How to Be a Better Human
How to care for the people who take care of us (w/ Ai-jen Poo)
January 16, 2023
[00:00:00] Chris Duffy:
You are listening to How to Be a Better Human. I'm your host, Chris Duffy.
Several years ago, my wife Mollie was dealing with chronic pain, and all of a sudden, she was unable to do so many of the things that she used to be able to do for herself. It was a huge adjustment in both of our lives, emotionally, physically, socially. It honestly made my head spin, how quickly normal got upended for us.
I was trying to help her navigate her job and her doctor's appointments while also taking care of the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, and everything else that needed to get done in both of our lives every day. And if I'm being honest, it was very humbling to realize that I couldn't take care of her, of us, all on my own.
It's also a weird emotional space to occupy because I wasn't the one who was injured, right? Like, I felt guilty and selfish for feeling overwhelmed or for not being able to handle it all because why was I making this about me? It's not about me. Caregiving, it can be this intimate act of love. It can also be a swirling flood of emergencies and responsibilities that you are struggling with all your might to stay afloat in.
Whether it's for a child, a parent, a spouse, or a friend, what does it look like to show up for someone who needs you and you love? The actual mechanics, the logistics of day-to-day care? What does that look like? When we're in these moments of need, whether they're dramatic or mundane, and we know we can't do it by ourselves, we look for help.
For millions of families, that help takes the form of professional caregivers of one kind or another. The people who choose to enter our homes and meet our families and assist in some of our most private moments with some of our most important needs.
Today's guest, Ai-jen Poo, is a MacArthur Genius grant recipient and activist. She's the president of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and she has spent her career trying to change the way we think about care, and the people who provide it. Here's a clip from Ai-jen’s TED Talk:
[00:01:52] Ai-jen Poo:
I wanna talk to you about the work that makes all other work possible, about the millions of women who work in our homes every single day, caring for children as nannies, caring for our loved ones with disabilities and our elders as home care workers, maintaining sanity in our homes as cleaners. It's the work that makes all other work possible, and it's mostly done by women. More than 90% women, disproportionately women of color, and the work itself is associated with work that women have historically done. Work that's been made incredibly invisible and taken for granted in our culture. But it's so fundamental to everything else in our world. It makes it possible for all of us to go out and do what we do in the world every single day, knowing that the most precious aspects of our lives are in good hands.
But we don't think about it that way. It's almost defined by its invisibility. You could go into any neighborhood and not know which homes are also workplaces. There's no sign. There's no list or a registry. It's just invisible.
[00:03:14] Chris Duffy:
We're gonna talk with Ai-jen a lot more today about her efforts to bring that work out into the light and to change the way that we support and care for the caregivers in our society. But first, we're gonna take a quick ad break. We will be right back.
[00:03:35] Chris Duffy:
And we are back. Today we're talking about caregiving with Ai-jen Poo.
[00:03:38] Ai-jen Poo:
Hi, I'm Ai-jen Poo, and I'm the president of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the Executive Director of Caring Across Generations, and I'm a caregiver advocate.
[00:03:49] Chris Duffy:
Who have been some of the caregivers or people who needed care in your own life that shaped your advocacy?
[00:03:56] Ai-jen Poo:
So, I was raised by a set of very strong women in an immigrant family, my mom and my grandmother, and they were my first caregivers, and all I ever wanted was to be just like them. I was also raised by my grandfather who used to drive us to school every day and take us for Burger King after school and just spent a lot of time with us after he retired, and when he grew older and lost his sight, he needed more care. And the struggle to find him care in a way that was dignified in a way that I believed he deserved was partly also what informed my passion for this work.
[00:04:38] Chris Duffy:
And so with your grandfather, you talk in the book about how it, it was a real regret for your family that your grandfather ended up in a nursing home, and I know that that is relatable to so many people who are listening, almost certainly.
[00:04:50] Ai-jen Poo:
Well, I think that most of us have always thought about care for the people that we love as kind of a personal responsibility. It is part of our job as parents, as children, to make sure that the people that we love have what they need. and when we struggle to afford care or manage it or find the right care, we see it as a personal failure. Like we somehow came up short. We have the wrong job. We didn't save enough money. We are a bad parent. And the truth of it is, is that care is something that is a societal need and actually should have collective solutions that we all contribute to, that we can all benefit from.
It's so fundamental to everything that we sometimes don't see the need to support it and invest in it in a systemic way. And so we just internalize the challenges of it as personal problems and failures, and I think that's what I really wanna try to address. It was a problem that my family really grappled with and that we still have a lot of emotion around and it's just actually not fair. Most of us are doing the very best we can and it's still not enough because we need systemic solutions.
[00:06:12] Chris Duffy:
I’ve heard you call it “the work that makes all other work possible.”
[00:06:15] Ai-jen Poo:
Yes. Care is like, it is that first investment that we make that allows for everything else to function in our society and our economy. And that is exactly true. And in fact, in COVID, what we saw was when everything went on lockdown, and all the daycare centers closed, and the schools closed, and the nursing homes went on lockdown, we all found ourselves in this crisis and had to figure out how we were gonna care and work in this new environment.
And it pushed women out of the workforce, largely due to caregiving challenges. I mean, that's how fundamental it is. And a million of those women still haven't returned to work because we still have huge gaps in childcare infrastructure.
And a lot of us are struggling to afford the care that we need still. So yeah, it's an ongoing challenge and, and I think we need to think about it as this kind of fundamental infrastructure that a 21st-century society needs.
[00:07:19] Chris Duffy:
You talk about how a lot of times people feel this personal guilt when they either can't afford the right kind of care or they feel like they're not providing it themselves because they're not trained, or it's just overwhelming.
You talk about your, your aunts feeling like that, but you also talk about how this is like one of the most common feelings for caregivers and also the most guilt-inducing is this like, “I wish it would just end even if that meant that this person that I'm caring for would get to the end of their life faster.”
And I know that that's something people do not talk about openly, that kind of feeling, and yet it's extremely common and relatable. So I, I wonder if someone is listening to this and, and they're in the midst of caregiving, and they're feeling like that of like, “This is just so overwhelming. I can only imagine how my life can improve once this is over, and which often means a loved one passing away.” What would you say to them?
[00:08:07] Ai-jen Poo:
I would say it's so natural and that caregiving is so, so challenging. Everyone underestimates it. Whether you're caregiving for a family member or a loved one, or you're doing it as a professional, unless you're in it, people don't really see or understand how challenging it can be emotionally and physically and otherwise.
And if you're feeling burnt out, if you're feeling stressed, that is actually the experience of tens of millions of people around the country. You are not alone. Just like they say it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village period. And one of the things we really encourage people to do is to actually intentionally build your care squad to recognize and embrace that the act of caring is what makes us human. And if we can design our lives better to support it, imagine the kind of human potential that unleashes and also the, the freedom to care and to feel all the things that we feel on this caregiving journey in a way that is not laden with the unreasonable and inhumane expectations that we've put on ourselves.
And so to think about it as a collective project and to actually say to your neighbor, to your best friend, to your girlfriend from college, your, your roommate who knows you better than anybody else from back in the day, like assemble your care squad, and let them know that you might be calling on them in the next two weeks, two months, two years because of what you've just taken on. And I swear to you that you will be giving other people the opportunity to show up for you in a way that they will be grateful for. Don't think about it as an imposition.
[00:10:04] Chris Duffy:
Personally, this is something that affected me because my wife got sick, and all of a sudden she needed care and was, you know, effectively disabled. And we went from, in a pretty short period, it being the kind of thing where she would wake up and run for a couple miles to me needing to open doors for her, get her stuff down, type on the computer for her. All of a sudden she was extremely dependent on me, and that, and that lasted for months into years. And I remember it being nvisible. Really. Like that was one of the hardest parts—
[00:10:37] Ai-jen Poo:
[00:10:37] Chris Duffy:
—was that when people looked at us, it wasn't immediately clear how much care was required, and it wasn't immediately clear how large the burden was of that. Which, you know, I was happy to do. I, I, I love her. I wanted to take care of her, but it also just felt like I'm drowning and no one can even see that I'm in the water at all.
[00:10:54] Ai-jen Poo:
[00:10:55] Chris Duffy:
And when I finally started telling people about it, I, you know, I'll remember for the rest of my life that a friend just sent, like, a box of frozen tamales to our house and it was, like, just not having to cook for a few days—
[00:11:07] Ai-jen Poo:
[00:11:07] Chris Duffy:
And being like, we can just eat these and it's delicious. And more than that, just being like seen by someone who understood.
[00:11:13] Ai-jen Poo:
That’s right. That’s right. And you know what? I bet there's so many people, especially who are caring for loved ones with long COVID. I mean, that's the thing about disability: it can happen at any moment to any of us, and it's also part of being human. When we think about this through the lens of aging or disability, the thing we always forget is that aging is actually living.
Developing a disability is actually living. It's changed an aspect of your life, but you are living, and you simply need to design your life differently, and that's all it is. And for a caregiver of someone with a disability or someone who is aging, you also because we're human and we're interdependent, need to start designing your life differently.
And so for you to have the courage to say to people like, “This is what's happening. You can't see it, but it's really real for me and for my wife.” And then what that does in terms of what it invites, the love, the care, that is all life-enhancing, life-giving. It is an experience you wouldn't have had otherwise and a connection you wouldn't have had with the people in your life otherwise and, and what a gift.
[00:12:32] Chris Duffy:
At least in North America, we have this culture that really wants to pretend that normal is health and ability and ease and comfort. One of the things that is interesting, the more that you dive into this is to understand that the amount of people who live with some sort of chronic condition is so much higher than I think our culture, like, popularly presents it. And then when you add aging, which of course all of us live with that condition. It becomes that like you realize that the normal is not not needing assistance or care, but the normal is to need assistance and care.
And I think you do such a good job of raising this publicly with your personal story and with your advocacy and just making, shining a light on this real reality that a lot of people would kind of prefer to avoid thinking or talking about.
[00:13:15] Ai-jen Poo:
Right. And I think it limits us in terms of the experience of being human, like as a species, you know? If we are in denial of most of what it means to live, we're not doing a good job at this human thing.
[00:13:33] Chris Duffy:
Not doing a good job at this human thing. That is the whole reason why we do this show. That's the name of the podcast, and we are gonna talk a lot more about how to do a slightly better job of being humans right after this quick ad break.
[00:13:55] Chris Duffy:
We’re talking about caregiving with Ai-jen Poo and in Ai-jen's book, The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom In a Changing America, she talks about the impact that watching her grandmother's caregiver had on her perspective. That woman, Mrs. Sun, was deeply skilled and talented at her job, and she gave Ai-jen’s grandmother so much love and dignity in her final years. Here's another clip from Ai-jen’s TED Talk, where she's talking about some of what she learned from watching Mrs. Sun.
[00:14:20] Ai-jen Poo:
I would argue that one of the most important things that domestic workers can provide is actually what they can teach us about humanity itself and about what it will take to create a more humane world for our children.
In the face of extreme immorality, domestic workers can be our moral compass, and it makes sense because what they do is so fundamental to the very basics of human need and humanity. They are there when we are born into this world, they shape who we become in this world, and they're with us as we prepare to leave this world.
I see this from domestic workers all the time in the face of indignities and our failure to respect and value this work and our culture. They still show up, and they care. They know how your toddler likes to be held as they take their bottle before a nap. They know how your mother likes her tea, how to make her smile and tell stories despite her dementia.
They are so proximate to our humanity. They know that at the end of the day, these are people who are part of families: someone’s mother, someone's grandmother, someone's best friend, and someone's baby. Undeniably human, and therefore not disposable?
[00:15:57] Chris Duffy:
Can you tell us a little bit about Mrs. Sun and your family's relationship with her?
[00:16:01] Ai-jen Poo:
Yeah, so my grandmother, who I talk about a lot in my book, who passed away in May of 2020, she was my personal hero through my entire life, is the ultimate optimist and also badass, both. And I spent almost every summer of my childhood following her around every day, and after she retired, and she moved to the United States and she became more frail in her seventies and eighties, we needed to find caregiving supports for her to enable her to stay at home and live independently, which is what she wanted.
And what we were fortunate to find in Mrs. Sun and several caregivers after her, the kind of support that allowed her to live a really full life in her own apartment in Alhambra, California. She was across the street from a Chinese grocery. She was able to go to a Chinese church twice a week. She even sang in the church choir and Mrs. Sun would go with her to church choir practice and made sure that she went to the hairdresser every Saturday at noon, and she had a kind of quality of life where she was living life very much on her own terms into her early nineties.
To enable somebody like my grandmother who gave life to so many of us to have dignity, to have the ability to live fully for as long as possible. There is no greater gift or, or contribution to my family and our lives. And so, not a day goes by that I don't thank Mrs. Sun and the caregivers who came after her, who, who essentially gave us the gift of life for my grandmother.
[00:17:47] Chris Duffy:
In your voice, the, the love for your grandmother is so clear, but also the love and care for Mrs. Sun. And, I think this gets at a piece that's different and can make things really complicated with these topics, which is that we do feel like this person is a member of our family.
[00:18:04] Ai-jen Poo:
Totally. And this is one where I think it's this part of the economy is helpful in disrupting some of the false choices that are old, that are remnants of a different age, right? Where we think that if there's emotional labor involved, then it's somehow less professional. Less skilled, less formal as a contribution, or, like a real input in our economy. People have often said to me, “But they are a member of the family.” And then there's this argument: “No, they're not. They're professionals.”
And actually, it’s both, and generations of social movements have worked to try to open us up to think about family as about a web of relationships that is life-enabling. And in that sense, caregivers are absolutely a part of that. We should embrace that and we should value it because every single one of those relationships is essential.
And it doesn't mean that they're not also professionals and workers who should be able to have a level of respect and be able to expect things like paid time off and benefits, and the ability to earn a living that's dignified. And the two things are what we have to work out and design for in the 21st century, honestly.
[00:19:33] Chris Duffy:
It was very eye-opening to me in your book to learn about the history of why home caregivers are not covered by the same worker protections that someone who works in say, a factory or a white-collar office are.
[00:19:45] Ai-jen Poo:
Yeah. it’s so revealing of our kind of system for how we value things in society that the person who takes care of our loved one, who raised us like a parent or a grandparent, is about a third of what, say, a personal trainer is paid.
So the people that we are counting on to take care of us can barely take care of themselves, let alone raise the family on the income that they earn. And there has to be a clear history for that. And there is, when you pull back the onion or the curtain, peel back. Too many metaphors.
[00:20:26] Chris Duffy:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. The onion. It's a curtain made of onions.
[00:20:27] Ai-jen Poo:
Yes, exactly. Um, that, you know, it's true. The, the history of how this work became devalued in our laws is deeply tied to the history of slavery and racism in our country.
Essentially, the story goes that in the 1930s at this really pivotal moment in our nation's history, where there were these big labor movements, they’re growing across the country, coming out of a time of crisis of the Great Depression, FDR has a vision for a new social contract, including kind of these fundamental labor protections that would establish rights for workers. Everything from the right to a minimum wage to the right to form a union and collectively bargain for better conditions in your workplace. And southern members of Congress refused to support those new deal labor laws if they included equal protections for farm workers and domestic workers who were Black at the time and who were about… They wanted to maintain a kind of plantation, racially organized economy in the south and did not want Black workers to have equal protections to other workers. And in a concession, Congress passed the social security laws, the minimum wage laws, the collective bargaining laws explicitly excluding domestic workers, including the home care workers who were called companions at the time, who were taking care of the elderly.
And it literally wasn't until the Obama administration that that exclusion got addressed. Up until the Obama administration, it was perfectly legal to pay a home care worker less than the minimum wage in a whole bunch of states in the country.
[00:22:17] Chris Duffy:
I’m curious to kind of talk about this from a few different angles. So maybe let's start with that angle of you are having someone work in your home. You may not think about yourself as an employer, but you actually are. So you started a, an organization. Would you call my home as someone's workplace and organization?
[00:22:33] Ai-jen Poo:
Yeah, it's a campaign. It's kind of a campaign.
[00:22:36] Chris Duffy:
Okay so, and so people can go to domesticemployers.org. And can you tell us a little bit about like the resources that you might find on my home as someone's workplace?
[00:22:44] Ai-jen Poo:
Yes. I’m so glad that you’re pointing that out, because now in particular I get so many questions about, do I offer a bonus? And what do you do about holiday vacations? And things like that at the end of the year, and on this website, domestic employers.org, you'll find sample agreements. You'll find guidelines for having a conversation about working conditions. You'll find guides to things like paid time off or health insurance or holidays, bonuses. There was a whole guide during COVID and actually still relevant in many instances now for how to maintain safety in your home for your own family and also for the people who are coming through and working there.
And really, the key here is good communication and establishing mutual respect in the relationship. And the sample work agreement, for example, is just a guide for having a healthy conversation to establish the expectations for everyone involved. And the more tools and the more guides you have for that, I think the better.
[00:23:50] Chris Duffy:
If someone's listening to this and, and they are themselves a domestic worker, what kind of resources or what kind of tips would you say are most crucial for them to make sure that they are going into a workplace or, or thinking about their career in a way that's going to be safe and productive and fair?
[00:24:07] Ai-jen Poo:
Well, they can go to domesticworkers.org and become a member of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and we welcome anyone and everyone who does this work to join us. And I think the same principle applies that it is about good communication, and it's also about really thinking about, there's some kind of basic negotiation skills that have to do with thinking about the conversation from your employer's perspective and what they might be interested in, what their goals might be, what might be helpful from their perspective, and just take that into account as you enter the conversation.
From the worker's perspective, I mean, the power imbalance is pretty severe if you think about it. You’re isolated in the workplace, and you really don't have any job security. Every time you ask for something more, you are in some ways risking the future of your job. And so just to think about your own risk tolerance and where there might be common ground and start from there. And it's a tricky thing in, in the context of that power imbalance and hopefully, you've established the kind of relationship where your value is really understood.
[00:25:23] Chris Duffy:
You have kind of upended the traditional way that we think about unions, which is that there's an inherent kind of combativeness between, like, union and employer. And it's like, “We make a demand and you either meet our demand or there's some sort of labor action.” But with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, you've often thought about it much more as collaborative, right?
Like, how can we make sure that the best care is provided, which is what everyone's goal is, but in a way that's fair to all parties involved? Which, maybe you can talk a little bit about that and how that, that framework has changed the way that you think about these workplaces and, and this work in general.
[00:25:56] Ai-jen Poo:
Right. Well, there's kind of two levels to it. One is a practical level, which is that, you know, so many of the traditional mechanisms through which people who have less power have sought to exercise power and haven't applied to domestic workers either, because they've been excluded explicitly from certain rights and protections, or because of the numbers of immigrants who do this work, or because of the structure of the industry and collective bargaining in the traditional union sense doesn't totally apply here at a practical level because there's no collective, and there's no one to bargain with. At the end of the day, you're going to work in somebody's home, and these people are just people who need care.
You know, it's not like some entity, a corporate entity that has, you know, we're not negotiating with Amazon here. We’re negotiating with Chris who needs care and support for his loved one. And it's a different context. And to me, it goes back to where we started this conversation, which is that we are all in need of care. The fact that this part of our lives and the economy has been so devalued and made so invisible is the root cause of why so many domestic workers are underpaid. And it's the same root issue for why it's so hard for you, as a family caregiver, to get the support you need or why so many older people are on waiting lists, waiting for care in their homes because we've just have never made visible and recognized and valued the work that goes into caring for families across the lifespan. When we look at it from that angle, then actually the families who need care are our greatest allies in this fight, so to speak.
[00:27:54] Chris Duffy:
One of the other groups that we haven't talked as much about in terms of practical tips for what they can do are the people who are going to be cared for themselves.
And one of the ways that you've thought about framing that conversation of what we want our own care to look like as we get older are these five wishes for aging with dignity. So the five wishes let you and your, let your family and your doctors know who you want to make healthcare decisions for you when you can't make them, the kind of medical treatment you want or you don't want, how comfortable you want to be, how you want people to treat you, and what you want your loved ones to know. I know that you've done some of this thinking and and thought about how you would like for your life to look when you are 80, 90 beyond. Can you walk us through your own vision for yourself?
[00:28:39] Ai-jen Poo:
I definitely see aging as something that happens in community, and one where a community where I'm also designing for caregivers and their lives and their communities. So I picture getting up in the morning and having friends close by and family close by, and also having caregivers who are supporting friends and family and their families all close by, and the ability to have meals collectively or not, have yoga and exercise some kind of physical activity collectively or not.
The ability to continue to learn and to connect with others across generations. There's a beautiful model for an elder care facility in Hawaii that has a childcare center built in, and so there's all this kind of intergenerational activity that creates so much dynamism and life in that facility. So I think it’s, like, a very connected aging process is what I imagine.
And I think for everyone it's a little different. I mean, some people are more introverted and want less people in their lives, and I think, you know, one of the things I did on my book tour is actually invite people to have the conversation with their loved ones. Not during a time of crisis where you're kind of doing triage, but in a time when you feel a little bit more spaciousness and a little bit of just kind of like gratitude that everybody's generally healthy and in a good place.
You can have a conversation about this vision. Like, what does it look like to have the care that would enable you to feel joyful and supported as you age? Right? What would that look like? What would that feel like? And have that conversation in an intergenerational way. It is actually… Because we don't tend to think that way or associate care with something positive in our lives, tt’s often associated with something bad happening, it can be a really transformative conversation. I encourage it.
[00:30:54] Chris Duffy:
Maybe this is just my family, but weirdly, it's more common in my family at least, to have a conversation about what you would want your funeral to look like than what you would want your life to look like.
You know, like, “I wanna be cremated” or “I want to be buried”, or, you know, my dad is really into mountain climbing, so he keeps saying that what he wants is to be chopped into small pieces and fed to eagles on the top of a mountain, which we've had to say, “That’s not gonna happen.”
[00:31:18] Ai-Jen Poo:
Oh wow. That is very specific.
[00:31:19] Chris Duffy:
We’re not gonna like… It’s great that you want that, but we're not doing that.
[00:31:21] Ai-jen Poo:
That is very specific. I wanna meet your dad.
[00:31:25] Chris Duffy:
I think my point aside from the “he's not gonna get chopped up and fed to eagles” piece is sometimes people feel scared or depressed or anxious about saying like, “Here's what I would want to happen to me when I can't fully take care of myself.”
[00:31:40] Ai-jen Poo:
Yeah. And it shouldn't be. I think we should normalize it. That’s a, that's so much of this whole thing is about what we start to normalize. Normalize disability, normalize aging, normalize caregiving, normalize the conversation about caregiving. All of these things I think are remnants of social norms of a different era, and we should just leave them behind and get excited about our future, our future of living longer. Like, if we get excited about our future of living longer, then we can actually think about, oh, okay, so what can we put into place to make sure that we are living well as we live longer?
[00:32:21] Chris Duffy:
You've thought a lot about caregiving from a policy perspective and the policy interventions and the laws and the ways that we should structurally think about elder care and the coming elder boom. What are you thinking about now? What are the pieces that you're working on intellectually around this, around these issues?
[00:32:41] Ai-jen Poo:
Well, you know, the book came out in 2015, and it's been a few years now, and we've had a global pandemic in the middle of it, and or since then, and it's kind of created the biggest opening of I think generations to address these issues and to make a shift, and especially ‘cause I think we all had this awakening during COVID about just how essential care is. And I think we started to connect the dots between the pressures of childcare and the pressures of elder care and how we as people and as intergenerational families need to support these roles in our lives in a different way.
So I feel like I finally have attention on the part of our lawmakers and our culture makers and more people are starting to talk about their caregiving experiences. There's a whole phenomenon on TikTok about of caregivers sharing their stories. And it's just like, it's a beautiful thing that we are starting to have the conversation we need to be having about caring and caregiving in, in our culture.
And so, I'm trying to take this opening and rush through it with all the policy solutions at the federal level, at the state level, trying to get every candidate who wants to run for office to think more about how they would start to support caregiving for families in a whole new way and to start to see that it's actually a political winner to champion care, childcare, paid leave, long-term care, and to essentially create a new set of norms in our culture where we support caregiving in a whole new way. So that's what I'm trying to figure out, is how do we take this opening and make it translate into real change in people's lives?
[00:34:37] Chris Duffy:
Well, I know that there are people who listen to this podcast outside of the US and in, in other places in the world. And a lot of the issues around caregiving and the power imbalances also have to do with immigration. And that often, people are undocumented, or they are trying to get established in a new country, and they're, they're somewhere else away from their family.
[00:35:01] Ai-jen Poo:
Absolutely. One of the things that has become very clear is that most developed countries are gonna have an unprecedented, very large, older population to care for.
And most of those countries are not in a position to provide that care without immigrants. We're having a hard time sustaining the workforce that we currently have to care for a growing aging population because the quality of jobs is so poor, the wages are so low, there are no benefits, no job security, and really not the recognition that this work is difficult, skilled work, and deserves the support and investment.
And so we've gotta improve the quality of jobs, and I think that alone may not be enough. I think caring in the future is gonna be an all-hands-on-deck situation, and governments who wanna be ahead of the curve would do very well to think about immigration programs that both allow for immigrants who are currently living within those countries to legalize their status, to get into a trajectory of being able to enter the professional care workforce to help solve for the care crises that exists in these countries, and there should probably be humane future flow immigration programs to these countries where workers who come from other countries to help meet the caregiving needs of those countries, are able to have fair and equal protections as they do the, that work and contribute and, and ideally have the ability to bring their families with them.
[00:36:44] Chris Duffy:
For people who are listening, whether they are a caregiver themselves, whether they need care, whether it's a, a family caregiver, whether they're someone who will need care, right, what are the most important practical things that you want them to, like, leave this podcast and immediately do? What are the things that they should do right now?
[00:37:01] Ai-jen Poo:
Make a list of five people who you think might be caregivers or know are caregivers, and they could be family members or friends, neighbors, and just reach out to those people and say, “Hey, how are you doing? Do you need anything?” And just kind of be proactive about your support for the caregivers in your life.
And then make another list of five people who you would want to support you, either as a caregiver or if you were in need of care, and to start to think about how you might reach out to those people and say, “Hey, you're really important to me. And when I think about what I'm gonna need as I, who knows what happens into the future, coming out of this crazy pandemic time that we've been in, and I just want you to know that you're like, you're like in my care squad and, and thank you.”
[00:37:59] Chris Duffy:
Well, Ai-jen, thank you so much for being here, and thanks so much for talking to us. It was really a pleasure.
[00:38:03] Ai-jen Poo:
Thanks for having me.
[00:38:08] Chris Duffy:
I am your host, Chris Duffy, and you can find me at chrisduffycomedy.com, which includes my weekly newsletter and links to my calendar for live show dates. This podcast, how to Be a Better Human, is brought to you on the TED Side by Anna Phelan, Jimmy Gutierrez, Julia Dickerson, and Hana Matsudaira, who have all taken such good care of me. I feel very taken care of by them.
From PRX, our show is brought to you by Morgan Flannery, Rosalind Tordesillas. Jocelyn Gonzales, Pedro Raphael Rosado, and Patrick Grant. They have all promised me that if I ever need help chopping a loved one into pieces so I can feed them to an eagle, they will be there. And I hope to not take them up on that promise.
And then, of course, thanks most of all, to you for listening to this show and making it all possible. Please, if you like the show, leave us a positive rating and review and share this episode with someone who you care for or who has cared for you. We will be back next week with even more How to Be a Better Human.
Until then, thanks for spending some time with us.