Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on August 15th, 2014 at 9:35 pm | No Comments »

A new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor would raise the minimum wage for VA hospital CNAs and other federal contractors to $10.10 an hour.

A new guidance and updated fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Labor help states make sure home care workers are paid fairly under the minimum wage and overtime rule.

Another excellent editorial from the New York Times on why U.S. Department of Labor must resist pressure to delay implementing the minimum wage and overtime rule for home care workers.

Home care worker Maureen Lewis on why we must improve the lives of the next generation by improving wages for direct care workersContinue reading »

DCA Maine forms Partnership with Maine People’s Alliance

Posted by on July 31st, 2014 at 11:49 am | No Comments »

image for david moreau storyDCA Maine has a long history of empowering direct care workers to speak up and voice their concerns on issues regarding their work.  Members have testified before legislative committees, spoken with our elected representatives in Congress and taken part in work groups and coalitions to improve the conditions of direct care work.

Notable successes include two grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA); one for helping direct care workers to obtain health insurance through their employers and another for training direct care workers on core competencies so they can easily transfer from one population to another.  We are also proud of being part of the campaign to remove the companionship exemption for home care workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

But a lot still needs to be done to create a world where direct care workers receive adequate pay, support and training to do the work we love. So when Direct Care Alliance let us know it had run out of out of funding, we looked for another group that could support our work.  Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on July 16th, 2014 at 3:49 pm | No Comments »

A new rule proposed by US DOL would raise the minimum wage for VA hospital CNAs and other federal contractors to $10.10 an hour.

A new guidance and updated fact sheet from U.S. Department of Labor help states make sure home care workers are paid fairly under the minimum wage and overtime rule.

Another excellent New York Times editorial on why U.S. Department of Labor must resist pressure to delay implementing the minimum wage and overtime rule for home care workers.

A family member, National Nurses United and a professor of labor and employment studies on the disaster that is the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn ruling.

A small raise for Massachusetts home care aides is a step in the right direction, but there’s a long way to go yet. Continue reading »

Leading Long-Term Care Magazine Reports on DCA’s New Status

Posted by on June 25th, 2014 at 12:23 pm | 1 Comment »

mcknights_logo“Long-term care workers are, by nature, hearty souls. They have to be. That’s probably why Monday’s notice set off bells in numerous offices here. It’s over. Operations are ceasing.”

So begins a blog post by James M. Berklan, editor of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, about DCA’s change in status and search for a partner.  Read his story.

Farewell and Thank You

Posted by on June 23rd, 2014 at 10:09 am | 21 Comments »

Dear Friend of DCA,

group shot panoramic for web

With your support, Direct Care Alliance has been the national advocacy voice of direct care workers for almost ten years.  We can all be proud of what we have accomplished together.

Inspired by the vision of former Executive Director Leonila Vega, we built a nationwide advocacy network of direct care workers through the Voices Institute and other means. These worker leaders are eloquent about the value of their work and have a passion for improving our system of long-term services and supports.

We influenced legislation and regulation, taking important steps at the state and federal level to improve the health and economic security of direct care workers, invest in the workforce and enhance training and advancement opportunities. A key recent victory was the final home care rule extending basic labor protections–including federal minimum wage and overtime pay–to home care workers nationwide.

We developed a national credentialing program that is an important step toward building recognition of personal care work. We assisted many direct care workers in finding health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. We also provided technical and financial assistance to direct care worker state associations.

Unfortunately, the world has changed, and our income has decreased every year. The board has grappled with this over the years, trying to trim costs while maintaining services and supports for workers, but we don’t have enough funding to continue operating. We regretfully inform you that DCA staff operations will cease and our offices in Washington, DC and New York will close by June 30.  Continue reading »

FAQs About DCA’s New Status

Posted by on June 23rd, 2014 at 10:09 am | No Comments »

I hear DCA is closing down. Is that true?

Our offices closed and our staff stopped working on June 30, 2014. The board is operating a “virtual office” to respond to members through October 20. Our communications consultant is also staying on part-time to maintain our website, blog and social media.

What happened?

Finding grant funding has became more and more challenging in recent years, and our income has been steadily decreasing. The board has been trimming costs where it could, but we arrived at a point at which things were no longer sustainable.

What will DCA do between now and October 20?

The board is exploring possible partnerships with other organizations in hopes of finding a new home for our members and allies. If you know of a group that might be interested in partnering with us, please let us know.  Continue reading »

Celebrate National Nursing Assistants Week by Giving R-E-S-P-E-C-T Year-Round

Posted by on June 17th, 2014 at 11:42 am | No Comments »

Read this editorial on Huffington Post

Carla Washington

Carla Washington

If you talk to direct care workers about what they do for a living, you will discover within the first five minutes of your conversation that they are proud of the care they provide. Talk to them a little longer and you will probably also hear how conflicted they are about their work, largely because of how underappreciated and disrespected it is by the rest of us.

Growing up I can vividly recall my mother, a 30-year career CNA (now retired), exemplifying that dichotomy when she spoke to me and my brothers about her work. While she certainly enjoyed the care side of direct care work, I could hear the disappointment in her voice when she talked about how the work she and fellow direct care workers provided was rarely appreciated or talked about with respect by others within the nursing home and VA hospital she worked at.  Continue reading »

What Makes a Good Caregiver: The Most Important Trait of All

Posted by on June 16th, 2014 at 10:41 am | 8 Comments »
Me and Mom after her stroke

Me and Mom after her stroke

I’ve been covering the world of long-term care for almost 20 years now, focusing for more than half that time on direct care workers, so I’ve thought a lot about the many traits—including competence, compassion, reliability, attentiveness and patience—that make good direct care workers so good at their work. But not until my own mom became a “total care” nursing home resident did I learn to appreciate what I now think is the most important trait of all.

A massive stroke at the end of 2012 left Mom with severe expressive aphasia. She can usually understand what is said to her and knows what she wants to say in response, but she can rarely get out the words she needs to make herself understood. She’s come a long way, after months of speech therapy, but for every time she can say the right word or short phrase there are many more when she can only get out a string of unconnected words.

Watching people react to Mom has taught me a lot about how our words define us. Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on June 16th, 2014 at 10:16 am | No Comments »

Punitive managers and overreliance on rigid rules foster bad patterns of interaction in nursing homes, harming resident care and staff satisfaction—but there are methods managers can use to encourage positive interactions between staff.

Delay the minimum wage and overtime rule for home care workers even longer? Home care workers deserve better, and so do consumers.

Watch Respect: The Joy of Aides, a wonderful 20-minute documentary by Eva Sweeney, a woman with CP, about how to hire and manage aides and what it’s like when a direct care worker and a client work well together.

Good news for home care worker wages: a 5% pay raise in Minnesota, home care workers fighting for fair wages all across America, and rallies in Cleveland and Boston, where home care workers are calling for a $15 minimum wage for their profession.  Continue reading »

On a Treadmill Going Backward: Surviving on a Home Care Worker’s Wages

Posted by on May 29th, 2014 at 10:34 pm | 4 Comments »

The following is an edited excerpt from a journal I kept in October 2004 about life as a home care worker in Augusta, Maine.

Beat_up_carTwo days ago, I pulled the ligament under my kneecap at a client’s home, catching my foot on a plastic rug. Then my car started to make “dentist drill” noises and my mechanics told me I needed to replace the pulleys on the alternator. I squeezed another 12 miles onto the odometer before I felt a change in the power steering, letting me know the alternator wasn’t doing its job. Welcome to the home care worker’s biggest nightmare: Lack of wheels!

I reflected on my need for transportation as I took a taxi to work yesterday. Basically, my car is used for business transportation. “Drive to work, work to drive,” as a friend used to say.   To save money, I do all my errands on my way home from an elder’s house. Of the thousands of miles on my old car, I have probably logged about a thousand traveling for pleasure, usually to see family and friends. The rest were all spent driving to and from my clients’ homes.  Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on May 29th, 2014 at 10:30 pm | No Comments »

The Massachusetts Senate is deciding whether to give home care workers a much-needed raise.

Watch this excellent program from NJTV’s Due Process about why home care workers and other low-wage workers need paid time off.

Contract workers are a fast-increasing percentage of the workforce, in direct care and elsewhere—and that’s a worrisome trend.

Let’s not let technology run amok: A reminder that robots can never take the place of human beings in the very personal business of direct care work.

The Library of Congress is funding research on home health care workers by a University of Oregon team.

A heroic direct care worker saved 20 residents after fire broke out in an adult foster care home in Detroit.

The mammoth national Home Instead Senior Care franchise is bringing staff training online.

A home care worker in England is threatening to sue for being issued a parking ticket while visiting a client.

Why I Loved Direct Care Work, and Why I Quit It

Posted by on May 29th, 2014 at 9:59 pm | No Comments »

Sonya Huber is a former direct care worker and the author of Two Eyes Are Never Enough: A Minimum Wage Memoir, an e-book about her experiences in the field.

Sonya Huber

Sonya Huber

Direct care work, in one sense, made me feel like a rock star. When a stranger asked me what I did for a living, and I said, “I work in a facility for emotionally troubled teenagers,” the response was often: “Wow, that’s so great.” No other job I’ve ever done—and I’ve sampled dozens—has ever netted me such a consistent response.

And the job was great, for all the reasons these strangers guessed. It was important work that pulled my heart and soul and body into the huge effort required each day. It was clear as I started a shift at the residential center that I would be challenged and that I would have the chance to help young people in crisis.

I think part of the awed response to these direct care positions comes from the urge that everyone has to do meaningful work. Many people have jobs that don’t feel meaningful to them, and those people fantasize about leaving a position to make a difference. Most people respect a job where, at the end of the day, you can clearly point to a crisis you helped solve or a person in pain who you helped comfort.

It’s mysterious and tragic that the respect we have on a one-to-one basis for meaningful jobs doesn’t translate to respect for an industry or a whole category of employees: the group of direct care workers.
The lack of respect results in things like low wages and stressful working conditions.

That, ultimately, was why I left direct care. Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on May 20th, 2014 at 11:59 am | No Comments »

The New York Times on why we must not delay implementation of the new rule extending minimum wage and overtime pay to home care workers.

Read about the awesome recipients of ANCOR’s 2014 Direct Support Professionals Award.

Former home health aides bring valuable perspective to the job when they transition into nursing, says home care agency president Marki Flannery.

Check out and contribute to the new TalkPoverty.org website, an opportunity for direct care workers and other advocates to tell their stories and share solutions.

From Northeast England, the diary of a home care worker:  overworked, underpaid, and looking after your loved ones. Continue reading »

Thanks to Obamacare, I Finally Have Health Insurance Again!

Posted by on May 18th, 2014 at 1:36 pm | 2 Comments »
Tracy Dudzinski

Tracy Dudzinski

Have you ever done a happy dance? Well I don’t dance, but I did a happy dance when I completed the enrollment process for health insurance through the new health care marketplace. It was frustrating at times, but the frustration was worth it because I finally have health insurance again!

I have had to deal with a lot of stress in the past in keeping my family insured through Badger Care, Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, as the children got older or the rules changed.  I’ve also had my own struggles with maintaining health care coverage. For many years as a home care worker I qualified for Badger Care. Then I got a raise and was making $50 a month too much to qualify, so I had to switch to my employer’s insurance plan. That lasted for years, but I lost that insurance in November 2011 when the home care agency I work for stopped offering insurance because it was too expensive.

I went without health insurance for two and a half years after that. There were several times during that period when I should have seen a doctor but did not because I couldn’t afford it. Continue reading »

Direct Care Worker Voices Ring Loud and Clear at Capitol Hill Briefing

Posted by on May 18th, 2014 at 1:32 pm | No Comments »

“That was so compelling.” “How can I learn more?” “How powerful!”

That was some of the feedback I received from the people who approached me following a May 8 briefing on Capitol Hill. The Washington, D.C. briefing was hosted by OWL–The Voice of Midlife and Older Women, to observe the release of its annual Mother’s Day report. The focus of this year’s report is long-term care, services and supports (LTSS), including growing demand, challenges, and opportunities for improvement, and I had been asked to talk about how direct care workers fit into that picture. My co-panelists highlighted key considerations including how best to meet the needs of older adults and people with disabilities, the challenges facing family caregivers, financing, and the lack of a political will for change. I spoke about the critical role played by direct care workers and how best to strengthen and support the direct care workforce to meet the growing demand for high-quality care and support.

When I spoke, there were gasps from the audience at the size and anticipated growth of the workforce, the percentage of women in the profession, and the low wages and high rate of dependence on public assistance among direct care workers. We are so familiar with these facts and figures that we sometimes forget how shocking they are to people who are new to them, but reactions at the briefing proved that we were reaching new people, teaching them about the urgency and importance of direct care workforce issues, and inspiring them to take action. Continue reading »

How to Improve Elder Care

Posted by on May 16th, 2014 at 11:49 am | No Comments »

This Wednesday, Direct Care Alliance, Eldercare Workforce Alliance and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care hosted an Older Americans Month tweetchat on how to support older adults’ independence, safety and health. Here are highlights from the chat, including links to moving testimonials, useful resources, and tips about how you can help.

What Older Americans Really Need

Posted by on May 5th, 2014 at 1:58 pm | No Comments »
Jessica Brill Ortiz

Jessica Brill Ortiz

May is Older Americans Month, traditionally a time to recognize older adults’ contributions to the United States. But if we genuinely want to use this May to give back to the parents, grandparents and other elders who have done so much for us, we must turn our attention to the direct care workers who help millions of older adults live as healthily and independently as possible. We must stop shortchanging elders by turning our backs on the direct care workers they depend on.

Read the rest of my editorial in The Hill’s Congress blog.

Why It’s Crucial to Make the Link Between Better Jobs and Better Care

Posted by on May 5th, 2014 at 1:51 pm | 3 Comments »

Deborah Little is the chair of the Sociology department at Adelphi University. Her chapter in Caring on the Clock, a book on direct care work that is due out this fall from Rutgers, looks at DCA’s work to support and empower direct care worker advocates. She recently talked to DCA’s Elise Nakhnikian about what strategies are most effective and why.

Voices Institute students at work with an instructor (far left).

Voices Institute students at work with an instructor (far left).

What got you interested in this topic?

I was hired by DCA to do an evaluation of the pilot senior CNA project that started three years ago. As part of that, Leonila [Vega] invited me to attend a national Voices Institute in Wisconsin, because five participants from the senior CNA project attended that year. At the Voices Institute, I got very interested in the organizing and empowerment work that DCA was doing. I took extensive field notes during the Voices Institute, and spent a lot of time speaking with participants in informal interviews. After that, I expanded my research to look at the DCA blog and the literature on organizing direct care workers.

What got me interested in this topic was a moment that I talk about at the beginning of the paper, where one of the workers at the Voices Institute was willing to give up a wage increase because she thought it would be difficult for her clients to afford the extra cost. I thought, how can this be? How can she not readily see the connection between the quality of her job and the quality of the care she is giving? And how can she be so willing to sacrifice her own needs and the needs of her family? Continue reading »