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 Carol Langston, a Personal Care Worker at Community Living Alliance in Madison, Wisconsin. She has been a direct care worker for 24 years.
On why she decided to become a home care worker
“I started working at Community Living Alliance (CLA) when my son was three years old. My husband had recently died, and I needed a job but also needed flexibility since my son was so young. A friend of mine worked for CLA and told me to apply, I met with my first client, and then luckily it all ended up working out. Who knew all these years later I was going to be still be here? But I’ve got to tell you, it’s the clients that keep me going in this job.”
On serving rural areas
“There is a lot of farmland in this county, and the condition of the main road is just horrible. I see potholes the size of tables! For a long time, I had a client in a rural area. I don’t have GPS in my car, so my directions were based on landmarks, like taking a right at a big pine tree. But then two years had passed since the last time I drove to that client, and when I went back, I couldn’t find the landmark I needed and the road was way worse than the last time I was sent there. It was very stressful, but I just had to get there, no matter what. Our clients need us to be there.”
On her relationship with her clients
“My favorite part of the job is the clients, especially my regulars who I get to see over and over again. You can get really close with them. But even when I was doing on-call work, I worked with some clients who others considered difficult, but I always had a ball with them. I really did! There was just something in our personalities that made us click. I’ve had family members say to us, ‘You guys are having way too much fun in there!’ Because we’d laugh all the time. My clients and I have a lot of fun, and there’s also mutual respect between us.”
“My favorite part of the job is the clients, especially my regulars who I get to see over and over again. You can get really close with them.
On what she has learned from being a home care worker
“Doing this work has made me realize that we only have so much time in this world, so we might as well be nice to each other while we’re here. And you might as well be grateful for every day that you can get up out of the bed and do everything you need to do without having to wait for somebody to come help you with even the small things, like making toast. That’s one of the simple things I’ve learned, but it’s a big one: you should appreciate every day. I am truly thankful every morning I can get up out of bed by myself and do my morning routine, and then get into the car to go help my clients.”
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.