Local advocate speaks up about massive Attendant Care shortage for people with disabilities

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – An El Paso native brings awareness to the need for attendant care workers in the borderland.

Nathan Coleman is an advocate for people with disabilities and a client of Caring Partners Home Care in El Paso. While his brother has been taking care of him for 36 years, he knows how important it is to have an attendant caregiver and how there is a massive need for attendants.

“Attendant care has always been an issue because of the low pay they receive for their service. It’s a vulnerable service but then at the same time the providers don’t see it that way,” Coleman said.

Since the pandemic began, there has been a massive shortage across the nation in attendant care workers. The Personal Attendant Coalition of Texas is assuring seniors and Texans with disabilities that they’ll have an attendant who can meet their needs. 

“Of course we do see it on both sides, they do have to make enough to make a living, and also be productive and help people with disabilities. Get the independence that they need, to be able to work and go to school and just be out in the community as able-bodied people.” Coleman added.

That goes for people with different disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, visual impairment, or Asperger’s syndrome.  

People with disabilities need someone to prepare food for them, bathe them, or even be a companion. Especially if they don’t have a family member to confide in. 

“They shouldn’t look into the money. They should look into the satisfaction that they have from working with somebody with a disability, making a difference to continue on, because of course having a disability can put you down in many aspects,” Coleman said.   

He adds that he wants people to realize they are making a positive change in the life of someone with a disability.

As of now Attendant Care is minimum wage but PACT is working to raise wages for Attendants.

American Disabled Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) partners with PACT to help this group of individuals live in their own homes. 

Josue Rodriguez has been a Community Organizer for El  Paso Desert ADAPT for 10 years now and while he has cerebral syndrome and is in a wheelchair, he wants to get the word out. 

“I would like to encourage those people that are interested in becoming an attendant, to go forward, because there is a strong shortage, lack of benefits, and low wages. I know this can sound discouraging. But that is why ADAPT and PACT work with each and everyone of the attendant and consumers,” Rodriguez said.  

Adding to better wages and fighting for better benefits, in regards to the community Attendants.

“We encourage whether you are a person with a disability, we welcome you to ADAPT.  Whether you’re an Attendant, we welcome you to PACT. If you want to join us in fighting for better wages and benefits,” Rodriguez said. 

Although it is good to have training in the past, Rodriguez tells KTSM it is not required to have a background experience to be an attendant, since everyone with disabilities has different needs. It’s more about the workflow or the agency that the attendant comes from.

“To better the life of community attendants because sometimes attendants have to work two to three jobs just to make ends meet. That is one of the things we want to be able to alleviate, it’s for attendants to have a life too.” 

According to El Paso Desert ADAPT, a national action will be taking place in Washington D.C. where different chapters from around the country will get together to advocate for lack of attendant workforce, home and community based services, including the lack of affordable, and accessible integrated housing.

Despite the continued struggle to advocate for disabled individuals and the shortage of attendants, Rodriguez says it could take months to years to see big changes but adds he will continue to work hard. 

Coleman says, if you have disabilities, and you are on a waiting list to have an attendant, do not give up because a social worker will contact you to set up an assessment to create an individual and budget plan to remain at home and not at an institution.

To become an attendant you can call or email Josue Rodriguez at (915) 449-3834  Josue.adapt@yahoo.com

If you are a person with disabilities and will like to become a client of the Texas Medicaid Waver you can call 1(800) 633-4227 or 1(800) 252-8263.

For local and breaking news, sports, weather alerts, video and more, download the FREE KTSM 9 News App from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.