2015 Jun 16: Long hours at work leave her little time for brother in need by Deborah Palmer

Some questions came to me as I read this article:

  1. Are equal rights for different wage earners as divided in Norway as they are in the US?
  2. Why do some people feel a greater responsibility for taking care of their family members than those who do not feel as responsible?
  3. What happens to Stevie when Ms. Palmer dies?

These aren’t questions I have the answer to, although the first one is one that has a partial answer. Some lower wage earners have good rights here in Norway. Others do not. I imagine how organized they are is the reason. As to the second question: I do not think I would feel the same kind of responsibility unless I had been raised to feel that way. My sister probably would. She is the kind of person who takes care of family members and is one of the most generous people I know.

Every workday morning, DeBorah Palmer pulls on her navy blazer and starts her rounds. She is a security guard who patrols the galleries of a Manhattan museum and assists the visitors streaming through its doors.

But as she points the sightseers to this exhibit or that one, an urgent question inevitably pops into her mind: How is Stevie?

She means Stevie, who loves Iron Man, plain M&Ms and Popeye’s fried chicken. Stevie, who has a sweet inside basketball shot and a passion for dinosaurs. Stevie, who is a 54-year-old man with autism who cannot read a book or cross a street on his own.

Stevie Palmer is her beloved brother, her closest relative. He is intellectually disabled and counts on her to oversee his care at his group home in Queens. It is her personal mission to ensure that he has everything he needs.

Finding a way to do that — while holding onto a $16-an-hour job that offers little in the way of flexibility — is her biggest challenge.

“He’s my No. 1 priority,” said Ms. Palmer, who is 56, single and stressed. “Sometimes I feel guilty. I think to myself, ‘Am I doing enough?’ I think I could be doing better.”

The question, though, is how. Well-paid professionals are accustomed to slipping out occasionally during workdays for school meetings, doctors’ appointments or to check on sick relatives.

Lower-paid workers can’t count on such luxuries.

Ms. Palmer, for instance, works 40 hours a week, as well as about 20 hours of overtime, Tuesday through Saturday. Her 9-to-5 shift is fixed: She cannot duck out for an hour or two to meet with her brother’s doctors or the specialists who provide his care and training. She has to take a day off for that.

Where would that day come from? Well, she has five personal days a year. But she usually needs at least two or three of those days to visit her own doctors, who treat her high blood pressure, arthritis and other chronic ailments. She has two weeks of vacation, but has little say over when she can take them.

The result? She rarely attends meetings to discuss her brother’s care and goals. And sometimes a month or two go by without a visit. Ms. Palmer and her brother have only one common day off each week — Sunday. (Mr. Palmer attends a day program and does janitorial work on Mondays, her other day off.)

On some Sundays, Ms. Palmer is simply too exhausted to take her brother to the movies, basketball games or museums that he loves.

Ms. Palmer, who lives in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, is grateful for her job. It has been her lifeline since she was laid off as a research manager for a nonprofit nine years ago. But she desperately misses the flexibility she once took for granted as a white-collar worker. ………………

You can read the rest of the article on David Snape’s site


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