Cooperative Care for Elders
High Country Cooperation believes that:
Everyone in our region who needs care should get it if they want it.
People should be able to live their own communities and homes whenever possible.
Elders should be empowered to develop their own strategies for care.
Workers engaged in eldercare should be respected and paid a living wage.
Family caregivers should be supported by the community.
We believe that cooperatives hold special promise for meeting these aspirations in the High Country, and we are currently exploring various options for cooperative eldercare. In addition to considering the feasibility of these approaches for our area, we are talking with local elders, families, caregivers, workers, and agencies to determine how cooperatives might best contribute to eldercare.
Some models of cooperatives for eldercare being used outside the High Country are owned by elders and their families; others are owned by workers who provide care. Some combination of these and the community itself might also be possible.
The British Columbia Co-operative Association in Canada has an ongoing cooperative eldercare project “Caring Co-operatively” which suggests some approaches that might work in our area.
There are several worker-owned home care cooperatives that provide great benefits to both workers and elders. The Direct Care Alliance explains the benefits of these cooperatives for workers and those they care for:
What is a worker-owned home care cooperative?
It is a home care agency that’s owned and managed by the people who work there. New worker-members usually pay a fee to join, and all worker-members get a share of the profits if there is money left over at the end of the fiscal year.
Worker-members elected by their fellow members sit on the board of directors, which creates and implements the strategic plan. The board generally hires an executive director to run the daily operations of the business. If the co-op is big enough, it may hire other staff to help run the office or other parts of the operation.
How do home care workers benefit by being part of a cooperative?
Worker-members get a chance to develop leadership skills and a real voice in how the co-op run and how they provide care. Many co-ops make membership optional, to make room for good workers who don’t want the responsibility or expense of ownership. But frontline employees at co-ops often get higher pay and and/or better benefits than home care workers at traditional agencies, since no money goes to corporate or shareholder profits and overhead tends to be low.
How do clients benefit by receiving care from a co-op?
Being literally invested in the business that they work for gives co-op worker-members an extra incentive to make sure their organizations provide excellent care. And better wages and more decision-making power and respect makes them more likely to stay on the job, reducing the high turnover rates that can make it hard for home care recipients to find reliable, high-quality care.
How do cooperatives benefit their communities?
Besides creating relatively high-paying and rewarding jobs for some local residents and providing care to others, home care co-ops help some of their members develop leadership skills. Those members often go on to provide leadership in other parts of the community.
Eldercare Cooperative Resources
This series of videos shows how Cooperative Care, a worker-owned home care cooperative in rural Wisconsin started and changed over time: