Salena Sawtelle needs a new pair of work shoes.
From 6:15 a.m. until 2:45 p.m. each day, she walks miles, back and forth through the rooms of the eight elderly residents under her watch at Stillwater Health Care nursing home in Bangor.
As a certified nursing assistant, or CNA, she helps the residents shower, eat and use the bathroom. She changes their diapers, sheets and clothes. She rubs lotion on their 80- or 90-year-old bodies, and puts in and takes out their dentures. She helps them out of bed and into their wheelchairs, and out of their wheelchairs and into bed.
This is just a fraction of what she does. “It’s literally nonstop,” Sawtelle, 23, said at the end of her shift on Feb. 21. As a result, the insoles of her black work clogs have flattened. Her feet ache. But Sawtelle can’t afford a new pair of shoes, she said. She makes $11.37 an hour, or about $1,600 a month, which is barely enough to cover her monthly rent ($400), car payment ($233), car insurance ($135), phone plan ($45) and other bills. Most weeks she has about $50 left over for everything else, including groceries and gas. The work is so stressful and the pay so low that even though she loves her job — and her supervisors say she has a gift for it — Sawtelle has considered quitting or moving to Massachusetts where the pay is better.
Maine cannot afford to lose Sawtelle.