Archive for June, 2010

Mourning & Celebrating a Direct Care Champion: Our Memories of Joyce Gagnon

Posted by on June 28th, 2010 at 12:21 pm | 5 Comments »

It is with a sad heart that we write these words about Joyce Gagnon, a founder of the Maine Personal Assistance Services Association and one of the most tireless and committed direct care leaders we’ve ever known. Joyce passed away on June 14, 2010, after a long bout with cancer.

Joyce was a strong and tenacious advocate for direct care workers in Maine. She worked tirelessly building the Maine Personal Assistance Services Association (PASA), Maine’s association for direct care workers of all kinds. Joyce worked on PASA’s annual conventions, lobbying at the State House, PASA’s fundraising and membership recruitment. Her hard work and sacrifice made it possible for DCA to develop a powerful model for state-based worker associations and worker-led advocacy.

Just this past year, Joyce was an active member of the Direct Care Worker Taskforce, a group set up through Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services to address many of the problems the workforce faces.

Joyce also had and hand in crafting legislation, twice, trying to bring health insurance to Maine’s direct care workers. She met and talked with many leaders in the Maine Legislature about what it is like to be a caregiver, helping someone maintain their independence in their home, and not have health coverage themselves through their work. Continue reading »

The Obama Administration Should Move Beyond the Poverty Line and Adopt an Economic Security Standard

Posted by on June 28th, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Comments Off on The Obama Administration Should Move Beyond the Poverty Line and Adopt an Economic Security Standard

This post was written by Shawn Fremstad, Director of the Inclusive and Sustainable Economy Initiative at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration unveiled plans to develop a “supplemental” poverty measure (SPM) based on recommendations made by the National Academy of Sciences in 1995.  The SPM makes important technical improvements on the current outdated poverty measure (although, unfortunately, the current measure would remain the “official” one). However, it doesn’t take the much more important step of providing an accurate measure of what it takes to “make ends meet” and be economically secure in today’s economy.

The official poverty line for a family of four is currently a mere $22,000. We don’t know yet for sure where the supplemental poverty line will fall, but previous Census estimates suggest that it will only be a few thousand dollars higher, at best, than the current poverty line. By comparison, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that a four-person family needs just under $50,000 a year, on average nationwide, to make ends meet at a “modest, but safe” level. Similarly, the Commerce Department recently estimated that a four-person family needed at least $51,000 a year to achieve a minimum “middle-class family budget.”

The pay and benefits of direct care work should be judged primarily by whether it is possible for direct care workers, at a minimum, to live, not just above an extremely low “poverty” line, but at a middle-class level that allows them to be economically secure. Continue reading »

Telling My Story to All Who Will Listen: Wisconsinites take DC

Posted by on June 28th, 2010 at 11:54 am | 1 Comment »

Tracy Dudzinski

On June 15, 2010, I was fortunate to be able to travel to Capitol Hill again. I was part of a delegation from Wisconsin who visited with Senator Herb Kohl’s office. There were six of us (see photo below), including myself, Susan Rosa (a family caregiver), Tracy Schroepfer (a geriatric social worker), Sharon Roth Maguire (a geriatric nurse practitioner), and Dr. Paul Drinka and Dr. Michael Malone (geriatricians). We were brought together by the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA), founded by Leonila Vega of the Direct Care Alliance and others.

During the visit with Senator Kohl, I explained the importance of the direct care worker training program that was established as part of health care reform and asked that he fight to get money appropriated. I also advocated for training programs for workers. As a supportive home care agency, we have a hard time finding qualified workers. We actually hired a certified nursing assistant who had never given a bath – which we didn’t know before hiring her. We need better training because the specialized needs of consumers are increasing as people live longer.

Senator Kohl seemed surprised to learn that dog groomers and hair stylists have more training than direct care workers. I think that is unacceptable when we are dealing with people’s lives. Continue reading »

Iowa Caregivers Association Increases Awareness of Direct Care Workforce Issues

Posted by on June 21st, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Comments Off on Iowa Caregivers Association Increases Awareness of Direct Care Workforce Issues

Leonila Vega

Last month, a Des Moines Register editorial called for more support for those caring for the elderly.

According to the Register, “Iowa has one of the highest rates in the country of admissions to nursing facilities. Going forward, more and more Iowans will want to live in their own homes as long as they can. This state must do more to help people do that successfully – with help from paid professionals and family and friends who volunteer.” “If you hire someone to cut your hair or massage your back, the state licenses the worker, who must have minimum training. But if you hire someone to go to your mother’s house to fix her meals or bathe her, the person may not even be known to the state, let alone have any experience or training.”

Last week, the Iowa Caregivers Association and the Iowa Department of Public Health weighed in, joining the call for more support.  President of the Iowa Caregivers Association, Betty Grandquist, wrote, “Each of us is one accident or illness away from a disability. Each of us is aging. We need to ask the basic questions: Who will care for us? Will there be enough qualified workers to provide that care? What quality of care will we receive? People who do [direct care] work are typically referred to as “family” by those they serve. Their work is often called “priceless.” Yet it is greatly undervalued by society as a whole. Continue reading »

DCA Endorses NADSP Code of Ethics to Promote Quality & Accountability in Direct Care. Do you follow these standards?

Posted by on June 21st, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Comments Off on DCA Endorses NADSP Code of Ethics to Promote Quality & Accountability in Direct Care. Do you follow these standards?

Vera Salter

DCA is proud to endorse the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) Code of Ethics. Direct care workers are essential to the well-being of millions of elderly and people living with disabilities.  Each day, we are faced with challenges and are forced to think and act quickly – but how do you ensure you’re making the best decision each time? The National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals’ Code of Ethics helps us do just that.

The NADSP Code of Ethics demonstrates the high level of commitment workers must make to those they support, in order to make a real difference in their lives.  The code reflects key values such as allegiance to the well-being and self-determination of another; respect; dignity; integrity, justice and equity.  Only talented, committed professionals like direct care workers are able to make such commitments. Continue reading »

Arizona Direct Care Workers Prepare to Meet Baby Boomer Demand

Posted by on June 10th, 2010 at 9:27 am | Comments Off on Arizona Direct Care Workers Prepare to Meet Baby Boomer Demand

Judy Clinco

A recent article in the Arizona Republic calls attention to the rising demand for direct care services in Arizona.  With an additional 1.1 million direct care workers needed across the U.S. in the next ten years, it is more important than ever that our workforce is equipped to meet the challenge.  From the article:

Despite all our political differences, there is a universally shared human hope. No matter your race, ethnic background, religion, gender or sexual orientation, everybody wants a sense of self-determination in old age. But as 77 million Baby Boomers move into their golden years, there is a shortage of direct-care workers who can help them retain a sense of independence.

That’s one big problem. For [Direct Care Alliance board member] Judy Clinco, solving it also involves addressing the parallel human need to fill one’s younger years with meaningful work. Let’s start with the challenges of old age. The ability of Boomers to continue to do their own thing will depend largely on the availability of direct-care workers. These workers provide 80 percent of paid, hands-on services for the elderly in their own homes, in assisted-living settings, nursing homes, hospices and hospitals. These workers are in short supply – and that’s nothing new. 10 years ago, [Ms. Clinco] created the CareGiver Training Institute to build a workforce.  This month, the non-profit will graduate its 1,000th student.

Read the rest of the article here.

New York Senate Passes Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

Posted by on June 7th, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Comments Off on New York Senate Passes Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

Leonila Vega

On June 1, the New York State Senate voted 33-28 to pass the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. This is a great victory for domestic workers who have been excluded from many basic labor protections. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights shows a clear indication that some states are ready to implement change for individuals in industries – like direct care – who are not receiving basic labor protections. This success is closely tied to direct care workers; domestic workers and direct care workers have both traditionally worked in environments with low pay, long hours, and no heath care or sick leave.

Domestic Workers United was instrumental in shaping this Bill of Rights. Provisions include improvements to domestic workers’ employment conditions and requirements for paid sick leave, paid vacation time and days of rest. It also sets guidelines for proper employment termination.

The Direct Care Alliance would like to offer its congratulations and support to Domestic Workers United. The passage of this bill is a significant achievement and a great way to inspire progress for other unprotected workers. We look forward to working with our allies to secure protections for all direct care workers. Continue reading »

More than a Companion: My visit to the Department of Labor

Posted by on June 7th, 2010 at 12:47 pm | 4 Comments »

Helen Hanson in front of the U.S. Capitol buidling

On May 28, I was with the Direct Care Alliance in Washington, DC, again bringing direct care worker issues to the attention of decision-makers.  This time, at the U.S. Department of Labor.

We’re all so excited about the FLSA extension issue being added to the regulatory agenda, and we met with two representatives from the Wage and Hour Division to explain why minimum wage and overtime protections are essential to creating a strong direct care workforce. The representatives were very open and honest, which I greatly appreciated.   They met with us to learn more about what direct care workers do on a day-to-day basis and to understand more about our work. At one point they used the word “companion” to identify home care workers and I cringed. But I was easily able to explain to them the differences between companion and home care worker, which they appreciated.

I explained that I am more than a companion and I took them on a journey through my typical work day with my consumer – a quadriplegic woman who is totally dependent on direct care workers each day.  Continue reading »

A Vital Discussion: Immigrants as Direct Care Workers

Posted by on June 7th, 2010 at 12:25 pm | 3 Comments »

By Lucy Fisher, RN, PhD

After several years as a supervisor in a large California nursing home, I decided to return to graduate school for a PhD in nursing. I knew my dissertation would center on CNAs, for although aides have the least power and authority within the nursing hierarchy, they are the staff making a difference in residents’ lives. I did my field work in three homes: a large county-owned institution, one that was part of a national chain, and a small, Christian-affiliated home. One was located in the center of a large city, another in a suburb, and the third in a wealthy town. Although these homes differed in size, location and ownership, the great majority (89%) of research participants were immigrants. Most, but not all, were women, and most, but not all, came from the Philippines.

The immigrant experience, as Lolita Lledo wrote on April 26, is “rarely discussed.” I’d like to invite discussion about three issues that foreign-born workers in my study spoke about. These topics are separation from family, racism and legal status, and change in job status. Continue reading »

Free Voices Institute Leadership Workshop in Philadelphia

Posted by on June 7th, 2010 at 11:25 am | Comments Off on Free Voices Institute Leadership Workshop in Philadelphia

The Direct Care Alliance (DCA) and the PA Direct Care Workers Association are hosting a free Voices Institute Leadership Workshop for direct care workers on July 17.  Our industry needs leaders, and VI grads have become some of the most powerful advocates in the field.  Participate in this workshop and join the thousands of direct care workers across the country who are already working to improve wages, benefits, working conditions and career advancement opportunities.

Voices Institute graduates have learned how to make their voices heard on key issues and have been able to advocate among key stakeholders at the local and national level.

This event is open to all direct care workers, long-term care workers, and assisted living workers in the Philadelphia area. This event is a first step to identifying leaders to attend the DCA National Voices Institute training in the fall.

What: Free leadership program. Breakfast, lunch and a snack will be provided. Participants will receive a Voices Institute certificate
When: Saturday, July 17, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Where: The National Christian Conference Center in Valley Forge.
RSVP: Please contact Brenda Nachtway at by June 30 for more information and to register.

[Not] Raising a Child on Direct Care Wages: How I reunited with my son after 20 years

Posted by on June 1st, 2010 at 11:56 am | 16 Comments »

Vicki Erickson

It was 1989 when I found out I was pregnant. As a direct care worker in the eighties, I made even less than most DCWs make these days.  I knew I couldn’t raise a baby on the wages I was making – a mere $250 every two weeks.  As so many of my colleagues have learned, it is nearly impossible to raise a family on direct care wages despite the fact that so many are dependent on our care.

I had been adopted as a baby, and I knew quite well the consequences of giving a child up. But my parents told me they would not help with raising my son and I didn’t want to be known as a “Welfare Mom”. So when I gave birth to my son in November,  I signed away my rights and gave him up for adoption. His name was Brian, and he was adopted in January. Continue reading »