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IHSS provider, Christine Nguyen with her client, John.

UDW provider Christine Nguyen helped her client get the hours of care he needed—and won $30,000 in backpay

My name is Christine Nguyen, and I’ve been an IHSS provider in San Diego for 16 years and a proud member of UDW since 2001.

Before I became a provider, I owned my own business. When it closed, I began my new career in homecare when I started taking care of an elderly woman who needed help. I do this work because I want to keep people in their homes among their families and friends, so they can live full and independent lives.

Right now, John is my only client. He’s 84-years-old, and I care for him in my home—although we’re not related, I took him in because he had nowhere else to go. Last year, when he was given just 43 hours per month by IHSS, I knew he was being treated unjustly. He, like many clients I know, needs so much more than just an hour and half of care each day.

I became John’s homecare provider after he had a stroke in 2013. He has dementia and trouble with many of his motor skills. His high cholesterol and hypertension require him to have a special diet, so I cook for him and supervise him during his meals.

My initial application to be John’s provider was denied last January. In August, we were finally able to get a social worker to assess him. During the assessment, the social worker only spoke with John, never with me. Unfortunately, part of John’s condition leaves him unable to understand or answer questions very well. In the end, he was given only 43 hours of care per month.

As homecare providers, we know our clients best. I knew that John needed far more than 43 hours to receive quality care. I had to do something.

I’d had a similar situation with another elderly client who was given only 46 hours though she needed a lot more care. Laura Reyes — former UDW President, currently the Secretary-Treasurer of AFSCME —helped us get the hours she needed. So when John needed help, I turned to my union once again.

This time we worked with UDW’s advocacy council, and John and I were able to get a hearing and make our case last September. In January, we received notice that John’s hours of care had been increased from 43 to 263 per month!

Throughout the process, I never abandoned John. I continued to care for him in my home even though I did not get paid that entire year. It was hard, and I nearly lost my house because I was unable to make my mortgage payments. Oftentimes, I had to borrow money just to make ends meet. I can’t explain how thankful I am that I won back pay for every month I worked unpaid – totaling nearly $30,000.

John and I are both grateful for the support that we continue to receive from UDW and my fellow homecare providers. Just a few months ago, I received a wheelchair for John that had been donated by another member to UDW and the California Independent Provider Training Center’s (CAIPTC)’s Food for Families food drive. John’s old wheelchair was very uncomfortable for him, and caused him pain. The new one is lighter, and makes everything easier on both of us.

Each UDW County has an Advocacy Council that can assist us with issues like restoring our client’s hours, preparing for home visits, or reducing our client’s Share of Cost.  Our jobs are tough and very stressful, and it is great to know that we are not alone.

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