Fernando has worked in his current care home since 2017. Before coming to San Jose, he had a small business selling ice in the Philippines. He decided to migrate to the United States through a 10 year visa entry, and become a caregiver. In the Philippines, he studied care giving while also doing reflexology work. He enjoys being a caregiver because caring for the elderly reminds him of taking care of his own parents who passed away.
Before the pandemic, he was unable to have meal breaks for himself due to his busy schedule, sometimes going “passed hunger” because he rarely had time to eat during his 24-hr shifts and on call tasks.
He was paid $160 a day ($6 per hour) when he first started working in his current care home, and his salary only increased $5 the next year. After working for the facility for two years, he now receives around $200 ($8 per hour). His salary is much lower to another caregiver who was hired later to give care to the same patient.
“The boss gets mad if we ask about salary. He does not like that because each one he gives is different. There you were able to see a big difference. So, nothing from him… do your work without saying anything. But the compensation, he has no intention to give it to you.”
Fernando has experienced difficult times while working — one of them being a time when he experienced an allergic reaction. When he went to a dentist to check on his tooth, he found out that he did not have health insurance to help cover his care.
“My tooth got swollen. Really, my face was swollen. I could not do anything. I did not have insurance. What about me? I could not do anything. My head was really hurting…so, I went to the dentist. They looked for my insurance. They said to me, “Why are you the only caregiver that has come here that does not have insurance?” I said, “Is that true? Everyone has?” [They said,] “Ask for insurance. They did not give it to you.””
During the pandemic, he has to usually request masks, PPEs, and hand sanitizer, and he says there is no security as a caregiver, “you are dispensable.” At the end of 2020, one of the caregivers in his facility tested positive for COVID-19 and he was told to receive a COVID-19 test. While waiting for the results, his employer asked him to come into the facility to go back to work anyways. But, he shared worries of going in to work without knowing his results:
“If I did not have my results, my boss said, “It has been four days. I am sure that you are negative because if you were positive, they would call you. I said, “Wait first, boss, I took a COVID test and the results have not come in yet. Why are you making me go in? What happens if I am suddenly positive? Who is affected? The patient and I are affected.” He wanted me to go in without having my results. I said, “Let’s wait for the results before going in.” I did not want to go in. He was not able to find a good reliever/replacement for the patient. The family of the patient started to complain. That is why he wants me to go into work even without the results of my COVID test. That is where you will see. I said, “What is that? What happens if I get a positive result? All of the blame will be on me.””
He expressed concerns of not knowing where to stay if he had to self-isolate since he lived with his niece and her children. Fortunately, he was able to stay with a friend, but afterwards, he was given a small pay for not coming into work for 10 days and had to sign a contract saying his facility was not liable for paid time leave next year. He only received pay because he had been working there for a few years.
In terms of his income and supporting his family, it has been difficult. He does not have savings even though he has been with the facility for three years and working twenty four hour shifts. His salary, and the salary of his other co-workers, barely meet minimum wage. In terms of governmental assistance, he received assistance during his allergic reaction but was also unaware of financial support he could receive.
Photographer Credit: Kirsten Jill Aguilar