Archive for August, 2010

Social Justice for Direct Care Workers

Posted by on August 30th, 2010 at 10:17 am | Comments Off on Social Justice for Direct Care Workers

The following is a guest post from Nancy Hooyman, Co-Principal Investigator for the Council on Social Work Education’s Center for Gerontological Social Work Education and Dean Emeritus and Hooyman Endowed Professor in Gerontology, University of Washington School of Social Work.

Nancy Hooyman

The vitally necessary Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act is deserving of the support from a wide range of stakeholders – social workers, other eldercare providers, those committed to social justice as well as those focused on the economics of long-term care. Direct care staff are second only to families as the primary providers of long-term care — the “hands, voice, face” and core of the long-term care system. The care they provide is “high-touch” intimate, personal, and physically/emotionally challenging (Harahan and Stone, 2009; Institute of Medicine, 2008). These hands-on providers are expected to be compassionate yet usually do not feel prepared, respected, or appreciated, in part because our society does not value the socially and economically important work of caregiving.

Supporting this Act is also a matter of social justice and congruent with social work’s commitment to improve the lives of historically disadvantaged groups. The intersections of gender, race, and immigration status are reflected in the low status and negative work conditions of direct care workers. Advocates for women’s equity should also support this Act; nine out of ten of direct care staff are women, oftentimes single mothers, with minimal education, frequently holding more than one job but still living in poverty or near-poverty, and increasingly dependent on food stamps and other public benefits to get by. The Act is also an issue of racial justice Continue reading »

New Mexico Tackles Direct Care Issues; Taps Into National Efforts

Posted by on August 27th, 2010 at 11:31 am | 1 Comment »

Mark Cerna

On August 1, 2010, the New Mexico Caregiver Coalition hosted a multi-stakeholder meeting with the Direct Care Alliance.  Leonila Vega, DCA’s Executive Director, met with employers, advocates, staff and New Mexico Caregiver Coalition members.  We learned a lot about national trends, workforce development and policy objectives of DCA.

For us, it was an opportunity to share updates on our local work with DCA, the national advocacy voice for workers in long-term care. We discussed the needs of New Mexicans to reform our long-term care system and address the needs of workers in this state.  Trends show that New Mexico has and continues to attract many  retirees and that the demand for direct care continues to increase.  The New Mexico Caregiver Coalition is the leading voice to develop and support caregivers so our elders have a well-trained, ample, qualified caregiver workforce to meet their needs. Continue reading »

Brave Old World

Posted by on August 26th, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Comments Off on Brave Old World

A New York City direct care worker plays a leading role in one of the multimedia stories reported by the News21 program at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism this summer. Led by Paula Span, who teaches at the Journalism School and blogs about aging for the New York Times, 10 newly-graduate journalists spent 10 weeks exploring the challenges facing an aging nation. Their website, Brave Old World, includes a video portrait of the many places and ways older Americans live; the six videos were featured on in August. View it here.

Brave Old World

The video portraying home care features 85-year-old Manhattanite Stanley Ryback and home care aide Emily Ortiz, employed by People Care/Metropolitan Jewish Health System. Produced by News21 fellows Patrick Egan and Sherisse Pham, with help from Alex Berg, it follows client and assistant through a summer day. Ms. Ortiz explains her role as she shops, cooks and accompanies Mr. Ryback on a walk. And her client is frank in his appreciation. “God came and brought her to me,” he says.

Our deepest appreciation and gratitude to Paula Span, Patrick Egan, Sherisse Pham – and, of course, Emily Ortiz – for their beautiful work.  To see more videos and stories, visit

Direct Care Voices Weigh in on Health Reform Regulations

Posted by on August 16th, 2010 at 11:40 am | Comments Off on Direct Care Voices Weigh in on Health Reform Regulations

Claire Curry

Last week, The Community Partnership submitted comments Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) proposed rule related to civil money penalties for nursing homes under the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  We are excited to be able to participate and share our views with the federal agencies as the new health reform law begins to take shape. Proposed regulations which are put out for comment will shape policies for years to come. Our Partnership has been very active in Virginia working to see that our Civil Monetary Penalty funds are used for quality improvement initiatives. Right now, the very exciting Virginia Gold CNA Retention Project which the Partnership is doing with one local nursing home is funded through CMP money. Without the voices of consumer and direct care worker advocates speaking out, that CMP money might have been diverted to less effective use. In our local Virginia gold project, DCA Board Member Angel Saylor and other direct care workers on staff at that facility are making great progress on the issues of CNA empowerment, creation of a more supportive work environment, enhanced opportunities for advancement, leadership, skills training, and peer mentorship. It is a terrific win-win situation when direct care workers receive more rewards, recognition and opportunities (bringing down the CNA turnover rate) and residents enjoy consistent and improved quality of care. Continue reading »

Changing Disability Culture: Liberty and justice for all

Posted by on August 16th, 2010 at 10:46 am | 3 Comments »

Lynne Wichmann

Happy birthday to the ADA. Twenty years ago, the American with Disabilities Act became law. This law guarantees social, professional, personal access and equity for people living with disabilities. This major civil rights legislation promotes a core value of the U.S. Constitution and a universal desire. Liberty and justice.

Liberty and justice. A basic tenet of democracy and a universal desire. Liberty and justice suggest equity, opportunity, and inclusion for all people. They promote human dignity, civil rights, and independence, and exemplify the ability of people to live and work in the settings they choose and create self-defined avenues for professional excellence and personal empowerment. During these 20 years, we have experienced positive change and powerful advances around disability culture. We celebrate those advancements. And we have, still, much work to do.

Too often cultural oppression and social regression create the transgression of limited choice, unfair treatment, and absence of opportunity. Inequity and exclusion exist. Unemployment and underemployment of people living with disabilities is well above the national norm. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 18.6 million people living with disabilities employed aged 16-64, 60.1% of men and 51.4% of women are employed. This is due, in part, to a skill deficit and a difficult job market. This is also a consequence of negative stereotypes from employers, from cultural norms, and from self-imposed limitations. As a result, poverty, despair, and a cascade of related barriers are evident. Ironically, studies also report a lower-than-average turnover rate and an average or higher-than-average level of performance from employees living with disabilities.

Ironic, too, is the fact that direct care workers experience similar barriers to excellence and empowerment, though the workload burden is converse. Continue reading »

More Direct Care Worker Leaders Emerge in PA

Posted by on August 16th, 2010 at 10:21 am | 2 Comments »

Noel Mendes & Margaret Beringer at the workshop

On Saturday, July 17, the Direct Care Alliance held a Voices Institute Leadership Training Workshop in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, which I led with Brenda Nachtway. Eight direct care workers attended the workshop that included leadership self-assessment  and modules on personal power, membership recruitment and building relationships with allies. The attendees were especially inspired to hear that the Direct Care Empowerment Act was about to be introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives and they practiced visiting with allies to gain support for the bill. On completion of the workshop, five participants – Clara Glenn, Margaret Beringer, Rolanda Crawley, Soon Hong and Noel Mendes – formed a Leadership Circle and are working together to build a chapter of the Pennsylvania Direct Care Workers Association in the Philadelphia region. Continue reading »

Personal Care: A Job Led By the Heart

Posted by on August 9th, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Comments Off on Personal Care: A Job Led By the Heart

I recently visited PACT in Austin, Texas, and sat down for a video interview with Elizabeth Castillo.  PACT was created by ADAPT, the national organization that advocates for the right of people living with disabilities to live independently in the community.  Our video interview was recorded in Spanish, so I’ve provided a summary below. It was such a pleasure hearing about what inspires Elizabeth to do the work she loves. Continue reading »

Visiting Your Representatives Can Have a Big Impact

Posted by on August 9th, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Comments Off on Visiting Your Representatives Can Have a Big Impact

I recently joined the Direct Care Alliance in Washington, DC, to advocate on behalf of direct care workers on Capitol Hill.

The congressional visits were to gain support for the Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act, which was introduced in the House by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and in the Senate by Bob Casey (D-PA).  These bills would change the classification of home care workers, removing the “companion” language from the Fair Labor Standards Act. It would ensure minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers; establish data collection and reporting requirements; and improve the recruitment and retention of direct care workers.

I met with Maine’s Congressional Delegation to inform my representatives about the need for the Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act and ask for their support.  I visited with Senator Collins, Congresswoman Pingree, and Congressman Michaud. Both representatives had signed on to the Sanchez/DCA letter from last year, asking the Department of Labor to address the FLSA issue.  I thanked both for their support and for their health care reform votes.

It was so exciting to hear that both Reps. Pingree and Michaud became cosponsors of the bill.

Continue reading »

Celebrating the Americans with Disabilities Act & Supporting Workforce Empowerment

Posted by on August 9th, 2010 at 1:18 pm | 1 Comment »

Dennis Fitzgibbons

The Americans with Disabilities Act celebrated its 20th anniversary on July 26, 2010, and there is much to celebrate. In the 20 years since the ADA was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush, we have witnessed a transformation in how people living with disabilities have been welcomed into society.

We have seen new and old buildings designed, constructed and renovated to accommodate individuals living with physical disabilities, more availability of communication access with sign language interpreters and CART services,  and increased access to technology such as computers, cell phones and the internet, to name but a few.

Certainly there is more work to do. Employment for people living with disabilities remains only a dream for most. Likewise, the institutionalization of far too many people living with disabilities continues unnecessarily.  Perhaps the biggest achievement of the ADA was the Supreme Court’s Olmstead Decision, in which the Court upheld the rights of people living with disabilities to live in the community rather than an institutional setting if the necessary support services could be delivered as effectively in the community. What could be more basic a right than to be able to decide where you will live and with whom? Continue reading »

Sen. Casey to Introduce Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act in Senate

Posted by on August 3rd, 2010 at 9:39 am | 2 Comments »

Dr. Vera Salter, Direct Care Alliance; Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)

Yesterday, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) hosted a Senate Special Committee on Aging Hearing in Wilkes-Barre, where he announced his intention to introduce the Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act (House version introduced last week by Rep. Linda Sanchez).

The hearing – Taking care of Mom and Dad: Why We Need a Quality Workforce to Serve Our Older Americans – addressed the growing need for quality medical personnel to take care of a growing aging population.  I was invited to deliver testimony, along with Continue reading »

The Sky’s the Limit at PA Direct Care Workers Association Conference

Posted by on August 2nd, 2010 at 10:14 am | Comments Off on The Sky’s the Limit at PA Direct Care Workers Association Conference

Connie Kreider

As we all enjoy the last few weeks of summer it is hard to remember the very beginning of this year. Think back: what were we all looking forward too? Warmer weather, right? Well we all got what we wanted…hot, muggy warmer weather! Are we all happy now?   No – now we are to hot and are looking forward to cooler weather again. I’m looking forward to the fall for more than just cooler temperatures – it’s time for the Pennsylvania Direct Care Workers Association conference! It’s time to get out your favorite sweater, plan a day trip to Valley Forge and treat yourself to an exciting and inspiring conference that will reinvigorate your passion for direct care work.

On September 16, 2010, The Sky’s The Limit at the National Christian Conference Center – a beautiful, peaceful and restful  location that will have you feeling like you have stepped back in time. Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers Help Ensure Consumers’ Medication Adherence

Posted by on August 2nd, 2010 at 9:58 am | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers Help Ensure Consumers’ Medication Adherence

Aaron Pickering

More than 50 percent of people with chronic conditions don’t take their medications properly, which affects their well-being and the ability for direct care workers to provide the highest quality care.  To help remedy this problem, the Direct Care Alliance is proud to be a committed partner in the National Consumers League’s Medical Adherence Campaign, an initiative aimed at raising awareness of the importance of good medical adherence.  The campaign targets consumers and health care practitioners nationwide, and will be rolled out in early 2011.

On July 20, I joined a committed group of public and private organizations at AARP in support of the campaign. Continue reading »