Through interviews and original photography, PHI is working with direct care workers nationwide to document their stories and share their ideas for transforming jobs in long-term care. This interview is with Sam Owen, a Home Care Specialist at Community Living Alliance in Madison, Wisconsin. He has been a direct care worker for 14 years.
On why he decided to become a home care worker
“When I was in high school, I was a special needs student. I had a team supporting me from youth, and they determined that I was a good fit for a career in health care. I have family members with both physical and mental disabilities, so I have a comfort level with that, and I went to college for occupational therapy. I started off working with people with severe disabilities and eventually got hired by a client through Community Living Alliance (CLA). I’m able to help a large number of people in this job, and I feel really appreciated.”
On how to be successful in his role
“When I work with people, I try and push the envelope of what can get done. I know a lot of clients have to hurry up and wait in their lives; their caregivers come in and only have so much time. Often clients can’t take advantage of care services in a way that makes them feel like they are fully living their lives, beyond getting basic needs met. I’m just happy that I’m able to make my clients’ lives a little bit better in that short timeframe that I get to see them.”
“I’m just happy that I’m able to make my clients’ lives a little bit better in that short timeframe that I get to see them.”
On serving rural areas
“I know CLA is always trying to hire people who are comfortable in the more rural areas of Wisconsin. Sometimes the clients are frustrated because nobody wants to drive out that far. And the clients all need care at the exact same time, so now we’re cutting workers down to just an hour with each of them because we can’t leave somebody in bed unattended past a certain point.”
On why home care is critical
“I think if we give up on home care, then people with disabilities and older adults won’t have their own lives. If they don’t get the care they need in their homes, they will end up having to go to nursing facilities when it’s not necessary, and they don’t deserve that. This job is sort of like fighting on the front lines to keep people afloat.”
The Direct Care Worker Story Project aims to enhance the visibility of this workforce, amplify its voices, and draw on workers’ unique wisdom to inform policy and practice. The Project seeks to address the lack of representation of direct care workers in public narratives and ensure images used to depict long-term care work are grounded in workers’ and clients’ real experiences. If you’re interested in sharing your story as a direct care worker, please email us at info@PHInational.org.