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Patient handlers: low wages, back injuries and the need for debt relief

If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you've got plenty of company. Survey data suggests that between 40 to 76 percent of Americans are doing the same.

That doesn't mean it's easy. This is especially true if you are working for a low wage to begin with - or if you get hurt on the job and end up losing income from work for a significant period of time.

If that happens, your bills can really start to pile up. In this post, we will discuss the financial challenges faced by one particular group doing demanding but far from lucrative work: nursing assistants and other patient handlers.

Back injuries and low pay

It is well known that nursing assistants and others who must lift or handle patients are at great risk of back injuries. National Public Radio has reported on the problem.

NPR has shown that most hospitals and nursing facilities fail to properly protect patient handlers. Cutting-edge research done at The Ohio State University has shown that there is simply no safe way to lift many patients manually, even if multiple people are doing the lifting.

Adding to the problem is the fact that nursing assistants and other support staff generally don't get paid very well to begin with. In practice, this probably means that if you get hurt at work, you don't have a lot of financial resources to fall back on. And workers' compensation probably won't be enough to close the gap.

Indeed, even if you are able to avoid injury, the low pay may make it very difficult for you to make ends meet. You may be burdened by debts you can't pay, looking for some sort of resolution.

What if you don't have an emergency fund?

Of course, many financial experts say you should have an emergency fund. The nationally known financial self-help advocate Dave Ramsey is especially vocal about that message.

If you have an emergency fund, it gives you something to fall back on besides workers' comp if you get hurt on the job. And if something else other than a work injury comes up to sap your finances, the fund you've created can help you hang in there until things improve.

But what if you can't afford to create an emergency fund? After all, if you're living paycheck to paycheck - as many nursing assistants are - you may not be able to. No matter how much the Dave Ramseys of the world may preach at you, the money may just not be there to do it.

Bankruptcy as a debt relief option

Depending on your particular situation, this is where it may make sense to consider filing bankruptcy. If you are overburdened by bills and don't have the resources to bail yourself out, bankruptcy may be a good way for you to get debt relief.

To be sure, it's something you'll want to discuss with a skilled bankruptcy attorney. You've been taking care of other people a lot. Now it's time to take care of yourself and seek a fresh financial future for your family.

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