Home Care Aides Fight to End 24-Hour Shifts: ‘This Work Is Killing Them’

For eight years, Lai Yee Chen worked 24-hour shifts, up to five days a week, as a home care aide for bed-bound seniors in New York City. She cooked, cleaned, changed diapers and turned her patients at least every two hours to prevent bedsores.

Ms. Chen, 69, has since retired, but she still jolts awake at night, as if she’s still on call.

“The 24-hour workday is inhumane. It’s violence against workers,” she said in Cantonese.

Ms. Chen has now joined a push among New York City home care workers to ban 24-hour work shifts through a bill being introduced in the City Council this week.

New York’s population of older adults is surging. The number of home aides who care for them has more than doubled in the last decade, surpassing half a million statewide as of 2022, with most of the growth in New York City. And the field is expected to keep growing. Nationally, there are more new jobs expected in home care over the next decade than in any other occupation, said Kezia Scales, the vice president of research and evaluation at PHI, a national research and advocacy group for direct-care workers.

Lai Yee Chen, a retired home health aide, said she is unable to sleep at night after years of working 24-hour shifts.Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Making the job more humane is critical to keeping up with the increased need: It will help attract people to the job and make it sustainable, workers and advocates say.

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