MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And now it's time for another installment in our series Brave New Workers on people adapting to the changing economy.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I need a job, and I don't have a skillset other than flying.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: One day, you might be cleaning a toilet. The next day, you might be doing some potentially Nobel Prize-winning science.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: In 1979, I started my trucking career. And I wanted to have the American dream.
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MARTIN: When we think about the changing economy, we often think about adapting to disruptive new technologies, but today's story reflects changing demographics. As Baby Boomers age, home health aide worker has become the third-fastest growing occupation in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the need is only expected to grow. Now some families take care of their elderly and ailing relatives themselves, and they can receive compensation from federal Medicaid and state funds.
CELINA RADDATZ: I was very excited (laughter). I was happy to hear that the government has such a program because we're in so much need.
MARTIN: That is Celina Raddatz of San Diego, Calif. After her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2006, Raddatz took over her care. She came to the task with more experience than most, more than 30 years working in nursing homes. As Raddatz tells it, she was raised in a culture that expects children to take care of their elders in old age.
RADDATZ: I was born in Mexico, down the coast of Ensenada. And my mom, she was a widow. When I was 2-years-old with nine children, she would sell tamales, menudo, pozole. She married this nice American gentleman that was in the Army and immigrated us all into the United States. And they had two more kids. When I was a kid, I had different dreams. I was an athlete. I wanted to be a PE teacher. Also, I wanted to join the Army. But I did neither. I took care of my grandmother when I was 16. After school, I would stay and help my grandma with her meals and help bathe her and take care of her. And that's how I got into caring for the elderly and the handicapped.
When I graduated from high school, I worked for a nursing home. I was a certified nurse assistant for 25 years, and then I became an activity director. I did enjoy the job because the residents love to hear about your past and your stories. And I love to hear about their stories. When my mother was sane, she made us promise never to put her in a nursing home. And of course, us young kids said, OK, Mom, we will never - it's in our culture as well. We don't put our families in nursing homes. We take care of them ourselves. But we never, ever once ever thought that she would get sick like this.
The Alzheimer's and dementia was diagnosed back in 2006 by her doctor. My mother, she used to work for the court house as a housekeeper, and she fell, and she bumped her head pretty bad. I don't know if that's what caused it, but she kept telling the story that she fell at work, and her head fell on her lap, and she picked it up and put it back on her shoulders. We kept telling her, Mom, that's impossible. And she would get upset. And that's when we noticed that she was not right.
This is my mother. Her name is Guadalupe Pena Villegas. Mama. See how easy she gets agitated? She's walking away (laughter) angry. She gets agitated really easy.
I left my job in 2014 to take care of my mom. All my brothers and sisters pointed fingers at me - we think you're the best candidate for this job. And I said, you know, it's a lot easier doing it at work because you get a break. And when you go home and you work, taking care of your own parent, you don't get a break. It's 24/7, nonstop. It's just constant, constant work. This is our room where my mom and I sleep. I have to sleep with her because she wakes up at night all the time or I have to help her to the bathroom or she wants to go to the living room and just sit and - so I have to redirect her to come back into the room.
A social worker friend of mine told me about it - there's programs that can pay you for taking care of your mom. I said really? And once I was cleared, then the social worker came out and evaluated my mother, and she qualified for in-home care services.
OK this is our living room here - our family room where we spend a lot of time. My sister has, Rosa (ph), is being generous of letting my mom and I stay here because when I first started taking care of my mom, I lost my job, my apartment.
Being a caregiver at home - it's more than a job because I feel it's a family responsibility because of the promises we made her when she was younger. I am determined to take care of my mom to her last day because it is more important than money. And after that, yes, definitely, I will go back to being an activity director or a caregiver. There's been some patients at work that were so sweet, and they had dementia Alzheimer's. No families would come around, and we would say, jeez, this lady's so sweet. They have families. Why don't they visit? Wow. They're not, like, your mom and dad anymore. They're, like, somebody else. And I can relate more to these families, and my heart goes out to them even more so now than before.
MARTIN: Celina Raddatz took a big pay cut from the nearly $20 an hour she made at the nursing home. But with overtime, she's now making more than she did in her old job. She spoke to us for our series Brave New Workers on people adapting to the changing economy.
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