Archive for January, 2010

US News Explains Role of Caregiving Staff in Culture Change

Posted by on January 31st, 2010 at 10:35 pm | 1 Comment »

As part of its annual Best Nursing Homes issue this month, U.S. News and World Report includes a feature on how culture change can transform a nursing home into a good place to live by respecting residents and fitting care plans and schedules to their individual needs – and by empowering caregivers and nurturing their relationships with the residents.

The feature begins with an anecdote about a man who loves to visit his mother at the home, Evergreen Retirement Community in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, because of “the easy warmth of the nurses and aides,” who he says are like “kid sisters” or his own daughters.” Continue reading »

Martha Stewart Calls for Help for Family Caregivers

Posted by on January 31st, 2010 at 9:14 pm | 1 Comment »

Martha Stewart

“Whether or not you care about older people, you will, if you’re lucky, be one of them. It’s not just a demographic. It’s personal — it’s you, your parents, your aunts, uncles, friends and children. We need to do a better job caring for this population — and supporting those who care for them,” writes Martha Stewart in a January 20 post in the Huffington Post.

Stewart notes the absence of any discussion about that fast-growing population in the coverage of the health care bill, saying “We, as a nation, are utterly unprepared for this rapidly approaching ‘silver tsunami.’” She calls for better geriatric training for medical professionals and better support for family caregivers.

Stewart also endorses the CLASS Act, noting that it would provide people with cash for home care, adult day programs, assisted living, or nursing homes. “We must not lose sight of a pressing need for solutions that will offer older adults and their families some financial protection,” she writes.

Stewart is the founder of the Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mt. Sinai.

Poems by Direct Care Workers: The Teacher

Posted by on January 31st, 2010 at 3:33 pm | 2 Comments »

David Moreau

In Social Awareness Sophie’s asked
If you could change any part of yourself
what would it be?
and she thinks very carefully.

The staff are good at this one.
Each participant’s annual meeting
starts with Strengths, which we skip
over quickly and Needs, which we use
to make hab plans, such as, Donnie will refrain
from talking to people he doesn’t know
on ninety percent of recorded occasions
for three consecutive months,
Sophie will report to group on time….  Continue reading »

Multimedia Presentation Tells Moving Story of Family Caregiving

Posted by on January 31st, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Comments Off on Multimedia Presentation Tells Moving Story of Family Caregiving

Marilyn Daniel helps Classie Morant (L) prepare for her sister's funeral.

In two moving multimedia presentations that meld photos and captions with spoken memories, the Washington Post has fleshed out the story of the elderly sisters introduced in an earlier feature. Marilyn Daniel’s Reward brought to life the importance of direct care work through telling the story of Daniel, a compassionate home health aide. One of her clients was Rozzie Laney, who passed away at the age of 92. Rozzie’s primary caregiver was her 104-year-old sister, Clarice “Classie” Morant.

No Greater Love shows how Classie took care of her sister during her last days. Sweet Dreams is about Rozzie’s death, on New Year’s Eve 2008.

New York Times Calls for Justice for Home Care Workers

Posted by on January 31st, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Comments Off on New York Times Calls for Justice for Home Care Workers

Evelyn Coke

The DCA’s battle for justice for home care workers got a powerful assist on January 29 when a New York Times editorial called on President Obama to right the wrong that leaves home care workers without minimum wage and overtime protections under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. If he does not do so, the editorial urges the Congress to pass a bill named for Evelyn Coke, the home care aide whose challenge to that injustice made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Lilly and Evelyn” points out that the first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which overturned a Supreme Court decision denying a woman restitution for having been paid her less than her male colleagues for years. “It is past time for Mr. Obama to see that similar justice is done for Evelyn Coke,” the editorial states. Continue reading »

DCA’s Investment in Arizona Pays Off: Association, Worker Leaders Make Great Strides

Posted by on January 29th, 2010 at 3:49 pm | 1 Comment »

Judy Clinco

It’s not easy to start up a direct care worker association, but with the right members and allies, you’d be surprised how much you can get done.

Our association, the Arizona Direct Care Worker Association (ADCWA), started last year. We are still in the process of building up our membership, but we already have some really powerful advocates for their profession. And we have a plan for the year, which we’re all working hard to implement.

After the DCA’s Vera Salter did a Power Me workshop for us last summer, we invited all the association members who attended the workshop to become part of a leadership circle. Six of them did, and they’ve gotten a lot done in the last six months. Continue reading »

I Don’t Do this Job to Win an Award – But It Sure Feels Good to Get One

Posted by on January 19th, 2010 at 2:28 pm | 10 Comments »

Timothy Doe

You must first be a believer if you would be an achiever.

Late last year, something happened that humbled me more than anything else in the five years that I’ve worked at the Catholic Community Services (CCS) Community Living Program in Tucson: I was chosen as our 2009-2010 Employee of the Year.

I have been assisting people with disabilities since I was in high school. I do this work because I love it, to accomplish goals, and to feel that I am contributing to something. I usually don’t feel as if anyone other than the person I am assisting is aware of what I do. If you’d asked me about that, I would have said it didn’t matter, but this award has made me realize how good it feels to have your work acknowledged.

It has also made me think about the road that led me to this profession that I love. Continue reading »

College of Direct Support Profiles another Outstanding DSP Leader

Posted by on January 15th, 2010 at 7:30 pm | 2 Comments »

Theresa Laws

“I have recommended this field to others and will continue to do so. I feel as though this can be a very rewarding field — as long as you measure it by the happiness of the people you serve,” says Theresa Laws.

Laws is the latest direct support professional to be profiled by the College of Direct Support in its DSP Chronicles. (PDF)

A Health Support Specialist/Direct Support Professional for the Rensselaer County ARC in Troy, New York, where she helps support six women in a group home, she is also an advocate for her professional. Law is a founding member of the Direct Support Professional Alliance of New York State, and she has testified before the New York State Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committee about te need for better DSP benefits and salaries.

“It was exhilarating and a little nerve-wracking to say the least to testify but I was honored to be asked to do it and it’s such an important set of issues for DSPs, for those we support and for their families,” she says.

DSP Advocate of the Year Siljander Urges Others to Join the Cause

Posted by on January 15th, 2010 at 6:32 pm | 7 Comments »

Bridget Siljander

The DCA’s own Bridget Siljander was named DSP Advocate of the Year by the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) in St. Paul, Minnesota.

A recent issue of MCIL’s newsletter (PDF) features an interview with Siljander, in which she talks about how the direct support field has evolved in the dozen years she has been in it, why her fellow direct support professionals should join her in advocating for better working conditions, and more.

“I would challenge everyone who wants better working conditions to do something about it,” she says. “It is very liberating to speak up and to share your experiences – good and bad. There are not enough DSPs doing that and it gives the impression that we are fine with the status quo.”

Bob Hudek Joins DCA as Voices Institute Director

Posted by on January 15th, 2010 at 5:12 pm | 4 Comments »

Bob Hudek

I am delighted to announce that Bob Hudek has joined our staff as director of the DCA’s Voices Institute.

Bob is highly experienced at both grassroots organizing and training. He has developed and conducted training programs for unions and citizen organizations on effective organizing, building grass roots power, leadership development and coalition-building.

I met Bob when he was running Citizen Action of Wisconsin, which he revitalized through coalition building and grass roots organizing. He has also served as executive director of the Coalition for Consumer Rights and as national field director of Citizen Action and the Citizen/Labor Energy Coalition.

For the past several years, Bob has also been essential to our Voices Institute, which he was instrumental in developing. Continue reading »

Transference and Counter-Transference between DCWs and Consumers

Posted by on January 15th, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Comments Off on Transference and Counter-Transference between DCWs and Consumers

Paul Tripoli

On the surface, the work performed by direct care workers can be viewed as providing consumers with basic needs: bathing, grooming and other activities of daily living. However, at the deepest level, direct care workers touch the heart of the human being. The emotional component and impact of their work can be profound, as the people they care for — like the caregivers themselves — have a need for self-expression and a need to relate to others.


In a counseling therapy setting, therapists and their clients often experience what is known as transference and counter-transference, when one of them projects feelings from past relationships onto the other. Transference can lead to a client having romantic feelings for a therapist.

The same process can happen between a direct care worker and someone he or she assists. As Lisa Marie Hilz writes in Transference and Counter-Transference, transference “evolves from unresolved or unsatisfactory…experiences in relationships with parents or other important figures…. This may precipitate behavioral and thought patterns in subsequent relationships, even though certain actions and attitudes may be inappropriate for the current interaction…. As nurses generally have the most consistent and frequent contact with patients as compared with other disciplines, the potential for nurses to be objects of transference is significant.” Continue reading »

Pennsylvania Provider Urges Displaces Workers to Consider Direct Care

Posted by on January 15th, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Comments Off on Pennsylvania Provider Urges Displaces Workers to Consider Direct Care

Lori Michael

In another call for putting direct care on the nation’s job creation agenda, a Pennsylvania home care provider appealed to laid-off workers in a January 12 editorial in the Pottsville, Pennsylvania Republican Herald.

Lori Michael, the founder and chair of the Schuylkill County Direct Care Workers Association and owner of Lori’s Angels, a home care agency, urges displaced workers with “patience and understanding” to consider a career in direct care.

Michael describes direct care as “recession-proof” work that can last a lifetime and allow you to “really make a difference in the life of another person.” She also notes that it is one of the fastest-growing job categories in the nation, “playing a vital role in job creation and economic growth.”

Maine Makes Progress toward Improving Home Care Delivery

Posted by on January 15th, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Comments Off on Maine Makes Progress toward Improving Home Care Delivery

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

As I explained in an earlier blog post, Maine is putting four pieces of legislation that would affect the home- and community-based part of Maine’s long-term care system — including its direct care workers — through a LEAN process. The aim of the process is to make service delivery more efficient, address inequalities in the services provided, and hopefully gain some cost savings, which can be passed on to workers in the form of livable wages and benefits such as paid time off and health care coverage. We’ve made a lot of progress toward that goal in the last few weeks.

Two direct care workers, Julie Moulton and I, were appointed to the core team that will lead the process of coming up with a plan for a streamlined system. Another direct care worker, Cathy Bouchard, became an alternate, stepping up when Julie was unable to stay on the team. I am also part of a Direct Care Workers’ Task Force that was put together to recommend changes for the issues directly affecting home care workers. This is the first time workers have been involved at this high a level of working on system change in Maine. Continue reading »

Don’t Let Them Forget Why Direct Care Workers Need Health Care Reform

Posted by on January 14th, 2010 at 10:40 am | 5 Comments »

Tracy Dudzinski

Embarrassed. Less than. Not worthy. Angry. Unimportant.

These are a few of the words that describe how I feel about having to rely on a state-sponsored health insurance plan for my family’s insurance coverage, though I work full time for a home care agency. I just can’t afford my employer’s health insurance plan on a direct care worker’s wages.

If I am helping care for our nation’s most vulnerable, why can’t I afford to buy into my employer’s health insurance plan for my family?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m very grateful for the state-sponsored insurance. I have three insulin-dependent diabetics in my family, so without the help of Wisconsin’s Medicaid plan, we’d have to choose between medication and food or gas. And who knows how we’d pay for doctor visits and hospital stays?

We pay a monthly premium and have co-pays for services, but I can afford BadgerCare’s rates. I just can’t afford my employer’s. That means I’m stuck in a vicious cycle: I can’t afford to get much of a raise, because if I made a little more than I’m making now, we wouldn’t qualify for the state health care plan. I’d have to buy into my employer’s plan, but a few dollars more a week wouldn’t be enough to make it affordable. So I’d be stuck with that awful choice — medicine or food? I might even have to join the millions of people who have gone bankrupt because of high medical bills. Continue reading »

Opportunities for Advocates in Wisconsin

Posted by on January 7th, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Comments Off on Opportunities for Advocates in Wisconsin

 Application form and details

This spring, the DCA’s Voices Institute will introduce a state-level training program for people who want to improve the lives of direct support workers and the people they support. If you’re a direct support worker or a long-term care recipient in Wisconsin who has a passion for that cause, we’d love to see you there!

Advocacy Voices Together is sponsored by the Direct Care Alliance, the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (WBPDD), and the Wisconsin Direct Caregiver Alliance (WIDCA). The program teams direct support workers with people who receive long-term care services. Together, they will learn how to build support for better direct care worker wages, benefits and working conditions.  Continue reading »

DCA Board of Directors Calls for Nominations

Posted by on January 4th, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Comments Off on DCA Board of Directors Calls for Nominations

Jenn Craigue

The Direct Care Alliance board of directors is looking for more direct care workers and allies to help lead the organization during this exciting period of growth and impact.

As the national advocacy voice of direct care workers in long-term care, DCA is passionate about developing direct care worker leaders who can lead our fight for more respect and better wages, benefits, and training. Part of that process is making sure that we have a strong, diverse group of direct care workers on our board of directors who can represent the needs and opinions of our workforce.

For the first time, our board is being led by two direct care workers — myself and my colleague Tracy Dudzinski. Tracy and I are part of a direct care worker subcommittee that has been working on how to get more workers on our board from more types of long-term care settings. Board members have the chance to get involved in other subcommittees and will be instrumental in leading the development of the national personal support professional credential program.  We’re looking for strong leaders with a passion for the work they do and a strong desire to improve the job and its image nationwide. We also want workers from all different walks of life, ethnic backgrounds, and parts of the country. Meet the current board.

If that sounds like you, please read my letter of invitation, fill out an application, and send it back to Leonila Vega at by December 1. And if it sounds like someone you know, please tell them about this opportunity and encourage them to apply.