Expanding home care as San Francisco’s population ages
John Tellez, from San Francisco, remembers when he could take BART down the line for just 60 cents, a bygone era when he could more easily afford to live in The City and work as a home health aide for his grandmother in Daly City. .
But after her grandmother passed away, Tellez had to find a new job on top of dealing with the loss of a family member. Construction helped him get by, but the rising cost of living ultimately left him homeless for almost four years.
These days, Tellez is back on her feet and doing what he loves: helping others live comfortably and safely at home. Not only that, but the 57-year-old is returning to school to take his real expertise as a home care provider to the next level with training to become a certified nursing assistant.
“I like helping people. You know, it’s like karma. Someday I might need help again,” said Tellez, who now works with shelter hotel clients on. place in San Francisco, many of whom request to work with him due to shared experiences with homelessness.
Tellez is one of the first five cohort members of a pilot program between City College of San Francisco, the University of California, San Francisco and Homebridge, a San Francisco-based home care provider that serves people elderly and people with complex health problems and behavioral needs.
On a typical day, Tellez meets clients such as a stroke survivor living in an on-site hotel in Japantown, where he helps with everything from errands to changing bedding to administering medication and to help the client move safely.
It’s the same type of job Tellez did while supporting his grandmother and more recently as a trained home caregiver at Homebridge, where he has now worked for two years. But now those hours are helping him get a new degree and higher earning potential in his next job, which he hopes will be in a nursing home or hospital.
The program, which is funded by the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Metta Fund, provides free on-the-job training to home support workers at Homebridge and clinical training with UCSF, culminating in to a certified nursing assistant. certification by the City College of San Francisco.
The fully accredited 15 week course began in September. It includes 10 hours of weekly instruction through the CCSF plus a 100 hour clinical practice requirement at UCSF Health.
Home health services are a vital cog in San Francisco’s healthcare network that helps keep very low income residents in their own homes, providing both a sense of independence and keeping hospital beds. and emergency room open for patients with other immediate needs.
But the training initiative comes at a time when San Francisco faces a severe shortage of home care providers coupled with an aging population, creating the perfect storm for unmet hospital bed demands and increasing demand. homelessness.
“If you can’t survive at home well, you could lose your home,” said Mark Burns, executive director of Homebridge. “You can’t keep the place clean and you can be kicked out. You might have too many emergency health experiences, find yourself in the emergency room more often, and not be able to help yourself at home. So you might end up in a retirement home, but there aren’t even enough beds. “
Seniors are the fastest growing age group in San Francisco. By 2030, the city’s Social Services Agency estimates that 30% of the population will be 60 and over.
According to the San Francisco Human Services Agency, approximately 25,000 people currently receive home care and 23,000 caregivers. Demand for home care recipients has grown by around 5% per year over the past two years, a trend that is expected to continue unless workforce trends change.
“There is a huge need and a huge gap. As you can imagine, this is really hard work, ”said Kelly Dearman, executive director of disability and aging services at the SF Human Services Agency. “It’s not just about recruiting anyone, but we need people who speak multiple languages and can meet a variety of needs.
Home care is a cottage industry compared to other medical practices. In many cases, these caregivers are family members who are paid to care for a loved one full time.
Clients who cannot afford to run their own services, or who do not have a family member who can support them, can find home caregivers through the San Francisco Home Caregiver Registry or through Homebridge. . (To ask questions or request home support care services, San Francisco residents can call (415) 355-6700.)
But home support services typically pay minimum wage wages, making it harder for caregivers to live in San Francisco and do physically and emotionally demanding jobs.
Across the city, 65% of home service providers are women and 34% are men, according to the Human Services Agency. Black and Latin women make up the vast majority of home caregivers in San Francisco and beyond.
“The people who work in this industry are mostly immigrants and women of color, people who are often taken advantage of to work long hours with low pay,” Burns said. “Our goal is to move them to a place like Laguna Honda where the starting salary is closer to $ 25 to $ 26, and (they can) experience an increase in the pay scale.”
Veronica Diaz-Gracida, another participant in the program, has worked as a home health aide for four years. She decided to take the program once she saw a chance to move into the medical field, an opportunity she hadn’t considered when fees and regular work responsibilities got in the way.
“I don’t want to worry about whether or not I can pay my rent, or how I can take care of my kids and work at a job that’s right for me,” said Diaz-Gracida, 32, who lives to the mission.
Throughout the pandemic, home and community care workers have been the first responders to the elderly and people with disabilities living at home in isolation. By providing more opportunities for advancement in the field and training to move into other medical professions, Burns and Dearman believe more people will be interested in these jobs.
“This is how we get people to the door,” Dearman said.
Diaz-Gracida has goals beyond a bigger salary in mind. She hopes her children will see her studying and discover opportunities that they may also seize.
“I tell my kids, ‘Every day I had to learn new things,'” said Diaz-Gracida, adding that she planned to show them the campus once she started her clinical training at UCSF. . “I want to show them that if you want something, you have to work for it.”