I’ve lived in Humboldt County most of my life. I’ve raised a beautiful family and made countless memories in a county whose natural beauty echoes the warmth of the people that call it home. Many of you reading these words are my family and friends.
I’m a Yurok tribal member whose ancestors are from the Klamath River. In May of 1980 I was in a car accident that broke my neck. I can’t use my hands and I have no balance. I’m totally dependent on someone to care for me. I live alone with my three cats in Arcata and need my caregivers to remain an active member of our community.
I’m usually looking for caregivers. My caregivers provide the same care that registered nurses perform; services like: catheter/bowel care, administering medication and physical therapy range of motion exercises. Every day my caregivers keep me safe, my home sanitized, prepare my meals and bathe me.
The turnover and training of new caregivers sometimes leaves me without the care I need. It’s hard to rely on caregivers who perform the same services as nurses and make minimum wage. One month I had eight caregivers. My caregivers often work split shifts in order to cover the care I need each day.
In the past, I was able to rely on nursing students from Humboldt State and College of the Redwoods who needed paramedical experience; so they became caregivers temporarily. Due to lack of funding, Humboldt State has discontinued its nursing program, meaning that there are less caregivers seeking paramedical experience. Even when nursing students are available as caregivers, it’s not always easy to receive care from individuals whose schedules change every semester.
For 32 years I’ve been exposed to the needs of the disabled community in our county. I’ve been an IHSS Advisory Board member for over five years. Prior to becoming a member of the IHSS Advisory Board, I found that the underserved populations in our county needed a voice. Humboldt County was one of the last counties to establish an IHSS Advisory Board.
The IHSS Advisory Board is an 11-member committee that must have six IHSS recipients and is charged with advising the county supervisors on the local administration of the IHSS program. It mandates that recipients have a voice in the program they receive services from. In Humboldt County we have an underserved IHSS population and face major challenges in care quality and care delivery due to our county’s rural nature and the poverty wages we pay our caregivers.
I attended the recent IHSS fact finding hearing and told my story. After attending the hearing I realized a major reason the county board of supervisors had never increased wages for caregivers: county staff responsible with advising the board on IHSS, such as Health & Human Services director Phillip Crandall, opposed any increases.
Even after my testimony, Crandall insisted that the IHSS program was working fine within the county. But he’s never had to lay in bed for hours when a caregiver decides he/she can no longer afford to care for him at $8/hr. or say goodbye to a nursing student working as his caregiver who has left to take a better paying nursing job with benefits.
The current status of IHSS in Humboldt County is heartbreaking. I became teary-eyed when I learned that the county could afford to increase wages for caregivers and chose not to.
Elders and disabled people receive IHSS. We’re your grandmothers, your veterans, your spouses and your children. We use wheelchairs, walkers, and dialysis machines. We all don’t have family members that can care for us in our time of need. We need our caregivers and they’re asking for so very little.
If you’re moved by anything you’ve read in my letter or care about those that care for people like me, please call the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors (707-476-2396) today and tell them: The facts don’t lie. Implement the IHSS Fact Finder’s Recommendations and be fair to those who care.
I’m a proud Humboldt resident.
Jene L. McCovey