The road to a brighter future is one we can make ourselves. Just ask the group of home care attendants, consumers and advocates who traveled across the state of Pennsylvania last month to raise awareness and support for their mission to create a system of long term care that emphasizes quality home care.
Two such Independence Riders are Daniel Cucio and Yeremiah Hardt, who’ve have been side by side since they first met at a LGBT Equality Forum barbecue in 2003. Circumstance brought them together, but a deep bond that formed has kept them together ever since. When Yeremiah was just a child, he fell into his family’s frozen pool and was trapped under ice for more than 20 minutes. After spending five months in a coma, he finally woke, barely able to talk and with brain impairments. “At first, I started noticing some things ‘weren’t right’ with him,” said Daniel, “but I had no idea the extent of what he was dealing with.”
Daniel and Yeremiah found help through Liberty Resources and started hiring personal care attendants. Over two years, four attendants came and went. “We couldn’t find quality help,” Daniel recalls. “The money’s low, like $9 per hour. There are no benefits.” Constant concern over Yeremiah’s welfare caused Daniel to quit his job as a counselor and become his full-time attendant three years ago. “Yeremiah not only needs the traditional type of care, he also needs his mind to be stimulated constantly or it stops functioning the way it should. I give both mental and physical care.”
While fulfilling, the work of a caregiver can also be tough. “I get paid by the hour. Period. I can’t take a vacation even when I need a break. I can’t get any back up. Our consumers need us and we need our consumers. We need our interdependence to be a thing that lifts us both up, not drags us both down,” said Daniel. “That’s why I am becoming part of the attendants’ union.”
By sharing their story, Pennsylvania consumers and attendants like Daniel and Yeremiah strive to awareness to others about their lives and shared struggle for dignity and independence. “The amount of humility Yeremiah teaches me every day is incredible,” says Daniel. “Every day I go to bed I vow to give Yeremiah a wonderful day. But every day is different – I can’t predict what tomorrow will bring.”