Carers falling through the cracks

Compensating the kindness of strangers

Mary makes $8.40 an hour before taxes — $1.60 below the Massachusetts minimum wage — from the private agency that employs her. She nets $610 a week for 84 hours of work — and makes no overtime, although state law entitles her to time-and-a-half for every hour over 40.

Older and chronically ill Americans increasingly rely on unrelated people like Mary for their care. These paid caregivers — 90 percent of whom are women — routinely face low wages, high turnover, and tough working conditions. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US home health aides earn a median annual salary of $21,380 and a median hourly wage of $10.28. Half of them, including Mary, qualify for public benefits such as Medicaid or food stamps.

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