Local 389: Home Care Aides on the Frontlines

By MIKE LEE

Margaret Glover prays. 

The president of Local 389, which represents 7,000 private sector home health care aides, worries about the clients she cares for, and her co-workers.

“Oh my God, I don’t know how I feel. Some days are good for me and then some are bad,” Glover said.

Home health care workers are among the many thousands of DC 37 members who work on the frontlines during the crisis. Because of their work providing in-home care services for people physically unable to care for themselves, they take on added risks during the pandemic.

Many of the clients live alone, are elderly, or have medical conditions that make it impossible to live a normal life outside the confines of their homes.

“We are often their family because we are there,” Glover said. “We do everything for them. We cook, clean, go with them to doctor appointments and all.”

As always, her members work diligently performing their utmost to take care of their clients. They work for private agencies and most are assigned to work with people for three days, providing 24-hour care. It is hard work, but necessary. Others see several clients every day, constantly changing their protective gear — gloves, masks and protective smocks — while performing their necessary tasks. 

Glover, who sees two clients a day, explained. “I put on so many masks a day. In the morning when I leave my house, I have on masks and gloves. When I get to my clients, I take them off and put them in the garbage. I wear a smock on my way to my first client. When I arrive, I put on another clean smock and tie that one into a garbage bag,” she said. 

“I put on another before going to the afternoon appointment. When I walk to that client’s door, I change again. Afterward, clean gloves, another mask, smock, and off to see my next client. It’s a lot,” Glover said. “A lot.”

The intense commitment of the union’s home health care aides is brought into sharp focus as COVID-19 adds a terrible, unexpected burden to their lives and for the vulnerable community Local 389 members serve.

“I really don’t sleep well at night. Sometimes I get up and sit at my table,  have a cup of coffee or tea, and I say, ‘Lord, take care of all of us.’ We are out there and we’re going to try to take care of these clients,” Glover said. 

“Some of the clients have family members living there and they’re in and out, some not wearing masks — and it’s not safe for my clients,” she said. “That’s what I’m afraid for.”

Glover is also concerned for her co-workers like Evelyn Grant, the home health care aide recovering from COVID-19 (see story page 6).

“Oh, my members. I’m praying for them,” Glover said. “I’ve seen a few of them in the street. I tell them to take care. Make sure they got their masks on, putting on clean gloves every day.”

Glover stays in contact with her members. “I call them. We’re like very close together. We talk, asking ‘How you doing?’ ‘You good, today?’ ‘How was work?’ I feel that a few of my members are not working. The ones with children because they’re afraid to be out in the street, and ride the buses and the trains,” she said.

“This is a lot that you must go through,” Glover said. “This is not easy.”

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