Tue09022014

AB 889 threatens future of affordable senior home care : Other Voices

Our homes are places of comfort, safety and joy that we cherish as much as family itself.

So it’s not surprising that when surveyed, close to 90 percent of seniors prefer to live out their years in their own home. To make their wish a reality, home care must be as affordable as possible.

For the past decade, California’s Wage Order 15 has provided a set of rules for household occupations including personal attendants that provide care for seniors in their homes. It exempts personal attendants from normal overtime wage rules, but only when working in a private home, not a facility such as a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

The wage order was originally enacted to facilitate families’ ability to legally hire caregivers with the flexibility, for example, to have a single caregiver for a 24-hour, live-in shift. The caregiver isn’t working that entire time, but for the protection of the elderly client, a primary requirement may be that he or she remains in the home during breaks, time off, sleeping, etc.

State legislators hurriedly passed Assembly Bill 889 in the final hours of the summer legislative session, a bill whose intent is to eliminate the overtime exemption and allow caregivers to take their breaks away from the home. Gov. Jerry Brown has 30 days to approve or veto the bill.

If AB 889 passes, seniors may no longer be able to afford live-in care. Instead, seniors would have to hire for three eight-hour “shifts” each day – highly impractical for care at home. Additionally, work breaks during hourly shifts would allow caregivers to leave the home several times during a shift. This would require a replacement caregiver to cover short 10- to 30-minute breaks spread over an eight-hour visit. Again, not just impractical, but impossible.

Ultimately, AB 889 would drive the very home-care agencies that currently employ more than 100,000 caregivers in California out of business.

Let Governor Brown know your thoughts on AB 889 and how it could affect your or your loved ones’ ability to remain at home with care as you age. Let your voice be heard by calling (916) 445-2841 or faxing letters to (916) 558-3160.

Greg Hartwell is managing director and CEO of Homecare California, a Los Altos-based in-home caregiving agency.

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