Geraldine O’Rourke knew that she was going to need help for the rest of her life when she returned to her Bronx home after spending nine months in the hospital. She was bedridden due to two hip operations gone wrong and recognized that her husband and family wouldn’t be able to tend to all of her needs.
“I needed help right then and there,” she says of the moment 10 years ago, while sitting in her wheelchair, television remote in hand. “I couldn’t walk and then what happened is the good hip kept coming out of place. I could hardly do anything for myself.”
The 83 year-old former bank worker lost her husband to rheumatoid arthritis six years later and now relies on two home health aides who clean and cook for her and help her bathe and climb into bed at night. Yvonne Garcia is from the Dominican Republic and spends four days a week with O’Rourke. Ifua Morson is from Ghana and is responsible for the other three days. Both Garcia and Morson spend the night at their client’s home but they are only compensated for 12 hours out of a possible 24. This is common in a field where home care agencies often refuse to split long shifts between home health aides in order to save on costs.
“We’re only responsible for one client but my previous one wanted me to take care of her husband as well when we visited his nursing home,” says Morson. “And she wouldn’t allow me sleep at all. She called on me all night. That was really challenging for me so I left.”