Michelle Crance is shown with her adult client and the client’s husband.

Restaurants aren’t the only ones struggling to find help. Many of the state’s most vulnerable and deserving citizens are struggling to survive based on the lack of care available to them.

My job as a home health aide is so much more than a profession. I know I can make approximately $15 more per hour working in a hospital or a nursing home, but I’ll wholeheartedly admit it’s my big heart that keeps me in home care. North Carolina families need us and I can’t leave my clients, but it does make life so much more stressful.

Missing one hour of work means I might not be able to pay my bills that month. I know many other nurses who have a passion for keeping people at home, but have to make the heartbreaking decision of working where they can make more in wages. It makes sense … they have to make decisions that allow them to provide for their own families, but it’s a shame, because of the number of kids and families out there that suffer because of the wages.

I’ve dedicated my life to care for those who are elderly, sick or disabled to live as normal a life as possible and now almost 2,000 families are at risk in North Carolina because they struggle to access the care they need to remain at home

Yet despite that dedication and appreciation for the work that I do, I still struggle to provide for my family. The wages that Home Health Aides make in North Carolina aren’t proportional to the work we do and the services we provide. There are so many residents that need our help to stay home — and there will be more as people want to stay away from nursing homes and as the state’s population gets older. Governor Cooper ought to recognize that as the minimum wage ticks upwards, people like me may not be able to stay in this field. As a result, many seniors will end up exactly where they don’t want to be: In hospitals and nursing homes.

The work that I do is tremendously valued by my clients and their families and all I ask is that the state of North Carolina feels the same.

We need them to recognize the value of home health aides by increasing funding for our field so that caretakers like myself can feel secure in our jobs, our safety and our livelihood.

We do so much more than provide care, and our responsibilities go far and beyond what typical minimum wage jobs entail. We are caretakers, we become family, we provide physical and emotional support and we keep people at home where they belong and where they thrive.

Recently, North Carolina’s legislature temporarily increased private duty nursing funding by 5%. While this 5% increase has helped to offset some COVID-related costs, it does little to improve the workforce issue that has been plaguing the industry. Moreover, North Carolina raised rates for other state home care programs by 15% but left the PDN program in the lurch.

Advocates are calling for the state to increase PDN funding to the full 15% level permanently, to help mitigate families’ struggles of accessing care.

Michelle Crance is a North Carolina home health aide.