Caregivers fill a void for those in need
On Thursday morning Yelena Singer opened the front door of the apartment wearing black rubber gloves. She was about to spend around 30 minutes washing dishes in the kitchen, taking out the trash and bundling blankets to be washed into a basket.
Singer works as a caregiver with Nevada-Sierra Regional In-Home Supportive Services Public Authority, a program that serves almost 700 low-income individuals with disabilities and seniors in Nevada County. In-Home Supportive Services recruits and trains qualified caregivers and aids in matching them with clients in need of assistance.
Singer said the individuals she cares for are like her grandmothers. She said she works two to three days a week doing the everyday tasks her client, Truckee resident Bridgette Weiszhaar, cannot do at home because of a disability.
Weiszhaar said she has been battling fibromyalgia, a chronic syndrome causing muscle and joint pain, for 15 years. The pain has grown worse over time, and day-to-day household chores are too much for her to do by herself. With no family living nearby, she decided to hire a caregiver, she said.
Weiszhaar said she heard about In-Home Supportive Services from her neighbors. She said the agency sent a few potential caregivers to her home to let her, as the employer, interview each person and find out if the caregiver candidate would be a good match. Honesty and personality were some of the qualifications Weiszhaar was looking for, and found, in Singer, she said.
“I was used to being alone. I really enjoy having her here. She’s not just my caretaker. She’s my friend,” Weiszhaar said. “I’ve had caretakers before who didn’t want to clean. All they wanted to do was to get paid.”
The In-Home Supportive Services program is funded by county, state, and federal funding. Caregivers received a wage increase from $7.50 to $8.56 per hour, which kicked in this month. Health benefits will also be available to caregivers working 80 or more hours per month by March or April, said Tony Sauer, In-Home Supportive Services program executive director.
The caregivers’ program is critical to the people served, as many of the individuals classify as low-income, or are in jeopardy of being institutionalized because of a disability, Sauer said. For many residents, “it’s a lot more cost-effective for them to stay at home,” Sauer said.
In Truckee, many of the caregivers work for more than one client. Some choose to be a caregiver as a supplement to their income, but for many it’s full-time work, Sauer said.
“They need me. There’s not many providers here,” said Singer, who worked as a pediatrician in Russia before moving to the United States seven years ago.
No certification is required to be a caregiver with In-Home Supportive Services program, Sauer said. The agency screens potential caregivers and will conduct a background check of the person’s criminal history, he said. Sauer said when problems with a potential caregiver are discovered, the caregiver will be pulled off the agency’s registry. Any CPR training or a certified nursing aid license is valuable, but not required, Sauer said.
The agency will try to match a caregiver to a client’s needs in order for both of them to feel comfortable, Sauer said.
“People should have a willingness to work with seniors and be caring and compassionate,” Sauer said.