For Lori Rappleyea, having her personal assistant Barbara Fredericks come and help her is essential. Lori has muscular dystrophy, which makes some tasks and chores very difficult.

“With the form of muscular dystrophy that I have, it’s progressive, so the older I’ve gotten, the less use I have in my hands and my feet. So she basically is my hands and my feet,” Rappleyea said.

Consumer Directed Choices is a nonprofit that offers payroll and administrative services to caregivers like Barbara for people living with disabilities and seniors. CDChoices recently raised the amount that their personal assistants can get paid to $15 per hour. However, through New York State’s consumer directed personal assistance program, the average pay range in April 2021 was $14 per hour.

“It was an absolute blessing because with the prices of everything going up, it was really, really difficult to even make it to work,” Fredericks said.

Barbara says caregivers are severely underpaid and she’s grateful to Lori for the increase in pay. Lori, on the other hand, says the pay increase is important to keep caregivers working for her longer.

“I know that since she’s been working for me since February, we have a work relationship, but we also have a friendship,” Rappleyea said.