10 01 2016
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Sylvia Liang, a mother, care giver and member of SEIU 775 NW,  Dixie Mitchell, a family care giver and Washington CAN! member, and  Kassandra Gonzales, a domestic worker from CASA Latina, spoke about their personal experiences as caretakers at a town hall Feb. 11, at Greenwood Senior Center. Hundreds of people attended the event, which confronted the issues of lack of affordable healthcare for the elderly and disabled and the need for support, training and respect for those providing the care. Susan Fried photos

Over 200 care givers, care recipients, families and community members met in Seattle Saturday, Feb. 11, in a town-hall style event looking at the lack of affordable quality care options for older Americans and people with disabilities, and the struggle of caregivers for respect, support, and training.

The Seattle meeting was the local launch of a national grassroots campaign to transform America's long-term care industry, called Caring Across Generations. Seattle's "Care Congress" was the first in the nation and similar events will be taking place in least 14 other cities over the next 12 months.

As America's "age wave" begins this year—with one American turning 65 every eight seconds—transforming long-term care will become even more urgent. In Seattle, 3,792 individuals currently receive home care support through DSHS. With 10.3 percent of the Seattle population 65 or older and another 12.1 percent of Seattle residents between the ages of 55 and 65, the amount of people needing home care will only increase in future years.

The campaign, made up of over 70 organizations nationally, aims to protect what we have—Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security—while creating what we need: two million new care giving jobs, training and protection for care providers, new paths to citizenship for immigrant care providers, and measures to make care more affordable for struggling families.

In Washington State, the Caring Across Generations local coalition is led by 23 organizations. The first step is to pass a Seattle city council resolution in support of the values of the campaign. If passed, Seattle would be the first city in the country to pass local legislation around the issue.

Seattle City Council member Nick Licata attended and spoke at the event. He shared a personal story of his stepson who receives care and noted, "What happens when we become too old to take care of him? What does his future look like?" He urged the crowd to contact City Council members in support of the city council resolution and stressed that this is a "social crisis that we're facing."

Seattle City Council member Mike O'Brien also attended the event, as well as representatives from Senator Murray's office, Senator Cantwell's office and Congressman Jim McDermott's office.

The event also featured personal stories by older adults, home care and domestic workers, and family members about the current Care Crisis facing Seattle. It was an opportunity for people to connect across racial, ethnic and generational lines.

Kassandra Gonzalez, a domestic worker and volunteer at Casa Latina shared her story and struggles at the event. As a domestic worker, Kassandra feels she's discriminated against because domestic workers are excluded from labor protections and lack access to health care. Many domestic workers are either doing housekeeping work, or working as care givers without legal documentation and without a pathway to citizenship. "It will be like a dream come true to have legal rights like every other worker in the country," Kassandra said at the Care Congress.

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