When Charlene Hess got sick with a digestive illness, she went to the hospital as an independent 67-year-old who lived alone in her gated community in Sacramento, Calif. When she left, she needed help — doing everything.

With help from her daughter, Jennifer Gunn, the two discovered there are people — in this case two neighbors — willing to help with everything from bathing to vacuuming to changing kitty litter: home health care workers.

These essential employees, who work in the privacy of people’s homes for a short time such as with Hess — or long-term for the disabled or chronically ill — don’t always make minimum wage or overtime pay because of a loophole in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

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