MY STORY: Fatima, Bronx
I live with my husband and three adult sons. It used to take me 40 minutes on the subway to reach my 75-year-old client in Upper Manhattan. It is too risky to take the train these days, so instead I take two buses, which takes me 90 minutes each way. That journey is on top of the 12-hour-shifts I do four days a week to make ends meet. What I’m earning is certainly not enough for me to take a taxi.
I immigrated to New York City from the Dominican Republic eight years ago and am largely the only one supporting my family of five. Not only do I have to find money for my own masks and disposable gloves, I also have to provide protective equipment for my client when I take him to the doctor.
I know the virus is everywhere -- in the pharmacy, the supermarket, wherever you go outside your home. My 24-year-old son recently found work cleaning and disinfecting common areas of buildings; work that also exposes him and the rest of my family to the virus. So far everyone is safe, but we just don’t know when this will end. No one knows.
MY STORY: Vishally, New York City
I have worked as a home health aide for most of my life. Before COVID-19, I spent 35 hours a week looking after a 72-year-old woman who needs an oxygen tank and depends on me for help with all her basic needs. I am her hands and feet. I pick up her medicines and go to the supermarket for her.
Last week, the NYC Mayor’s office delivered PPE to my agency. Before that, I had to use the same mask for a week and ran out of hand-sanitizer. Now, I’ve been able to take on another home care client – a 30-year-old man who suffers from epilepsy and autism – and I’ve begun working nights as a Certified Nursing Assistant at my local hospital, Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island, NY.
As a single mother of two children aged 16 and 20, who currently live with me, my kids motivate me to work. I’m originally from British Guyana and have made NYC my home for the last 30 years. Before the pandemic, I was using my union benefits to study to become a Patient Care Technician and eventually a nurse. But all that is on hold now, until the crisis is over.
MY STORY: Gwendolyn, Boston
Caregiving is not my passion; it is my purpose. I have been a personal care attendant for nearly 14 years. As caregivers, we are not just providing a service, we are keeping families connected. It is important to be able to provide comfort to the loved ones of those we care for. To be able to reassure families that their grandparents, parents, and children are taken care of is important, especially in the time of COVID-19. The joy they receive when I send them a selfie with their loved one is even more special now.
Homecare is work that is largely invisible. We are on the frontlines; it just happens to be in people’s homes. We deserve to be seen. To care for someone in their home is a special gift, a gift that ensures they are able to live independently and with dignity. I want to ensure they can continue to rely on me, now and in the future.