The Ability to Love

Many times, parents of children with disabilities wonder if their child will ever get married and be able to live independently with their spouse. While every person faces different challenges, everyone has the ability to love.

Regardless of the disabilities and challenges Randy and Barbara face, they have found love with each other and are taking on the world together. Their love story began many years ago when they first met in 5th grade. While they attended different middle schools, they reconnected as friends in high school. After high school, they drifted apart but Randy always knew Barbara was the one for him.

Years later, Randy searched for Barbara on social media where they reconnected. Then their love story picked up right where it left off. They married in February 2015 in a small, intimate, ceremony at Easterseals Central and Southeast Ohio, where Randy works as a custodian. The whole Easterseals team worked together to provide everything for their special day including an officiant, cake, photographer and decorations. It truly was a magical day filled with so much love for two individuals starting their life together. When asked what their favorite memories of their wedding day are, Randy and Barbara said, “Being together and our vows.”

Randy and Barb
Randy and Barbara enjoying an evening out together.

Barbara says what she loves most about Randy is his kind heart, willingness to help people in need, and how he makes her laugh all the time. Randy says he loves everything about Barbara, especially her kind heart. To make their marriage work, they say you have to make compromises with each other and talk things out.

When asked what their favorite memories are together, they said, “everything.” On behalf of Easterseals, Happy Anniversary! Best wishes for a lifetime of happiness and many more memories together.

 

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Direct Care Crisis

Across the country, communities are experiencing shortages of home health aides and direct care service professionals. This shortage is threatening the long-term care for people with disabilities and aging seniors.

Here in Ohio, Easterseals is witnessing this crisis firsthand. As the population of individuals over the age of 60 increases, the number of staff to care for those individuals is decreasing rapidly. Likewise, we have worked to ensure more and more individuals are living in their own homes rather than long term care facilities. The crisis is driven by a variety of issues; low wages being a large contributor. And the unfortunate heroin epidemic in our communities has only exacerbated the situation. Also, the number of staff willing to assist with physically and emotionally demanding work is decreasing. Direct care staff are responsible in helping people shower, going to the bathroom, eating, getting in and out of bed, and participating in activities and we are seeing that people simply do not desire this type of work.

It’s estimated that by 2050, America’s senior population will increase to 88 million people from the current 48 million. If we don’t turn this around now, things will only get worse. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an additional 1.1 million workers of this kind will be needed by 2024 — a 26 percent increase over 2014. Yet, the population of potential workers who tend to fill these jobs, overwhelmingly women ages 25 to 64, will increase at a much slower rate.

Wages for direct care workers have become stagnant which makes recruitment very difficult. The average hourly rate nationally is $10.11. A handful of states are currently trying to increase this wage to at least $15 an hour. Let’s face reality – the average  direct care service worker is paid at a rate that keeps them living in poverty.

Another barrier to recruitment is the job requirements. It is required that direct care staff have a GED or high school diploma. This disqualifies several potential employees. If we re-evaluate the job requirements, we would be able to fill open positions and provide meaningful work to these individuals.

As the CEO of Easterseals and guardian of an individual with a disability, I am very concerned about the future care of the families we serve. How can we ensure that these individuals have the care they need as they age? We need to do something now so that individuals living with disabilities can live a full a life and receive the care they need and deserve. So what is the answer?