ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – If you’ve ever had to care for a loved one around the clock, you know how difficult it can be.
Advocates say imagine it’s your job and you make less than fast food workers.
“We hang out a lot here playing with toys,” Katie Chapman said.
Chapman spends about 40 hours a week at Hillary Savoie’s house caring for her 6-year-old daughter Esme.
She does not speak, lives with multiple developmental disabilities and mainly communicates with her eyes.
Unfortunately, Chapman is leaving next month to finish school across the country. Finding a replacement has not been easy.
“If I advertise with the rate of pay, I either get no responses or I get responses from people who just really aren’t appropriate caregivers,” Savoie said.
Through the state program, she’s in, Savoie can only offer $10.75 an hour as reimbursement rates remain low from the State Department of Health.
“When you take into consideration that Katie is doing things that a nurse would be paid three times as much to do, it’s embarrassing,” Savoie said.
A report this week says 56 percent of personal assistants left the business because of low pay.
More than half of the state’s 35,000 caregivers like Chapman make less than $11 an hour.
Advocates say at a minimum, caregivers should make the same as fast-food workers. Currently, $12 an hour in New York City is being offered.
For anyone out there doubting the need for higher wages, Savoie says just spend one day with her daughter.
All of her water, food, and medication comes through a tube. Something different every hour or two requiring around the clock care.
“Esme has no safety awareness so you can’t set her on the couch and walk out of the room or leave her even in our bed.”
“You have to constantly have eyes on her, make sure she doesn’t put something in her mouth. Ask them what they think that’s worth an hour,” Savoie said.
Savoie says higher wages for proper care would go a long way.
“It’s a benefit for our family and our community and our state.”
The Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York says at a minimum the state should match fast food workers’ wages by October. The proposal would cost New York $21 million this year.