MEDFORD, Ore. - It's National Family Caregivers Month, and within five years, about half of all Americans in the workforce will have a second, unpaid job caring for an aging relative, according to AARP.
One option for assistance is an in-home caregiver.
Rebecca Sandoval of Medford helps her home-care clients with everything from bathing and toileting, to transportation and cooking.
One client is in her 50s, the other in her 90s, and Sandoval says they have one thing in common: Neither could live on her own without some help.
"We enable people to live a happy life in their own homes, and we also save the state so much money by doing it," she said. "I know that the families of the people that I take care of are very grateful to me. They treat me like I'm part of their family."
Sandoval is an officer of the caregivers' union in Oregon, SEIU Local 503. More than 18,000 Oregon home-care workers belong to the union, which they say offers health insurance, paid time off and other benefits that they didn't have before they organized in 2000.
Joy'e Willman of Portland specializes in home-based care for people with disabilities. She says some members of her own family have disabilities, so the career choice came naturally.
"I've been around people with disabilities my whole life, and it's just natural for me to be around them," Willman said. "I don't treat them like they're any different; I expound on their positives and don't make a big issue of the negatives. I just do what needs to be done and help them achieve what they need achieved."
After 20 years as a caregiver, Willman has this advice for people with an older relative:
"Even though they've got all the high technology of today, and they have TVs and everybody's just a phone call away, there's nothing like sitting with somebody," she said. "And even if you don't talk, just sitting there watching TV with them, knowing there's another human being in the room can make a huge, huge difference for them."
Home-care workers with clients supported by the state of Oregon make just over $10 an hour. But most in-home care is still unpaid, and performed by family members. AARP says its value is $450-billion a year.
Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service prepared this report.