Emerging in the wake of COVID 19 is the role and importance of the essential worker. For many, these frontline workers are often associated with healthcare professionals, service industry employees and other public-facing roles that directly serve the community. Adding to this list are personal care assistants (PCAs), a group of care providers that provide in-home service to the most vulnerable populations.
Andre Best, CEO and founder of Best Care, is doing his part to affirm the role of the PCA during COVID 19 through the efforts of his company that connects clients with in-home caregivers. Founded in 2005, the St. Paul company traces its origins back to Best’s years as an attorney and Ford union president where he oversaw an assembly line at a Twin Cities plant.
“Before I started the business and even before I went to law school, I ran an assembly line at Ford,” said Best.
“Then I had the legal background and went into this highly regulated healthcare industry which brought the law and manufacturing experience together. I attribute a lot our company’s success to these experiences.”
Serving clients of all ages, Best Care specializes in addressing home healthcare needs including those that may be living with a disability. The company also recognizes the vital role they play amid COVID 19.
“Homecare workers or PCAs are the first line of defense to keep hospitals from overrun,” said Best.
“The people that get PCA care are in the most vulnerable population. A lot of them have weakened immune systems, which means they could potentially end up in the ICU.”
With the elderly being among the most vulnerable population, PCAs employed at Best Care are grandchildren caring for their grandparents or children caring for aging parents and family members. African Americans also account for a large number of PCAs employed by the company, many of whom adopt caregiver roles by virtue of their loved ones’ needs.
Best is aware of this along with the social and economic disparities that make up a portion of his workforce and client base. “Unfortunately, people of color are more likely to be impoverished and are more likely to end up on this program. What we’re seeing is that there are a high percentage of Black people that receive PCA or are PCAs because they are working with their family members, “Best said.
“The job of a PCA is low-paying and many companies unfortunately do not treat them with respect. So what we’ve done is make sure our workers are treated fairly and with respect. We also try to provide decent wages. This goes back to my background when I was a union president at Ford running an assembly line.”
Wages of PCAs can vary based on state reimbursement rates that are paid directly to agencies such as Best Care. Wage amounts can also differ by state and federal taxes, insurance, operating expenses, and other associated costs. Coupling this with limited and unpredictable hours, the job of a PCA may not appear to be the most desirable in the wake of COVID 19. Taking this into account, the company is doing its part to ensure worker safety amid the pandemic.
“We’ve been very responsive with taking preventive measures during COVID 19,” said Best.
“As soon as COVID started to break around March, we developed a response plan that consisted of how we conducted business and how we delivered our services to clients. We immediately began to purchase personal protective equipment and started distributing it to our people. We also developed processes for when a client or worker has a diagnosis.”
While the work and responsibility of a PCA is not without its risks, Best believes that additional government support can increase both the pay and awareness of the role. With this, he urges that the general public connect with state and federal officials about the importance of PCA’s and their critical function to the community.
“What everybody can do is reach out and work with their legislators to discuss the role of the PCA, the services they provide, and why it’s important to increase their wages. I’m still surprised that people don’t realize they can give care and be paid for it.
“In fact, I remember talking to a lady some time ago who’d been taking care of her parents for years without being paid for it. She was working two jobs before this and when she found out she could pay for taking care of her family, she was in tears. That’s why it’s important to contact your legislator and have them support bills that increase wages of PCAs. This can also help people to recognize how important PCAs are.”
Best Care is located at 2562 7th Ave East, #201in North St. Paul. They are open Monday – Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm and Friday from 9 am to 4 pm. For more information, contact (651)330-2550 or visit their website at https://bestcaremn.com.