovative marketing techniques - into a unique venture philanthropy effort to jumpstart caregiver coops and address this pressing social issue on a large scale.
We are providing financial and non-financial support to incubate, hatch and raise as many coops as possible, starting with the eQuality HomeCare Coop in New Braunfels, TX - the target for our initial fundraising campaign. The goal is better lives for caregivers and better care for people who need it. And remember, we’re all going to need a little help one of these days!
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