I’m so proud of Maine – and the #CaringMajority is just getting started

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This year, Mainers and the #CaringMajority put a ballot initiative in front of voters that was nothing short of revolutionary. With a bold but commonsense approach, Maine People’s Alliance and Caring Across sought to ensure that families who take care of their loved ones could also make ends meet. This became the Homecare for All campaign.

Homecare for All would have guaranteed quality homecare to anyone who needs it, when they need it and for as long as they need it. Family caregivers, homecare workers, people with disabilities and seniors across the state (and even across the country!) worked hard to inform Mainers about this landmark ballot initiative, get out the vote, and bring us one step closer to a future where we can all be there for our loved ones, no matter what.

Unfortunately, the ballot initiative did not pass – this time. But the campaign did make it crystal clear that Mainers need homecare and that homecare workers need fair wages. Even as the opposition argued about the specifics of the solution (in inarguably misleading ways), there was unanimous agreement that we were tackling the right issue and that things had to change.

My name is Leighann and I have been a home caregiver for a young woman with disabilities for over 6 years. Navigating the homecare system with her has taught me one thing – we need to build something better.

At one point, after my client lost coverage through one program and was put on a waitlist for another, I was working 3 jobs to make rent and pay my bills. I suppose I should have called it quits and worked full time somewhere else, but why should I be asked to put aside a job I love, and leave the people I deeply care for, just to have decent pay and hours?

Just being able to wage this campaign was a profound step in the right direction. Every door knocked, phone number dialed, and signature collected brought one more voice to the movement to help families make ends meet. It was people power in action!

So, we can’t stop now. We won’t stop now. We all came together because we know Homecare for All is what Mainers need and what we deserve, and we have the power to continue this momentum. Now we will bring this fight directly to legislators. Homecare for All was founded on a determination to immediately meet caregiving families’ needs. We must honor that; no action or no plan is no longer an option.

This is the time to be innovative, collaborative, and inventive. Legislators should be invited to spend time with caregivers of all kinds in all settings: in homes, assisted living, group homes, or nursing homes. Legislators should be made aware of all the policies regarding care, and how difficult care is to access. From navigating all the rules and regulations, to putting together a patchwork of care from spotty community services, to finding out just how difficult it is to start receiving care through a Medicaid Waiver Program or a Medicaid funded nursing home, our legislators must learn about all the aspects of care that they don’t have to think or worry about. We need to make this as personal to them as it is to us.

This campaign has taught me that my story and the stories of most caregivers are important and have many common threads. Collectively, we weave an amazing tapestry of love, compassion, family, community, and strength. Today is hard, but tomorrow we move forward, together.

Thank you for your support in building a care economy that takes the needs of professional caregivers, caregiving families, and care recipients seriously, that pays care professionals for their work, and that centers our values.

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