Archive for August, 2009

Tell Congress We Demand a Health Care System that Works for Everyone

Posted by on August 27th, 2009 at 11:06 am | 2 Comments »
DCA National Advocacy Director Roy Gedat with direct care workers Julie Bell and Vicki and Ray Erickson in DC

DCA National Advocacy Director Roy Gedat with direct care workers Julie Bell and Vicki and Ray Erickson in DC

Act now! Contact your elected representatives

The health care reform bills being hashed out in both houses of Congress offer the best chance to date to improve health care coverage for millions of Americans — including the approximately one million direct care workers who cannot afford health insurance. There was considerable momentum behind this reform effort earlier this year, but it is now in danger of stalling unless voters speak up to make it happen.  

The DCA has added a letter to its Legislative Action Center so you make a difference.  

If you want Congress to extend health care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and offer more support to the direct care workforce, click on the link above and follow a few easy steps to forward our letter to your elected representatives.

You can send the letter as is or change it to add personal information, or to emphasize the issue that is most important to you.

Let’s Honor Evelyn Coke in Death as She Should Have Been Honored in Life

Posted by on August 26th, 2009 at 9:15 am | 1 Comment »
Evelyn Coke

Evelyn Coke

“I met Secretary Solis several months ago and we talked about Evelyn Coke. ‘That’s just the kind of worker I want the Department of Labor to speak for,’ she told me,” writes Ellen Bravo in a tribute to Coke published by The Women’s Media Center on August 14.

Writing about Coke’s life and Supreme Court case after Coke’s death, Bravo calls on women’s groups and others to “honor Evelyn Coke posthumously as she should have been honored every day in her work.

“Justice for the Evelyn Cokes of this world will have a price tag,” Bravo acknowledges. “But the cost of injustice—poverty for full-time caregivers in one of the fastest growing fields of employment and one with a large turnover—is much higher.”

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on August 25th, 2009 at 6:53 pm | 2 Comments »
Faye Miller

Faye Miller

Faye Miller Honored as South Dakota’s DSP of the Year

 A special issue of The DSP Chronicles is devoted to Faye Miller, South Dakota’s Direct Support Professional of the Year. Miller was honored by ANCOR (the American Network of Community Options and Resources) for her dedication to the people she assists, who have an array of disabilities, including mild intellectual disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, defiant disorders and traumatic brain injury. “Faye is the total package of a DSP — talented, very professional. Kind,” says Gigi Healy, the supervisor who recommended her for the award. “She’s never in a hurry or too busy to listen. She brainstorms things with the people she supports and always has creative thoughts. She loves them and they love her.”

Healy says Miller helped one of the people she works with get meaningful employment and helped another publish a book he had written. “My work is about the relationships, getting to know everyone I support as an individual,” Miller says. “Sometimes they are shy. I take them to lunch, I listen to them and their stories and their lives. It’s an investment of time, finding out where they want to shine. I network in town, and assist individuals in integrating into the community. It’s about having a one-on-one relationship with every person I support. Learning to know someone in depth is a gift.”


CNA Eileen Alig Receives National Award

“Family members of residents comment that Eileen is never rushed when working with residents,” says Dana Reese, administrator of the Good Samaritan Center in Manson, Iowa. “Her beaming smile and contagious laughter help her to communicate with residents regardless of their cognitive state.” Reese is talking about Eileen Alig, 81, the Good Samaritan Society’s 2009 Certified Nursing Assistant of the Year. According to an article in the August 10 Fort Dodge, Iowa, Messenger, Alig started working as a CNA 44 years ago. She still works three days a week and alternating weekends.

Alig was chosen for the national award from a pool of more than 7,000 CNAs who work for Good Samaritan at more than 230 locations. “She is definitely the moral compass of the Alig clan and her priorities are always in order,” said her granddaughter, Sara Martin. “She treats everyone with respect because she expects the same respect in return. Her faith carries her, and the rest of us every day and I can only hope to mimic her poise, service and character as I try to raise my own grounded family.”


Joseph Kearney Jr. (L) with his father

Joseph Kearney Jr. (L) with his father

Chronicle of a Young Man’s Journey to Caregiving

An article in the August 11 Des Moines Register describes the “passion for nursing” 18-year-old Joseph Kearney Jr. discovered five years ago, when he began caring for his father after he was paralyzed in a car crash. “The crash put Joseph Jr. on a fast track to adulthood,” says the article.

Graduating early from high school, Kearney enrolled in a summer nursing assistant program. People who read about him in another newspaper article donated money toward the cost of the classes, giving him added confidence as well as needed funding to help with tuition. Kearney recently passed his final clinical exam to become a CNA and hopes to start work at a nursing home soon.

Nursing Homes Investigated for High Interest on Employee Loans

Posted by on August 25th, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Comments Off on Nursing Homes Investigated for High Interest on Employee Loans

interest_rateA study by the St. Louis Better Business Bureau has found that more than 90 Missouri nursing homes regularly lend money to their employees at very high interest rates. The money is loaned to employees on payday, with the loan amount plus interest and fees deducted from their next paychecks.

According to an article  in the August 17 St. Louis Business Journal, the state allows lenders to charge up to a 1,950 percent annual percentage rate on two-week payday loans, the highest allowed among the 43 states that have either banned or set APR caps on payday loans.

“The study also found that Missouri’s lax laws have attracted several out-of-state lenders, including 34 online payday loan companies, and that the average cost of payday loans to borrowers with five or more loans in Missouri is $317 million, second only to California,” the article says.

The bureau sent copies of its study to all Missouri legislators.

David Ward Joins DCA as Director of Policy and Planning

Posted by on August 25th, 2009 at 4:53 pm | 13 Comments »

David Ward

David Ward

The Direct Care Alliance welcomes David Ward in the newly created position of Director of Policy and Planning.

He will work closely with National Advocacy Director Roy Gedat and the DCA board’s advocacy committee to develop and implement the DCA’s policy and advocacy agenda. He will also support the DCA in its coalition-building and fundraising initiatives.

“David’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the voice and needs of direct care workers are heard by key policy makers and key stakeholders,” says DCA Executive Director Leonila Vega. “Working with Roy and our board’s advocacy committee, he will build a national policy agenda to help direct care workers improve their working conditions, pay, benefits and career advancement opportunities. He will also help support and coordinate Roy Gedat’s work with worker associations and coalitions.” Continue reading »

Legislators Urged Not Just to Create New Home Care Jobs But to Improve Them

Posted by on August 25th, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Comments Off on Legislators Urged Not Just to Create New Home Care Jobs But to Improve Them
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez

“We urge you … not only to create a new program, but to create a program that improves the quality of these jobs,” PHI New York Policy Director Carol Rodat told the New York State House Financial Services Housing Subcommittee last month. Rodat was testifying in favor of two proposed bills that would train public housing residents as health care aides for elderly people living in public and subsidized housing.

The bills, the Together We Care Act of 2009 and improvements to the Earnings and Living Opportunities Act, are sponsored by Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, who sees them as a way to improve access to both health care and jobs for public housing residents.

“This model is very promising, and in fact would provide funds for a program that has been tried – successfully – in the past,” said Rodat in an email interview. “Given the importance of this workforce and the growing number of aging, this proposal makes perfect sense as it marries workforce development with the needs of the residents. Continue reading »

Poems by Direct Care Workers: My Lighthouse

Posted by on August 25th, 2009 at 2:56 pm | 2 Comments »
Jenn Craigue

Jenn Craigue

Since I developed a disability, I have been struggling to figure out where I fit in. It hit me one night that I will always fit in with DCA because I believe in the mission. And the DCA gives me a way to stay involved with direct care work. I’m also excited to have been elected as vice chair of the DCA’s board of directors. My primary mission is to get more direct care workers involved with the board, to get their input and to give them a way to develop their leadership skills.

Just because I can no longer work as a direct care worker doesn’t mean that the problems my peers face – problems I know well since I used to deal with myself – have gone away. I believe with all my heart that both direct care workers and the people they serve will benefit immensely if the government recognizes and respects the importance of direct care work. The health care system would fall apart without us.

That’s why I wrote this poem. Continue reading »

We Need to Take Control of Our Health Care

Posted by on August 25th, 2009 at 12:02 pm | 1 Comment »
Ray Erickson

Ray Erickson

I have been thinking about health care reform for over a month now, wondering how to write about it without offending anyone. But no matter what I write, I’m sure it will offend someone. For this I apologize in advance.

I also want to thank all my instructors at last year’s Voices Institute. Without them, I would not be writing this now. They convinced me that one voice can make a difference, and that speaking up about what I believe may help others use their own voices to make a difference.

Some of you reading this know me personally and know that I have had quite an extensive medical history over the last 11 years. I have been one of the fortunate ones, since I can afford health insurance through my employer. Without that insurance, my wife and I would probably be medically bankrupt several times over. But a lot of our coworkers are not so lucky.

About a third care of all direct care workers can’t afford insurance, due to high premium rates and low wages. (Those low wages are a whole other issue.) How many of us go to work sick because we cannot afford to miss a day due to illness? We can’t take proper care of you or your loved ones if we’re sick ourselves – or if we’ve let a chronic condition go untreated so long that it’s gotten too back to let us work.  If you want to know more about this, PHI just published a new fact sheet (PDF) about it. Continue reading »

A Matter of Life and Death

Posted by on August 25th, 2009 at 11:24 am | Comments Off on A Matter of Life and Death
cigarette_190Sometimes being a good caregiver means sharing a cigarette – or more

Ray was only 38 when I met him. He’d been living with an illness for six years when it finally robbed him of the ability to move any part of his body but his head, and he was admitted to our nursing home.

I’d been warned before I’d met him that he was a little demanding and his speech was very difficult to understand. I thought I’d be pretty demanding too if I were in his situation, and I’d always had a knack for thick accents and speech impediments so I wasn’t scared.

I had no need to worry. Ray and I hit it off right away. I had no trouble understanding him and did my best to organize my day in such a way that I left myself enough time to meet his needs.

In addition to his medication schedule, his toileting schedule, his resting in bed schedule, Ray had a strict smoking schedule. At the appointed times, someone would have to take him outside and feed him a cigarette.

As a former smoker, I enjoyed being able to light his smoke for him, sneaking in a little puff for myself. I’d hold the butt in a clothespin, or pen cap, or whatever invention he came up with to make the process easier, and bring it to his mouth as he pulled. We’d chat between drags and he’d let me know when he was ready for more. He’d usually smoke two or three each session. It was a good 20-minute affair. Lots of time to talk.

Continue reading »

Join President Obama, Faith-Based Groups in Talks about Health Care Reform

Posted by on August 10th, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Comments Off on Join President Obama, Faith-Based Groups in Talks about Health Care Reform

In another attempt to ensure that the voices of the pro-reform majority are heard in the health care reform debate, a coalition of religious groups is holding a Day of Action Event tomorrow. The groups are also hosting a nationwide conference call on August 19. Both events aim to mobilize the millions of people of faith nationwide who understand the need for health care reform and want to be part of it.

For tomorrow’s Day of Action churches, synagogues, and mosques nationwide will hold prayer vigils, rallies, and other events in favor of health care reform.

President Obama will participate in the August 19 conference call, so the groups that are organizing the call want to mobilize tens of thousands of participants to show their support.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans want a civil discussion about health care. But over the last week, a small group of people have hijacked town hall meetings and used some extreme methods to get the media’s attention,” says an email from PICO. “Shouting down one’s fellow citizens, disrupting public meetings, hanging Members of Congress in effigy…this is not the American way. That is why the engagement of the faith community is so important at this precise moment.

 “We need to bring real people back into the debate – people who want solutions to the rising cost of health care for them and their families.”

Find a Day of Action event near you

To participate in the nationwide conference call, check back with the PICO National Network website in a few days for updates.

DCA’s New Operations Manager is the Daughter of a CNA

Posted by on August 10th, 2009 at 2:33 pm | 2 Comments »
Coleen George

Coleen George

Coleen George has joined the Direct Care Alliance as operations manager.

The daughter of a CNA, Coleen migrated from Trinidad and Tobago to America at the age of 12. She has over 10 years of office management and operations experience in the not-for-profit sector, including two years of travel with the Big Apple Circus, coordinating transportation logistics. She has also worked at the London Development Agency, where she organized consultation events on behalf of the Mayor of London’s European Funding program.

Coleen recently relocated back to New York after two and a  half years in London. She is excited to join the DCA in advancing its mission and objectives.

Evelyn Coke, Pioneer in the Fight for FLSA Protection for Home Care Aides, Dies at 74

Posted by on August 10th, 2009 at 1:38 pm | 4 Comments »
Evelyn Coke

Evelyn Coke

“Year in and year out, Evelyn Coke left her Queens house early to go to the homes of elderly, sick, often dying people. She bathed them, cooked for them, helped them dress and monitored their medications. She sometimes worked three consecutive 24-hour shifts,” starts an article in yesterday’s New York Times.

“She loved the work, but she earned only around $7 an hour and got no overtime pay,” the article continues. “For years Ms. Coke, a single mother of five, quietly grumbled, and then, quite uncharacteristically, rebelled. In a case that reached the Supreme Court in 2007, Ms. Coke sued to reverse federal labor regulations that exempt home care agencies from having to pay overtime.”

Ms. Coke was 74.

The obituary made note of the letters sent by senators and members of the house asking U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to eliminate the exemption.

The Senate letter mentioned Coke by name, noting: “Evelyn Coke, who took a case all the way to the Supreme Court, spent two decades working more than 40 hours a week caring for others,” the senators wrote. “Yet, when she suffered from kidney failure, she could not afford a health care worker to take care of her.”

“Evelyn Coke’s courage was the inspiration for the DCA’s campaign to fix the FLSA exemption,” says DCA Executive Director Leonila Vega. “Her passing renews our commitment to addressing this gross injustice, whereby millions of hard working Americans are left out of basic minimum labor protections. There is no better way to honor Evelyn Coke than for policymakers to improve the lives of home care workers by amending the companionship definition.”

John Booker Becomes DCA’s Latest Direct Care Worker Specialist

Posted by on August 10th, 2009 at 1:12 pm | 1 Comment »

John Booker

John Booker

The Direct Care Alliance is a young organization, so many of our founders are still part of our board of directors. I see it as a sign of organizational success when one of our key founders moves from that role, in which they supply ideas and strategy to help shape our work, to helping to implement those plans.

I am pleased to announce that John Booker, a direct care worker with over 20 years of experience, is stepping down from the board to become our newest direct care worker specialist. John will work with me and other DCA staff to develop our state partnerships, build coalitions with other organizations across the country, and conduct outreach to individual direct care workers.

John has been part of the brain trust that has guided and developed the DCA since its inception. As a member of the board of directors, he helped develop the organization from an idea to a reality. Last April, he became the first elected chair of the board of directors and the first direct care worker to lead the board.

John served as chair during our most active period to date. During his tenure, we launched our Voices Institute, on which John assisted with program design and served as a faculty member. He also led the board as we planned and executed our first trip to Washington D.C. to make sure direct care worker issues were included in the health care debate and considered by the Department of Labor.

Leonila Vega, Esq.
Executive Director
Direct Care Alliance

Brenda Nachtway Video: Direct Care is a Profession

Posted by on August 10th, 2009 at 12:02 pm | 4 Comments »

In this video, nurse aide and DCA Direct Care Worker Specialist Brenda Nachtway discusses her years as professional direct care worker and her commitment to her profession. Please share this moving story with anyone who might benefit from hearing a direct care worker talk about her profession.

Help Put Direct Care Workers on the Health Care Reform Agenda

Posted by on August 7th, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Comments Off on Help Put Direct Care Workers on the Health Care Reform Agenda

Other groups are sending their constituents to the town hall meetings on health care reform, sometimes grabbing headlines with their questions and comments, and direct care worker advocates and their allies can do the same.

If you want to help make sure direct care workers aren’t left out of the health care reform agenda, speak up at your local town meeting. The meetings are being held nationwide by Congress this month.

The Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA)  has issued guidelines for healthcare workforce advocates. The guidelines tell you how to find a meeting in your area, suggest some questions you might ask, and provide contact information for reporting back to EWA, so it can keep track of the response from legislators.

The DCA is one of 29 national organizations that are members of EWA, whose mission is to address the immediate and future workforce crisis in caring for an aging America.

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

PHI Policy Pages Offer Online Resources

Posted by on August 7th, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Comments Off on PHI Policy Pages Offer Online Resources

PolicyWorks home pagePHI has added to its suite of websites, creating two two entries to highlight its main areas of interest.

PolicyWorks lays out PHI’s policy recommendations for the direct care workforce, while Training Services describes its approach to training.

Training Services is mainly intended to promote PHI’s work, but PolicyWorks includes resources for direct care worker advocates and their allies. In a press release about PolicyWorks, PHI says it is intended to “promote national and state policy solutions that strengthen the direct-care workforce and prepare our nation to care for growing numbers of elders and people with disabilities.”

Also in PHI’s suite of websites are its National Clearinghouse on the Direct Care Workforce and Coverage Is Critical, the online arm of its Health Care for Health Care Workers initiative.

U.S. Census Report Details Growing Worldwide Care Gap

Posted by on August 7th, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Comments Off on U.S. Census Report Details Growing Worldwide Care Gap

worldwide care gap census report coverThe so-called “care gap” is not just an American problem, as a report from the U.S. Census Bureau makes clear.

According to An Aging World: 2008, (PDF) the world’s population is aging at “an unprecedented rate.” By 2040, people 65 and older are expected to be 14 percent of the world population – double their percentage in 2008. In just 10 years, there will be more elders than children under 5 worldwide for the first time in human history.

The report examines nine international population trends that contribute to that changing picture. It also looks at the declining availability of family caregivers and touches on the changes in the professional caregiving options available, noting that home care services are more prevalent now in almost every part of the world.

Wan He, a Census Bureau demographer and co-author of the report, told Bloomberg News that both developed and developing countries worldwide face similar caregiving challenges. “With an aging society, caretaking will be a serious challenge for the society and the family. Who will contribute to social insurance? And, in the family there will be fewer and fewer children available to take care of the older parents.”

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

Researchers Call for Investing in DCWs as Part of Health Care Reform

Posted by on August 7th, 2009 at 11:44 am | Comments Off on Researchers Call for Investing in DCWs as Part of Health Care Reform

In its first policy paper, a foundation started last year by the Southern California-based Senior Care Action Network (SCAN) to “advance the development of a sustainable continuum of quality care for elders” calls for investing in direct care workers.

Long-Term Care in Health Care Reform: Policy Options to Improve Both (PDF) is a detailed report by four distinguished researchers. The authors present four policy options for including long-term care support and services in health care reform.

They propose four overarching changes to the system:

  •   Expand Medicaid support for home and community‐based services;
  •   Improve coordination of medical and long‐term care for Medicare‐Medicaid “dual eligibles”;
  •   Improve coordination of medical and long‐term care for Medicare enrollees; and
  •   Establish a new public long‐term care insurance program.

In writing about the first, they make it clear that these services cannot be expanded unless there are enough qualified and committed direct care workers available to deliver them, calling on policymakers to “invest in workforce development to assure people can obtain the type and quality of home and community-based services they need and want.”

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

Connecticut White Paper Identifies Causes for DCW Turnover and Recommends Cures

Posted by on August 7th, 2009 at 10:54 am | Comments Off on Connecticut White Paper Identifies Causes for DCW Turnover and Recommends Cures

When No One Cares cover“Although Connecticut has expanded programming for services to meet the needs of older adults, persons with disabilities and persons with chronic health needs, we are losing the necessary labor force to properly provide these services,” says When No One Cares: Why We Need to Save Connecticut’s Direct Care Workforce. (PDF) The eight-page white paper outlines the state’s fast-growing need for direct care givers – particularly home care workers.

Connecticut’s “care gap” will be one of the more pronounced in the nation, with its population of elders is expected to increase by 69 percent by 2030, while the population that has traditionally supplied the great majority of direct care workers – women aged 25 to 44 – decreases by 10 percent. What’s more, home care, which is becoming more common as the long-term care system is “rebalanced,” requires more direct care workers than residential care, making it all the more urgent that the state find ways to attract and retain workers.

The paper organizes the roadblocks to building a stable and sufficient direct care workforce into three categories – recruitment, retention and reimbursement – and offers policy and practice solutions for each.

Continue reading »