Archive for February, 2010

Letting Her Go: How direct care work prepared me to care for my wife

Posted by on February 26th, 2010 at 3:57 pm | 12 Comments »

John Booker

We direct care workers are a very important and powerful group of individuals. At times, we actually hold the very power of life and death in our hands. Especially if we are CPR-certified or have some advanced training, we can perform interventions that make a profound, life-sustaining difference in a matter of moments.

And those skills, I’ve learned, apply to our own lives as well as our work.

When I was challenged, many years ago, with assisting my mother in her last days, I had no CNA training or experience. I had no idea how to help my mother or make her comfortable and myself safe, so we both suffered.

As a result of that experience, I became a professional direct care worker. I soon acquired a new set of skills, like how to take someone’s blood pressure and recognize its danger signs, how to measure a pulse or respiration rate and know what to make of the results, and how to position a bed-bound person. I also learned about things like the need for special diets and the importance of proper hydration – all important skills and knowledge for helping to maintain a person’s life.

A few years ago, I was called on that training for a purpose I had never anticipated: Caring for my wife during what became a long battle with cancer. In caring for her, I found that my direct care worker training and experience made me a much better caregiver, but it also brought me face to face with a terrible choice. Continue reading »

Health care reform still holds promise for direct care workers

Posted by on February 26th, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Comments Off on Health care reform still holds promise for direct care workers

David Ward

Is health care reform dead?
I can see why some people might think so.  The Election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts ended the Democrats’ 60-40 “filibuster proof” majority in the Senate, which means at least one Republican must vote with the Democrats in order for the Senate to overcome delay tactics by the bill’s opposition.

Although the Democrats are unlikely to find that one Republican vote, health care reform is still alive.  Since the Senate has already passed a health care reform bill, the House of Representatives could pass the Senate bill and incorporate elements of the House reform bill through a process called budget reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority vote and limits the number of hours of debate.

How health care reform impacts direct care workers

If uninsured direct care workers obtain coverage at the same rate as the entire uninsured population, the Senate bill would ensure coverage for hundreds of thousands of uninsured direct care workers. This is a very conservative estimate and the number of uninsured direct care workers would likely be higher as a result of some workers being covered under the Medicaid expansion and other subsidies for low- and middle-income families. In addition to covering many of the uninsured, these subsidies will relieve some of the financial pressures caused by health care costs for many direct care workers and their families. Continue reading »

Independent living & disability rights advocate takes up the case of direct care workers

Posted by on February 25th, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Comments Off on Independent living & disability rights advocate takes up the case of direct care workers

On a recent trip to Maine, I sat down with Representative Matthew Peterson of District 92 to discuss his work on behalf of direct care workers in the state.  He has worked in direct care for years, and is currently an Independent Living Specialist at Alpha One, a center for independent living. As an elected official, Matthew is able to advocate for change in direct care and believes it is an essential and valuable workforce. It is inspiring and encouraging  – Matthew has linked his personal passion and commitment to independent living  to advocating the need for a well-trained, respected and well-paid direct care workforce.   Watch the brief interview I was able to record with Matthew, below. 

Imagine if more disability leaders and independent living advocates joined the Direct Care Alliance  and made their voices heard on the issues that matter.  What if, like Matthew, you could advance change in your community, your state, and eventually, across the country?  Continue reading »

Worker Rights Champion Confirmed as Solicitor for the U.S. DOL

Posted by on February 16th, 2010 at 6:58 pm | 1 Comment »

Patricia Smith

We are excited to report that the Senate confirmed President Obama’s appointment of M. Patricia Smith as Solicitor of the U.S. Department of Labor.

This is great news for direct care workers because Ms. Smith has a proven track record as a champion for American workers. In her new position, she will be responsible for enforcing national labor laws. The DCA is hopeful that she will make the extension of federal wage and overtime protections to home care workers a top priority once she takes office.

Related material

The New York Times story on Patricia Smith’s appointment

Support Melanie’s March for Health Care Reform

Posted by on February 16th, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Comments Off on Support Melanie’s March for Health Care Reform

Melanie Shouse

A group of Pennsylvanians is marching the 135 miles from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., over the next week. They are going to call on Congress to support health care reform, and they want you to join them.

It may be a little late to join the march from start to finish, since it starts on February 17, but the leaders of Melanie’s March are also looking for people to join them at events along the way in cities like Newark, Wilmington, and Baltimore; donate to support the cause; or march the last mile with them to Capitol Hill. Continue reading »

DCA Welcomes DC-Based Director of Communications

Posted by on February 16th, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Comments Off on DCA Welcomes DC-Based Director of Communications

Aaron Pickering

The Direct Care Alliance will welcome another new staff member and boost our presence in the nation’s capitol when Aaron P. Pickering joins us as our full-time director of communications next week.

Aaron comes to us from Equal Justice Works, where he helped promote the work of law students and attorneys providing pro bono representation to low-income and vulnerable individuals and families. As their senior communications specialist, he was part of the team that developed their communications and marketing strategy. Aaron brings the right combination of skills and passion for social justice that will benefit the DCA as we fight for improving the direct care profession. Continue reading »

Washington State to Vote on Career Path for Home Care Workers

Posted by on February 16th, 2010 at 6:07 pm | 4 Comments »

Linda Lee

The Washington state legislature is finally starting to support the work we home care workers and our allies have been doing to establish a professional career path for direct care workers in long-term care. On Saturday, a bill to allow home care workers to more easily become nursing assistants was passed out of committee. It will soon be voted on by the state Senate.

The House bill, HB 2766, and the Senate’s, SB 6582, are nearly identical. A third bill, SB 6662, is slightly different and more inclusive of other types of workers. None of the three have funding attached, so they will only be effective if my union, SEIU 775, can negotiate money for our joint Training Trust.

The cynical part of me says it’s about time the legislature recognized the work we home care aides have been doing to improve the quality of care we provide, but the optimistic part is happy for this good news. Continue reading »

New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition Seeks Leader

Posted by on February 15th, 2010 at 1:13 am | Comments Off on New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition Seeks Leader

The New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition is seeking its first executive director. The organization, which was founded last year, is headed by a 10-member board of directors all of whom are direct care workers.

To apply, send a cover letter and resume to by March 3.

Job description (PDF)

New Scholarship Opportunity for Vermont Caregivers

Posted by on February 15th, 2010 at 12:45 am | Comments Off on New Scholarship Opportunity for Vermont Caregivers

A scholarship for caregivers will be awarded this spring to a professional caregiver for seniors or adults with disabilities in Vermont. The first annual Linda Andersen Caregiver Scholarship, named in honor of a long-time caregiver who passed away suddenly last year, is being presented by Armistead Caregiver Services in conjunction with the Community of Vermont Elders (COVE).

“We want to honor Linda’s dedication to seniors, her teammates and Armistead with this $1,000 scholarship. We also want to honor caregiving as a career by making access to education and training a little easier,” says Rachel Lee Cummings, President of Armistead. COVE will administer the scholarship, collecting and reviewing applications and making the award decision.

Applicants must have at least two years of caregiving experience, be at least 18 years old, and be a legal resident of Vermont. The winner must apply the money toward education or training related to the caregiver field, such as conflict management, gerontology, psychology, nursing, or medical school.

The scholarship will be awarded in April.

Read more and download the application (PDF)

Maine Tables Report on Improving Home- and Community-Based Care

Posted by on February 11th, 2010 at 4:45 pm | 3 Comments »

Helen Hanson

Well, our report is complete, but it has not yet been presented to the Legislature.

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I am part of a team that was appointed by the state of Maine to recommend ways that the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee could streamline long-term care service delivery, address equalities 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 finished our work in early January, and the report was supposed to be released later that month.

But I just learned that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has put it on the back burner instead. Continue reading »

The Rewards of Direct Care Work

Posted by on February 10th, 2010 at 6:26 pm | 7 Comments »

Bob Stevens

In my seven years as a direct care worker, my profession has brought fulfillment and satisfaction to my life.

These are my rewards:

  1. Purpose. Helping people in need is a great reason for getting out of bed each day.
  2. Opportunity. Being in a position to make a difference by working and advocating for improved care is a privilege.
  3. Gratitude. I am showered with thanks and appreciation from the people I support, their families and friends, and my employer.
  4. Respect. I get treated with utmost esteem and courtesy for what I do by the people I support, their family and friends, my employer, my co-workers, healthcare professionals, my community and my family and friends. No office politics here!
  5. Knowledge. I constantly learn new things from the people I support and their environment.
  6. Training. My employers always make training opportunities available; some required, some not. I take advantage of every offering possible, as well as self-instruction online.
  7. Job Security. Since direct care work is among the fastest growing occupations and since there is such a shortage of workers, good direct care workers enjoy job security.
  8. Flexibility. I can work as many or as few hours as I want, when I want.
  9. Fair Wages. I receive fair compensation, consistent with that received by other direct care workers and health care industry professionals.

How could I reasonably ask for more?

See my next blog post for the answer – or tell me what you think by commenting below.

Bob Stevens
Direct Support Professional/Senior Caregiver
Graduate, 2009 Voices Institute National Leadership Program

Join the DCA in Answering the President’s Call to Action

Posted by on February 1st, 2010 at 7:28 pm | 1 Comment »

President Obama

In his State of the Union Address last Tuesday, President Obama reiterated that his Administration’s #1 priority is to create more jobs and get our economy back on track. He also challenged Congress: “Don’t walk away from health care reform.”

The DCA applauds the President’s call to action. With more than a quarter of all direct care workers lacking health insurance, making quality health care affordable for all Americans remains our top priority. We’re also working to get direct care on the job creation agenda, so some of that funding will go to improve the quality of direct care jobs, ensuring that we can satisfy consumer demand for a stable, well-qualified workforce.

Direct care jobs are expected to be among the fastest growing occupations in the USA over the next decade. That means our nation is facing a crucial choice. We can continue to tolerate low-paying, poor-quality jobs that swell the ranks of the working poor and lead to poor care. Or we can invest in the direct care workforce. Continue reading »