Social Medium: ‘I had so many beaners working for me’

“Why doesn’t he speak English? Is he stupid or what? What the hell is he doing?”

Those are the welcoming words from my 87-year old employer when I arrive to work at her home every Monday. Elder abuse is not only the one perpetuated against elders but against people who work for them.

Fernando, a 56-year-old undocumented immigrant, is the elder employer’s gardener and driver. Fernando doesn’t speak English.

He has worked at her home for 12 years despite the constant abuses. Complaining that she “can’t pay to fix repairs around the house,” Fernando says he has saved her thousands of dollars in repairs.

Fixing the roof and pool, painting the house and repairing all the electrical connections are part of Fernando’s chores, with no extra reward. But not even those savings have prevented her from ranting against her employee.

“My water bill runs $200 a month. This has to be fixed. I’m sure not happy with him. Too many people need jobs. The illegals come by the tens of thousands,” the 87-year-old tell me.

Many of these elders are depressed since they are abandoned by their family members or because they are disabled and are forced to go on assistance.

Having a low-wage worker allows them to live with minimal care in their own homes and have a better alternative to the isolation of living in an elder-care facility.

Many immigrants have worked for elders by cleaning their homes and gardens, running errands, driving them to the doctor, getting their medicines, preparing their meals and bathing them.

But, for some, the many years working under their elder employers does not ensure a better treatment.

“I had so many ‘beaners’ working for me that season, so I could hardly know who did it,” the 87-year-old lady tells me, after complaining about a broken patio statue.

Racist comments against undocumented immigrants are the norm but Fernando knows it’s better than working in his beloved Tijuana. He was unemployed for four months, surviving only from what his wife could make cleaning houses. After applying at many factories, he gave up because maquiladoras tend to hire younger workers. “They want people up to 27 years, that is why many companies do not hire us,” Fernando tells me.

Fernando is now working on building a fence. He won’t even get compensated for gasoline or for his time shopping at Home Depot.

But Fernando is OK with that.

When I asked him to ask his elder employer if he could be compensated for his additional errand, he says, “No, she is going to get mad, pobrecita, (poor lady). I want to help la Doña (my boss). She is always alone and her children do not care about her. We take more care of her than her kids.”

According to the Population Resource Center, the number of people age 65 or older will “nearly double between 2000 and 2030.”

With no family members to provide support as they age, many of them lack the funds, so they turn to immigrant workers.

Karen Gaia, author of an article for Population Implosion, “Graying of the Population and Negative Population Growth” asks, “Who would take care of the old people in the United States?”

In the article one of the few answers is to “let immigrants do it.”

The employer does know that the recession forces immigrants to accept these jobs.   Without these workers, the life they may face in institutions will not improve from what they have now. Many senior citizens live in long-term care facilities.

Ironically, long-standing racial and ethnic differences prevent  both populations from enjoying the opportunity to live better and meet the needs of other.

Fernando is the perfect candidate for abuse, and as he says, “Her bigotry against Mexicans is getting me tired. I only want to work. If I leave her, she would have to pay much more, she doesn’t get that I am helping her. We can help each other, but instead, I have to deal with her hate, every day.”