Archive for June, 2009

What Direct Care Work Has Taught Me: Everyone Loves a Baby

Posted by on June 29th, 2009 at 5:12 pm | 5 Comments »
Tracy Dudzinski

Tracy Dudzinski

I have always said this profession has given me more than I could ever give it.

Thirteen years ago, when I took the training to become a certified nursing assistant just because I needed a job, little did I know that it would change my life forever. I have learned many lessons over the years from being a direct care worker.

One of the first was that everybody loves a baby.

Actually, I think everyone loves a pregnant person. I remember when I started to showing. The residents loved to touch my belly. We would have wonderful conversations about when they had babies or when their children were little. As my pregnancy progressed and my belly got bigger I could walk in the room and the mood would change. If they could feel the baby kick, they would be in a great mood the rest of the shift.

But that was nothing compared to what happened after my daughter, Sophia, arrived.

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Members of 2009 Voices Institute Class Honored at Virginia CNA Celebration

Posted by on June 29th, 2009 at 4:13 pm | 1 Comment »

CNA Event June 16 098.smallNewly chosen members of the Voices Institute’s 2009 National Leadership Program were recognized at the 12th annual Celebrating Nursing Assistants event in Charlottesville, Virginia, on June 16.

Two hundred and thirty-seven CNAs from Central Virginia attended the event, which opened with a musical selection by the Charlottesville Threshold Choir. The choir sings at the bedsides of people who are ill or dying, for their caregivers, and for others in need of musical healing.

Following a buffet dinner and a talk by Dr. Wendi El-Amin, a family practitioner from the University of Virginia, certificates were awarded to Voices Institute inductees Geraldine (Liz) Rush and Robert Stevens and to Angel Saylor, who was on a waiting list at the time. Ms. Saylor has since been accepted.

Awards were then given in recognition of the CNAs with the most years of service and to the Nursing Assistant of the Year in each of five settings: hospital/acute care, community/home health, nursing home, assisted living, and companion/sitter.

Vermont is Looking for a Few Good Caregivers

Posted by on June 25th, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Comments Off on Vermont is Looking for a Few Good Caregivers

vermont mapThe Vermont Governor’s Commission on Healthy Aging is requesting nominations for a Caregiver Champion as part of its 4th Annual Healthy Aging Awards. Nominations are due August 1. The winner must provide “outstanding care, compassion, devotion and professionalism in the field of caregiving.”

According to the application, nominees must “exemplify the profession through demonstrating person-centered care, positive attitudes, strong communication skills, compassion, being advocates for the individuals receiving care, teamwork, knowledge, and skills.” The award is open to direct care workers in any home, community-based, or health care facility setting.

For details or to apply, download a the award application as a Word or PDF document.

Arkansas CNAs Honored at Annual Banquet

Posted by on June 25th, 2009 at 1:02 pm | Comments Off on Arkansas CNAs Honored at Annual Banquet

AANHR CNA Awards Luncheon 2009 Group larger for webArkansas nursing assistants were honored for their service by the Arkansas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents (AANHR). The 110 men and women at the June 8 banquet were nominated by their supervisors or by the resident council at their recognized for the loving care they have provided for the infirm – some for 10, 15, or even 20 years – despite low pay and few words of thanks.

Honorees from 63 nursing homes across the state received personal thanks for their untiring service. They were joined by directors of nursing, administrators, friends, and family members.

I read a proclamation from Governor Mike Beebe, which he created from a form I downloaded from the Career Nursing Assistant Network website’s resources for celebrating Nursing Assistant Week. I also read out each honoree’s name and the tribute his or her sponsor had written as he or she approached the front of the room to receive a framed certificate of merit, a pin, and a Wal-Mart gift certificate.

A number of cash prizes were awarded during the luncheon, which is an annual affair. This year’s was attended by 220 people. We were joined, as always, by State Ombudsman Kathie Gately and Carol Compas, Nursing Home Quality Initiative Project Manager for the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, our states Quality Improvement Organization. Kathie gave an inspirational speech and handed out some of the prizes, and Carol talked about culture change and how person-centered care means assigning CNAs to always work with the same set of residents, so they can get to know each other and become a true family.

In the latest issue of our newsletter, (PDF) we featured photos of all of the CNAs who were honored this year. It’s the least we can do for these caring caregivers, who have done so much for us.

Martha Deaver
President, AANHR

Ask your Representative to Support a Pay Raise for Direct Support Professionals

Posted by on June 25th, 2009 at 12:10 pm | 2 Comments »
Roy Gedat

Roy Gedat

Please visit our Legislation Action Center and ask your representative to support H.R. 868. It will only take a minute or two of your time.

The DCA’s board of directors has endorsed the Direct Support Professionals Fairness and Security Act of 2009.

The bill, also known as H.R. 868, (PDF) offers cash-strapped states a way to increase the pay of one part of the crucial and underpaid direct care workforce. It was sponsored by Lois Capps (D-CA) and Lee Terry (R-NE).

“The Direct Care Alliance board has voted in support of this bill because it is fundamental to our belief that increasing wages is an essential remedy to the workforce crisis,” says Board Chair Vera Salter.

Please join the Direct Care Alliance, our National Direct Care Partnership, and ANCOR, our advocacy partner on this bill, in asking your representatives in Congress to support H.R. 868.

Hearing from you, their constituent, will bring this issue to their attention and tell them that voters care about whether they support it. It may even influence a member to become a co-sponsor.

For more information on H.R.868, visit ANCOR’s website. And if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me.

Roy Gedat
National Advocacy Director
Direct Care Alliance

Maine Direct Care Worker Advocates Make Progress on Improving DCW Wages, Health Coverage

Posted by on June 25th, 2009 at 11:28 am | 1 Comment »
A planning session with (L to R) Vicki Purgavie of Home Care & Hospice Alliance, Diana Scully and Doreen McDaniel from DHHS, me, Leo Delicata of Legal Services for the Elderly, and Louise Olsen from the University of Southern Maine, Muskie School

A planning session with (L to R) Vicki Purgavie of Home Care & Hospice Alliance, Diana Scully and Doreen McDaniel from DHHS, me, Leo Delicata of Legal Services for the Elderly, and Louise Olsen from the University of Southern Maine, Muskie School

Here in Maine, we’ve been working on two bills that offer big possibilities for direct care workers, one by expanding health care coverage and the other by improving wages. A third bill, which would revamp the way long-term care is delivered, could also raise wages for home care workers.

Improving health care coverage

The health insurance bill, LD 1059, would set up a pilot program here based on what Montana did for its direct care workers. (pdf) The Maine Direct Care Worker Coalition (DCWC), which I’m a member of, developed the bill’s title and purpose and found a sponsor to introduce it in the legislature, but we never did come up with specific language.

What Montana did was secure an enhanced Medicaid reimbursement for agencies that provide health insurance for their workers. (Imagine that!) The money goes directly to the workers in the form of health insurance. It does not stay at the top as perks for the administrators, nor does it come down as health care fairs (or fluff, as I like to call them) where workers learn how to take better care of themselves. I think we all know how to do that.

Montana’s plan was implemented this past January. Last I knew, 900 workers had gotten health care coverage as a result — a small step in the right direction.

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DCA Publishes Fact Sheets for Direct Care Worker Advocates and their Allies

Posted by on June 25th, 2009 at 10:56 am | 1 Comment »

A full set of DCA Direct Care Fact Sheets, one for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, is now available in the Resources section of our website.

The one-page sheets were created as a resource for direct care worker advocates and their allies, legislators, policymakers, members of the media, and others interested in direct care issues. They include key facts such as:

  •   The number of home health aides, nursing assistants, and personal and home care aides in the state in 2006 and the projected numbers of each in 2016
  •   The average hourly wage for the state’s direct care workers
  •   What percentage of direct care workers in that state or region are without health insurance

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

Direct Care Worker Leaders Find Home in the 2009 Voices Institute Leadership Program

Posted by on June 24th, 2009 at 11:59 pm | 5 Comments »
Bridget Siljander

Bridget Siljander

A conference call isn’t usually an easy way to get to know someone, but there was a lot of laughter, sharing, and mutual support last week when the 2009 class of the Voices Institute National Leadership Program took part in a long-distance direct care worker exchange. 

I was excited about getting to know these impressive leaders, and it seems they were eager to meet each other too. The energy and sense of community I felt within our virtual gatherings, and the sense of easy familiarity that quickly built between us, were exhilarating. 

This was not the first time I have had this experience. The same positive spirit percolated in the first interactions of the 2008 inaugural class of the Voices Institute National Leadership Program. I will never forget how it captured my heart and my imagination. I’d found my way into my niche, into the group of people I most identified with. It was a profound connection: I was home. 

Last week, I heard the next class began to make that same connection.

There’s something special in direct care workers that we respond to when we meet, an element that I both witness and dance with. It is beautiful, and it reflects our inner strength.

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Caring for Our Mothers and Fathers: A Compassionate Journalist’s Inside Account

Posted by on June 17th, 2009 at 10:51 am | Comments Off on Caring for Our Mothers and Fathers: A Compassionate Journalist’s Inside Account
Paula Span

Paula Span

In When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions, Paula Span uses her personal experience to gain insight into the struggles and rewards of family caregivers.

A journalist who spent half her career at the Washington Post and is now an adjunct professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, Paula used a similar structure to explore paid caregiving in “Marilyn Daniel’s Reward.” In that article, which was a cover story for the Washington Post Magazine, she used  the story of one compassionate home health aide as her focus for a look at the profession as a whole. I got to know and respect her when she contacted me during her research for that article. You never know how things will turn out when a journalist calls for a quote, but Paula got the story just right.

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Texas to Hire More Direct Care Workers for Troubled State Schools

Posted by on June 16th, 2009 at 4:17 pm | 1 Comment »
Renee Tillman

Renee Tillman

There’s trouble in Texas’s so-called state schools, live-in institutions that provide campus-based long-term care for people with mental disabilities.

State investigators uncovered more than 500 cases of abuse and neglect in the schools between September 2007 and August 2008, and a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation found systemic abuses of the civil rights of the school’s roughly 4,700 residents. The DOJ’s report said many of the problems are due to high turnover rates, staff vacancies, and inadequate staff training and supervision. Late last month, the state reached an agreement with the DOJ intended to improve conditions in the schools. Among other things, the schools will get 1,160 more staff, most of them direct-care workers.

Here’s what CNA/CHPNA Renee Tillman, the founding president of the Texas Association of Nurse Assistants, has to say about this unfortunate situation and the proposed solution.

Hiring more workers should help. Direct care workers employed in mental health also need better initial and ongoing training. We have to have yearly in-services on Alzheimer’s and dementia care, but the kinds of mental health issues these kids have are completely different

I think Governor Perry feels he needs medical professionals monitoring the care in these schools. Two very close friends of mine were working in one of the schools that was shut down, and from what I’ve heard, some of the people who worked there were acting more like guards than caregivers or teachers, treating the kids almost like felons. They were also trying to impose discipline without much training, and there wasn’t much of a monitoring system in place to oversee what they were doing.

The kids who are in these institutions often come from pretty tough circumstances. If we’re not careful, they can easily be neglected inside the schools. We need to make sure the people who work there get the training they need. There should also be a special committee to oversee the program, to prevent the physical and sexual abuse that has been happening to these kids.

Delaware Workers Tell Policymaker What They Need at Career Nursing Assistant Day Event

Posted by on June 16th, 2009 at 3:28 pm | 3 Comments »
june-09-de-conference-1On June 11, I had the privilege to represent the DCA at the first ever Career Nursing Assistant Day Celebration and Recognition event for the direct care workers of Delaware. The meeting was held in Dover by the Delaware Certified Nursing Assistants (DCNA) association. The theme was the Wizard of Oz, since CNAs all have HEART, COURAGE and BRAINS.

Pat Engelhardt, the founder and head of the association, did an awesome job. As I know from years of experience, it takes a lot of time and effort to pull off an event like this. I counted approximately 55 direct care workers in attendance – a good number for a first event.

Keynote speaker Jeni Gipson (standing)

Keynote speaker Jeni Gipson (standing)

Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf was on the program – but she was there to learn, not to speak. Secretary Landgraf is working with Pat to improve government policies that affect direct care workers. She opened up the floor to questions, asking “If those changes were going to happen today, what would you ask for?”

The response was overwhelming, and the outcome was: RESPECT, better health insurance, dental and eye coverage, increased pay, and a living wage. She was amazed to hear about how many of us who provide care don’t have health care coverage ourselves. Continue reading »

Home Care Workers Given Highest Priority for Swine Flu Vaccine

Posted by on June 15th, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Comments Off on Home Care Workers Given Highest Priority for Swine Flu Vaccine
Jane Lipscomb

Jane Lipscomb

Home care workers should be considered Tier 1 personnel — the highest priority — for swine flu vaccination in efforts to minimize the impact of H1N1 virus and other pandemic flu outbreaks, according to an article (PDF) in the June 2009 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The article’s lead author is Sherry Baron, MD MPH, the coordinator for Priority Populations and Health Disparities at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The journal asked Dr. Baron, me, and our three coauthors to rush the article to press as part of a collection of articles that was published this month on how to prevent, prepare for, or treat pandemic influenza. DCA Executive Director Leonila Vega was an invited member of the workgroup that developed the recommendations.

“We’re really grateful that the CDC has focused attention on direct care workers, who work with millions of Americans, many of them with compromised immune systems,” says Leonila. “This points out how critical it is to include direct care workers – who often lack health care coverage and sick pay – in health care reform.” Continue reading »

Department of Labor Looking into Including Home Care Workers in FLSA

Posted by on June 12th, 2009 at 11:01 am | 1 Comment »

Secretary Solis
Secretary Solis

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis says her department is looking into its interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act to see if the current exemption of home care workers should be overturned.
The Associated Press reported that the Secretary’s announcement came a day after 15 senators sent her a letter asking her to reverse the ruling. That letter followed another letter sent to Secretary Solis in May by 37 members of the House of Representatives, in an effort spearheaded by the Direct Care Alliance.

Secretary Solis told the AP her department is looking at whether its regulations “effectively express the statutory exemption,” though she did not say when a decision will be made.

“As secretary of labor, I intend to fulfill the department’s mandate to protect America’s workers, including home health care aides, who work demanding work schedules and receive low wages,” she said.

If you haven’t already done so, please visit the DCA’s Legislative Action Center now. It just takes a minute to send Secretary Solis a letter asking her to reverse the ruling and extend minimum wage and overtime protection to home care workers.

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

DCA Effort Gains Momentum as Senators Demand Minimum Wage and OT for Home Care Workers

Posted by on June 11th, 2009 at 4:15 pm | 3 Comments »

Add your voice to the growing chorus! If you haven’t already sent Secretary Solis a letter of your own, visit our Legislative Action Center now and send one in. It will only take a minute of your time.

Senator Tom Harkin

Senator Tom Harkin

A powerful group of senators has joined the effort the DCA has been spearheading to extend minimum wage and overtime protection to home care workers.

Fifteen senators led by Tom Harkin (D-IA) have asked U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Hilda Solis to grant basic labor protections to home care workers. The senators — including Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Arlen Specter (D-PA), and Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA) — sent the Secretary a letter yesterday.

Last month, after the DCA brought a group of direct care workers and their allies to Capitol Hill to ask legislators for their  support, 37 members of the House of Representatives sent Secretary Solis a letter asking for the same fix.

The senators sent their letter two years after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upheld a contested DOL interpretation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The Supreme Court ruled that home care workers could be excluded from coverage on the basis that they provided “companion” services.

“In the three decades since the exemption was created, the numbers of home care workers and their responsibilities have expanded dramatically as the population has aged and more and more people are choosing long-term care services in their homes rather than in institutions,” the Senate letter says. “It is critical that these professional workers, who provide essential services to our nation’s elderly and disabled, have the same right to minimum wage and overtime pay as enjoyed by other workers.”

The DCA thanks all the advocates and long-term care stakeholders who have joined home care workers in this effort.

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

Legal Expert Calls for Minimum Labor Protections for Home Care Workers

Posted by on June 8th, 2009 at 6:57 pm | 4 Comments »
Peggie Smith

Peggie Smith

“Federal reform is urgently needed to provide home care workers with the compensation and respect they deserve,” says Peggie Smith.

Smith, who is the Murray Family Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law and a graduate of Harvard Law, is talking about a U.S. Supreme Court decision that excluded home care workers from protection under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court said the workers were providing companionship services.

In Protecting Home Care Workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act, (PDF) the second in a series of Direct Care Alliance policy briefs, Smith says the decision “threatens to destabilize the home care industry, erode the precarious economic status of home care workers, and undermine the quality of care that they provide to home care clients.”

She outlines two approaches the federal government could take to reverse the ruling:
1. Amend the FLSA to explicitly include home care workers; and
2. Revise Department of Labor (DOL) regulations to significantly limit the reach of the companionship exemption.

Smith recommends that the government do both, with the DOL taking immediate action to revise the companionship exemption while Congress works to reverse the impact of the Supreme Court decision by passing the Fair Home Health Care Act. Continue reading »

More than just “care”

Posted by on June 5th, 2009 at 6:17 pm | 1 Comment »
Terry Lynch

Terry Lynch

My mother — and I — received thousands of hours of in-home support from direct care workers during the last ten years of her life, most of it provided under the Medicaid program. In the course of those years, we learned that direct care goes well beyond “care.” It is also about empowerment, dignity, and self-respect.

Laura’s story is just one of many restorative experiences that drive my advocacy work on behalf of direct care workers and their uplifting impact on the lives of people like me and my mother, Leila Lynch.

Leila was a beautiful woman who sometimes struggled with the appearance changes that come along with aging. One morning she felt especially low after she awoke. Her body ached. Looking in her hand mirror made the start of the day even more difficult. She told me, “I can’t believe what has happened to me. I don’t like looking at myself any more.”

When Laura, one of my mother’s favorite caregivers, arrived, I described what had just happened. Laura rushed upstairs and returned with an assortment of brightly colored blouses and my mother’s favorite necklaces. “Leila, it’s time to start wearing your summer things,” she said. “Let’s see what you want to wear today and then have coffee on the porch.”

Continue reading »

Direct Support Professional Takes Top Job at Voices Institute

Posted by on June 5th, 2009 at 2:16 pm | 10 Comments »
If you want something done, they say, give it to someone who’s already busy. And if you want someone to run a leadership program for direct care workers, who better than a busy direct care worker?

The Direct Care Alliance got the right person for the job this week when direct support professional Bridget Siljander moved into the newly created position of Coordinator of the Voices Institute.

A graduate of the Voices Institute National Leadership Program’s first class, Bridget has provided care and supports to elders and people with disabilities for the past 12 years. She has worked in hospitals, group homes, and nursing homes, but most of her work has been in home care. For the past nine years, she was the primary aide for one home care client.

In addition, she chairs the Direct Support Professional Association of Minnesota and writes curriculum for the National College of Direct Support. She is also a member of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals board of directors’ Advocacy and Legislation Committee. On top of that, she is a member of the Alliance for Full Participation – and, until she moved into her new position, she worked half-time as a direct care worker specialist for the DCA.

“Bridget’s proven leadership abilities, professionalism, commitment to excellence and personal knowledge of the direct care workforce made her an ideal choice to lead our signature program,” says DCA Executive Director Leonila Vega. “Her addition to the DCA staff marks a historic expansion and validation of our nationwide leadership development initiative. With her leadership, we will achieve our goal of expanding our state and regional Voices Institute leadership programs.”

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Why Home Care Employers Care About the Concerns of Direct Care Workers

Posted by on June 3rd, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Comments Off on Why Home Care Employers Care About the Concerns of Direct Care Workers

As the new executive director of the National Private Duty Association (NPDA), the voice of agencies providing private pay home care, I believe it is important for the NPDA and the Direct Care Alliance to work together to improve the direct care worker career.

Our two organizations make for a very strong voice on issues of common concern. NPDA represents employers in 47 states. Legislators pay attention to numbers.

By adding me to its board of directors, the DCA has brought together organizations representing direct care workers with mine, which represesents home care employers.

Why would a trade association of private pay home care agencies care about the concerns of the direct care worker? The home care worker is the “touch” that a customer has with the agency they have employed. It is in the employer’s best interest to train and maintain quality caregivers.

Continue reading »