Archive for March, 2010

The Difference a Year Can Make: The evolving work of the Direct Care Alliance

Posted by on March 31st, 2010 at 8:24 am | 5 Comments »

John Booker

Attending the American Society on Aging (ASA) and the National Council on Aging’s joint “Aging in America” conference this past week in Chicago reminded me why the Direct Care Alliance is so important to every direct care worker in this country. It was also clear to me and so many others that the Direct Care Alliance has come so far in just one year.

As a member of ASA’s New Ventures in Leadership (NVL) Class of 2010, my perspective as a direct care worker; as a founding member of the Direct Care Alliance; and a graduate of the Voices Institute gave me an advantage and a different perspective than the thousands of other attendees.

Discussions about the work of the DCA over this past year could be heard in the hallways and convention rooms throughout the conference. In special sessions, attendees marveled at some of the Voices Institute graduates and the work they are producing. I was personally acknowledged as a VI grad by my peers in the ASA’s NVL program, which was designed for emerging minority leaders in the field of aging. It was an honor to represent direct care workers and the Voices Institute in such a distinguished way. Continue reading »

From the ASA/NCOA Conference: How health care reform impacts DCWs

Posted by on March 30th, 2010 at 11:07 am | 1 Comment »

Last week I traveled to Chicago for the 2010 Aging in America Conference. It was a great event and I wanted to share my experience with you along with some thoughts on how health care reform impacts direct care workers.

The Nature of Leadership: Remarks from Atlantic Philanthropies’ Stacey Easterling

Posted by on March 30th, 2010 at 10:34 am | 4 Comments »

Atlantic Philanthropies Program Officer Stacey Easterling recently spoke about the responsibility, joys and burdens of true leadership at the 2010 ASA/NCOA Aging in America Conference in Chicago.  Atlantic Philanthropies is a major sponsor of the Direct Care Alliance, and we’re very grateful for their support. Enjoy the video and text excerpt from her presentation, below.

Leadership is about having the courage to face your demons every day—whether its public speaking or making a difficult decision or making a mistake—in order to learn and grow from it. Leadership is being able to accept the fact that although you will try to do everything perfectly all the time, you will not, and being OK with that. Being a leader is learning from those mistakes and dusting yourself off after the fall and getting right back on the horse. Continue reading »

Watch President Obama’s last call for health care reform LIVE from VA

Posted by on March 19th, 2010 at 10:34 am | Comments Off on Watch President Obama’s last call for health care reform LIVE from VA

Personal Care Credential to Boost Industry Professionalism

Posted by on March 18th, 2010 at 1:30 pm | 4 Comments »

Vera Salter

I’m thrilled to announce the Direct Care Alliance’s new national credentialing program.  Thanks to a generous grant from the Ford Foundation and the support of employers, direct care workers and consumers across the country, this credential is expected to become the gold standard credential for personal care workers.

The  Direct Care Alliance launched the pilot phase of the credentialing program on March 5, in Portland, Maine.  Additional pilot tests have been administered in Tucson, Arizona, and by the Pennsylvania Direct Care Workers Association.  Workers who complete the pilot test will be among the first to receive the credential, which meets criteria outlined by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence and will be rolled out nationwide later this year. Read the complete announcement and the fact sheet.

The Best and Worst State Practices in Medicaid Long-Term Care

Posted by on March 18th, 2010 at 12:46 pm | 1 Comment »

This week we’re happy to present the newest Direct Care Alliance Policy Brief, courtesy of Candace Howes of Connecticut College.  This brief, “The Best and Worst State Practices in Medicaid Long-Term Care“, explains why Medicaid poli­cies lead to so much variation in current state Medicaid long-term care programs.

We also explore how those policies have been used in some states to expand the range and availability of services, drawing on lessons from innovative states to suggest reforms in national Medicaid policies that would make home- and community-based services more accessible. Candace has spoken out about wage and benefit increases for direct care workers; see her short video, below.

Asking for More: Quality care for those who need it

Posted by on March 18th, 2010 at 12:28 pm | 2 Comments »

Bob Stevens

How could I reasonably ask for more?

That’s the question I posed in my last post, where I cited the rewards I receive as a direct care worker. Actually, it isn’t a very good question because one could respond “move your lips.” Instead, I meant to ask “WHAT could I reasonably ask for?”

My answer?  Quality care for all who need it.

Quality care requires quality caregivers and there aren’t enough to go around. Conversely, there are too many direct care workers who should be doing something else. We need to recruit and retain people who are best suited for the demands of direct care work, but this is a difficult task given the negativism conveyed by the DCW community.

Internal to the DCW community, there is an imbalance weighted toward the negatives when workers express their feelings about their jobs and their lives. Words and actions frequently indicate that being a direct care worker is one of the most miserable and sacrificial jobs one could have, when in fact, it can be one of the most rewarding. Continue reading »

A Call to Direct Care Leaders, continued

Posted by on March 18th, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Comments Off on A Call to Direct Care Leaders, continued

Bridget Siljander

This is part two of a post on working together to efficiently advance change in the direct care profession. Read the first part of the post here.

Setting an example

We direct care worker leaders have an example to set. We need to model the highest form of conduct, if for no other reason than to show that we are much better than anybody ever expected.  Do you want to make a splash? Then shock the world by being the best you can be at every occasion and opportunity. If we look like we’re in this for our own glory, if we behave in petty ways, engage in politics, argue with each other, gossip, criticize or act jealous, if we try to get somebody out of our way so that we can be in the limelight, if we act like we own the movement or the association we belong to, how will we ever change the perception of us as inferior, or earn the attention and respect of the people we are trying to address?

Two years ago when I first got into advocacy work, I was blown away by the thought that I could be a leader. I think it went to my head for a while, but at the same time I was very insecure, overwhelmed and nervous. I also had some ideas of what a leader should be, most of them were based on illusions or myths. Those ideas changed over time as I learned from mentors, people I networked with, and the DCA’s Voices Institute National Leadership Program. Continue reading »

Loving the Multi-cultural Workplace

Posted by on March 15th, 2010 at 1:11 pm | 1 Comment »

This post was submitted by an anonymous direct care worker.

As a teen and young adult I suffered from the expected case of wanderlust. I was sure that someday, somehow, I’d see all the places on the planet that called to me. The Far East held the strongest fascination, followed closely by Africa; I was obsessed with Ancient Egypt for much of my childhood.

Luckily, I did manage to get to Europe in high school: Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg.  I also wandered up to Canada for four years of college and after graduation wandered some more back and forth across the U.S.  Then I grew up, became a nurse, and moved to Vermont. Though beautiful in its own right, Vermont is far from exotic and mysterious. Thank goodness I had the Travel Channel to satisfy my longing for far away lands.

After kids, I accepted that my traveling days were likely over. I’m so fine with that, truly. There is not enough Ativan in the world to get me on an overseas flight.  But the Universe is good to me. Since I can’t get to the world, my job has brought it to me through my co-workers. They come from all over and I appreciate them tremendously.

Just the other night, I worked with CNAs from Haiti, Angola and Nigeria, and the nurse I was working with, from Kenya.  Allow me introduce you Continue reading »

Five Immediate Consumer Benefits Under Health Reform

Posted by on March 12th, 2010 at 4:13 pm | 1 Comment »

Many thanks to Doneg McDonough, Legislative and Policy Director for Health Care for America Now, for providing this post.

1. Stops insurance companies from denying care based on “pre-existing conditions.”

– Immediately people who are uninsured due to a pre-existing condition can buy insurance through a special insurance program.

– Within 6 months of passage, no new health plan can discriminate against children with pre-existing conditions.

-In a few years, no insurance plan can deny coverage to anyone for pre-existing conditions.

2. Stops some of the worst insurance company abuses. Insurance companies can no longer:

– Cancel insurance coverage retroactively when you get sick (rescission).

– Put lifetime limits on the dollar value of benefits.

3. Expands coverage and care for the uninsured and people with insurance.

– Allow young adults up to age 26 to stay covered on their parents’ insurance.

– Offer free preventive benefits. Continue reading »

Creating the Workplaces We Deserve

Posted by on March 12th, 2010 at 12:50 pm | 6 Comments »

This is a guest post from Voices Institute graduate Angel Saylor.

Angel Saylor (right)

Over 200 Certified Nursing Assistants and their allies came together in Charlottesville, Virginia, on February 16 to share ideas on improving the workplace. The conference was hosted by the Community Partnership for Improved Long-term Care, an initiative of the Legal Aid Justice Center. It brought together direct care workers, elders, advocates, employers, doctors, nurses and others to:

• Exchange information and best practices;
• Recognize the challenges and celebrate the accomplishments of long-term care workers and caregivers from all settings;
• Learn how to enhance professionalism, leadership and teamwork, and offer solutions to reduce turnover; and
• Participate in skills training for caregivers to better meet the needs of disabled persons and seniors living with the challenges of aging. Continue reading »

In the News: staff cuts, budget setbacks and more

Posted by on March 11th, 2010 at 10:48 am | Comments Off on In the News: staff cuts, budget setbacks and more

Leonila Vega

One of the best ways to become empowered is to get informed.  When you’re informed about what’s happening in your state and across the direct care profession, you are better able to take action and have a voice in the decision-making process.  I can’t tell you enough how important it is for you to get involved and speak out – you are not alone.  There are over 3 million direct care workers in this country and over one million new positions are needed by 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to PHI, direct care workers in the U.S. will outnumber teachers from kindergarten through high school (3.9 million) and registered nurses (3.2 million) by 2018.  In Pennsylvania alone, an additional 56,000 direct care workers will be desperately needed in the next five years.  These facts are stunning and should encourage you to  have a role in the movement for change.

This week, I wanted to call your attention to a few headlines. Continue reading »

The Culture Change Way: Empowering direct care workers to improve care

Posted by on March 10th, 2010 at 3:12 pm | 4 Comments »

Becka Livesay

NCCNHR, the Pioneer Network, ombudsmen programs, citizen advocacy groups, and others around the country are working to spread culture change principles and practices in our nation’s nursing homes. These principles are aimed at improving quality of life and care for residents by making nursing homes into true homes, not the medical-model institutions they too often are, with inflexible management hierarchies that put residents on the bottom of the pyramid.

To accomplish that goal, we must create a new role for direct care workers, valuing their work and relationships with residents and giving them more autonomy and decision-making power so they can deliver the individualized, “person-centered” care residents want and need. The traditional task-focused, almost assembly-line role assigned to nursing assistants in nursing homes actually gets in the way of delivering good care, forcing workers to do things like wake people up way to early to prepare them for meals or bathe them when they don’t want to be bathed. Continue reading »

A Call to Direct Care Leaders: Let’s bring our best selves to the cause

Posted by on March 5th, 2010 at 10:31 am | 3 Comments »

Bridget Siljander

It is a critical time to become a leader…

We’re starting to coagulate as a direct care worker movement, and it’s more important than ever that we unite to get things done. This is an exciting time, but it calls for more strategic thinking.

Over the past year or two, I’ve been in many situations when direct care workers were connecting with each other. This can be incredibly inspiring.  Many of us are compassionate people who are drawn to this kind of service work because we want to put our hearts into nurturing and supporting others. At direct care worker gatherings, I have watched us uplift, encourage and comfort one another, creating a spirit of loyalty and kindness and mutual respect.  This is when we’re at our finest.  But like anything, there are two sides. There are times when we’re at our best, and times when we’re at our worst.  And because we’re at such a critical point in time, I wanted to offer some reflection and advice on focusing on our best selves. Continue reading »

Impacting Your State’s System: My work in Maine

Posted by on March 4th, 2010 at 3:07 pm | 2 Comments »

For the complete LEAN Report, visit and see the last item under Direct Care Workers Taskforce Materials.

Helen Hanson

I have been working with friends and allies across the state to push the Department of Health and Human Services to present the LEAN Report.  After meeting with Senator Mitchell’s office and several others, it finally happened.

On February 24, Diana Scully, the Director of the Office of Elder Services, presented the report. She took the committee through the process we went through as part of the Lean Team and described the many issues workers face on a daily basis. We had reached consensus that the system’s seven programs should be consolidated into just three, and Ms. Scully outlined the changes that would need to take place.  She also described the recommendation on rebalancing the funding of Maine’s Long-Term Care System so that home and community-based care receives as much funding as nursing home care. Continue reading »