May is Older Americans Month, and at 73-years-old, my mother is part of one of this country’s greatest—and largest—generations. In his Older Americans Month proclamation this year, President Obama reminded us that “within the next 13 years, more than one in five Americans will be of retirement age, and our nation must make it a priority to ensure they are able to retire and live with dignity and respect.”
More and more ‘Baby Boomers’ are retiring every day. And as they live longer, many will choose to age in their homes with the assistance of in-home caregivers like us. In fact, it’s estimated that 70 percent of older Americans will need long-term care during their lifetime, and the United States will need about 2.5 million additional home care providers to keep up with this need.
My family’s home care journey began in 2007 when I became the IHSS provider for my son Marshall, who lives with autism. IHSS allows me to work and focus on my son’s care. The IHSS program acknowledges that providing care for a relative or a non-family client is hard work, and should be treated as such. In the years that I’ve worked as my son’s provider, I’ve gained so much experience and learned a lot about providing quality care.
When my mother Irene was diagnosed with dementia in 2012, I was devastated. But because of my experience as my son’s home care provider, I felt prepared. I knew immediately that I needed to enroll her in IHSS, and because I wanted my mom to feel the same support she’s always given me, I became her caregiver as well.
For me, caring for my mom is an honor and a privilege. I can finally give back to her some of the care and support that she’s given me and my nine siblings our whole lives. The recipes she’d make for us as children are the same recipes I cook for her now.
But I don’t just cook and clean for my mother—as her IHSS provider I am able to ensure that she remains safe and healthy in our home.
For my mom, IHSS means independence: she is able to make decisions about her life and her care, she socializes with our loved ones, and she has the peace of mind that I will always be there to help her when she needs me. It is truly a blessing to provide her with care and help her age with dignity and grace.
I feel that we should respect older Americans for the experience they have and the sacrifices they’ve made for us. We should ask them questions, listen, and receive their sage advice and life lessons. We should cherish the moments we have with them while they’re here with us and we are here with them. And we should care for and protect them as best we can, which is what IHSS providers do every day.
This month and in the years and decades to come, we should heed the President Obama’s words: “one of the best measures of a country is how it treats its older citizens. During Older Americans Month, let us pay tribute to the men and women who raised, guided, and inspired us, and let us honor their enduring contributions to our society by safeguarding their rights and the opportunities they deserve.”
Percie Slate is an IHSS provider for her mother Irene and son Marshall in San Diego County.