Six out of ten people will eventually need eldercare. Do you know who will care for you? The feature documentary CARE exposes the deep flaws in the U.S. eldercare system, by telling the intimate stories of four overworked and underpaid home health aides, counterpointed by the struggles of two families seeking affordable, quality home care for an aging loved one.
A frail older woman walks along the street with her paid caregiver, eliciting barely a glance. But behind this scene, repeated across America, lies a disturbing story. Private care work in the U.S. is a "wild west" environment, where training is uneven, oversight is weak, workers are exploited, and families are driven into financial ruin. The demand for home care is growing exponentially as the baby boom ages, but the current unregulated home elder care system is failing both workers and clients. Using a character-driven, cinema verité approach CARE reveals the troubling truths of home-based eldercare. In the opening act, we are introduced to a series of challenging eldercare situations, as seen by clients and providers. Mary, a suburban working mom in Delaware, is worried about her 88-year-old mother Sylvia, who needs a caregiver, but refuses to have help in her home — or to move. In NYC, Dee, 93, an active businesswoman until leukemia and dementia ended her work life, depends on her caregiver Vilma as her physical and emotional lifeline. But due to her dementia, she can sometimes be disoriented and difficult. In rural Pennsylvania, Larry, 58, in need of a lung transplant, lurches to his feet and gasps. His caregiver Laurie reassures him as she eases him back into his wheel chair. "If he were in a nursing home, he wouldn’t make it'," she says. "Any dignity he has left is because he’s still at home." In Brooklyn, Hazel, an undocumented caregiver from Trinidad, is struggling with her employers who refuse to write a work agreement, make arbitrary demands and often fail to pay her for extra hours. Afraid of losing her job, she doesn't argue. Despite long days taking care of others, these care workers are often so poorly paid that they can’t support their own families. Delores, a 24-year veteran of the job, winds up in a shelter during the film. As the film unfolds, the struggles of working families in need of eldercare are also exposed. Peter and Toni are going bankrupt paying for the 24/7 care his virulent form of Parkinson’s demands. Mary hires and fires several care workers before finding a suitable caregiver for her mother. Now she’s worried about the bills. CARE's stories of hard-pressed workers, clients and families bring a growing crisis into public view to help spark a national conversation about the future of home-based elder care in America.