Health and home care workers are increasingly finding themselves operating as first responders, choosing less-bad options to help their patients survive as climate change fuels extreme heat and other disasters and destabilizes the electricalgrid, The 19th* News reports. Power outages linked in various ways to extreme heat, wildfires, and hurricanes — or simply financial hardship — can leave seniors, and those with disabilities, sweltering indoors without air conditioning.
About 3,900 people in California died from heat-related causes in California last year, an LA Times investigation found, and a new pilot program in the state is seeking to educate care workers on how to better prepare for emergencies. Care workers are paid an average of just $13 per hour, without basic benefits like health care coverage, despite being expected to perform life-saving care in critical situations.
Marquisa Jackson, a certified nurse assistant who participated in the training, said she appreciated the practical skills it imparted. “We learned how to carry somebody that’s heavy [using a blanket], which is really important to me, because a lot of times when I’m working at these people’s houses it’s just me,” she said. “Everyone will tell you how important they are, and how they serve our communities and that they’re frontline heroes,” Kim Evon, of SEIU Local 2015, which represents more than 300,000 care workers, told The 19th*. “They receive low wages and poor benefits. … They don’t have a retirement. They get three sick days. Which we had to fight for legislatively to get that attributed to them.” (The 19th* News; Grid instability: E&E News, Heat-related deaths in California: Politico Pro $; Climate Signals background: Extreme heat and heatwaves, Wildfires, Drought, Hurricanes)