Archive for September, 2010

Power in Numbers: Direct care workers descend on DC

Posted by on September 27th, 2010 at 11:05 am | Comments Off on Power in Numbers: Direct care workers descend on DC

Brenda Nachtway

Last week, I joined dozens of direct care workers and others as part of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance‘s trip to Washington, DC, to advocate for initiatives and programs that would improve the direct care workforce.  I called on Sens. Bob Casey and Arlen Specter to continue supporting those of us working with elders, and shared my personal story with members of their staff.

I was nominated to participate in the trip by the Direct Care Alliance, a founding member of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance.  DCA has empowered me to try and make a difference for direct care workers.  This wasn’t my first meeting with legislative representatives, and it won’t be my last.  It made me feel powerful, in the sense that I had a voice. One voice, together with other voices, can really make a change, make a difference.

Read this news report about our efforts and this story about the Maine direct care workers who were part of the EWA visit.

“Can We Talk?”: Fostering Open & Honest Dialogue About Aging

Posted by on September 27th, 2010 at 10:25 am | Comments Off on “Can We Talk?”: Fostering Open & Honest Dialogue About Aging

As expected, this video featuring comedian Joan Rivers is funny. And the goal of the public service announcement – encouraging families to have open discussions about aging – is important and admirable. But unfortunately the video employs negative stereotypes and a deflating message to highlight the importance of “aging parent” and adult child discussions about the future. It models how not to approach these conversations: “I’m old. I’m unattractive. I’m going to die soon. Let’s talk before it’s too late.” This part of the message doesn’t work for me.

Parents and their children need to avoid approaches that increase anxiety about what’s coming along downstream. Of course, end-of-life conversations are essential but there is so much more to talk about. Most often, these discussions can be and should be held within an uplifting and empowering context. “There is life yet to be lived and I’m going to help you live it – even if things get difficult.” Continue reading »

Finding the Power Within Ourselves: From the Pennsylvania Conference

Posted by on September 21st, 2010 at 1:43 pm | 1 Comment »

After the dreaming, scheduling and registering; all the e-mails and phone calls; the finding a place to meet and people to teach and share; the keeping fingers crossed that enough direct care workers could actually take a day off and attend a conference that we all badly need; the baking of cupcakes for the welcoming reception and the braving of the Philadelphia traffic to pick up speakers at the airport…after all this work and more, the Pennsylvania Direct Care Workers Association’s 6th annual conference took place on September 16th at the National Christian Conference Center outside of Valley Forge.

It was worth it.

It was worth it to listen to each other…the CNAs, the home health aides, the hospice workers, the group home and the day program staff…the people supporting people with dementia, developmental disabilities and mental illness. That is who we are. It’s a good group to be a part of.

I was the keynote speaker and read poems about Leo, Lorna and Louise. I’ve been a direct care worker since Jimmy Carter was president and have learned a lot from the people I support.


Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers Are Lifeline to Millions of Americans

Posted by on September 20th, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers Are Lifeline to Millions of Americans

This is a guest post from John Hale, public policy consultant for the Iowa CareGivers Association.

John Hale

My feelings about direct care workers have been shaped by some of my life experiences…living down the street from good friendswho had a child with a disability and seeing how direct care workers supported them; seeing my own parents age and getting directly involved in their needs at home, in hospitals, nursing facilities and hospice; and by the work I’ve been doing for the Iowa CareGivers Association that has allowed me to really get to know direct care workers and to advocate for and with them at the Capitols in Des Moines and in Washington DC.

I’ve learned what I hope all Iowans and Americans will someday learn…that we are all aging and that we are all one accident or illness away from a disability. And, that even though we’d prefer not to think about it, our lives may more than likely be directly affected by a direct care worker someday. And when that happens, we will want someone assisting us that is well trained, really cares about the work they do, and is someone that we can count on to be there for us today, tomorrow and for as long as we need them.

The Opinion piece published in the Register was a response to an AP article run in papers across the nation that “hit a nerve” with me and many others who read it. It required a response. I hope that direct care workers will see it, smile, and then do two things — do the best job they possibly can at the work they do every day AND keep up their efforts to make sure that policy makers understand the challenges they face and the things that are needed (better compensation, better training, better staffing levels, etc.) to improve the lives of workers and the quality of care provided to those they serve.

An excerpt of the Opinion piece, below: Continue reading »

How Direct Care Workers Have Been Vital to My Recovery

Posted by on September 20th, 2010 at 11:26 am | 3 Comments »

This is a guest post from Patricia Volland, Senior Vice President for Strategy and Business Development at The New York Academy of Medicine.

Patricia Volland

On May 10, 2009, I was in a serious accident which left me with life threatening injuries. As a result, I am permanently disabled because of a spinal cord injury.  Before the accident I was a fiercely independent and physically active woman devoted to my career, my husband, and my wonderful circle of family and friends.  On the professional side most of my focus has been on making sure that as we age, we are able to stay independent and in charge of our lives.  These activities focused on helping to create a skilled workforce and working with older adults and in supporting the importance of care coordination that links health/medicine and social supports and long-term care.  So before the accident, I already understood and respected the importance of the direct care workforce in maintaining the health and independence of older adults and people living with disabilities.

In the five months I spent in various hospitals engaged in recovery and rehabilitation, I began to learn first-hand how critical direct care workers are in helping patients adjust to their new circumstances.  In many ways they are the main stay of acute care.  I found those that worked with me in the hospital to be compassionate, skilled and very interested in my personal well being.  They were responsible for all of my personal care needs – this level of dependence was new for me and they understood that.  They were there to turn me and avoid pressure sores, to encourage me to eat, to take care of my personal hygiene needs and to encourage me to regain my strength by actively participating in rehabilitation.  They pushed me to get better even on the days I felt overly depressed.  Most importantly they were there for me 24/7.

When it came time to go home and then back to work, we knew that independence was drastically reduced and that ongoing care would be needed.  My husband was and continues to be committed to making sure that I get the care I need to continue my life as I did prior to the accident.  Together, we knew that who we selected to help in my care would be critical in my ongoing recovery and rehabilitation.  In fact, they would be critical in my transition from five months in hospitals in the care of a vast team of interdisciplinary workers to my husband and a small cadre of direct care workers. Continue reading »

Getting Empowered In Maine: Why You Should Support the Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act

Posted by on September 20th, 2010 at 11:09 am | 1 Comment »

On September 9, members of Maine PASA met with representatives from  Senator Collins’ and Senator Snowe’s Bangor offices to discuss the joys, benefits – and yes, struggles – of direct care work.  The goal of our meeting was to gain their support for the Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act and get both Senators to become cosponsors of the bill.

I was accompanied by DeeDee Strout, Jimmie Chandler and Helen Hanson, all direct care workers and members of the PASA Leadership Council.

Bangor Meeting

Ted Rippy (bottom left) addresses reps from office of Sens. Snowe & Collins

The meeting started off with Helen directly asking for the senators’ co-sponsorship and thanking them for their FMAP vote back in August. She gave a brief summary of the bill and explained that it will provide the same wage and overtime protections that other workforces have. Jimmie told the group that this bill is a place to start in ensuring that home care workers and direct care workers will be recognized as professionals, not companions. He also said that it was an important step in gaining recognition and respect for this workforce, explaining that training for home care workers, in many cases, is not adequate. Jimmie also mentioned that CNAs working in nursing homes, doing the same types of things with residents as home care workers do with their consumers, are covered under wage and overtime protections. Helen mentioned that 90% of the home care workforce are women.

DeeDee mentioned that oftentimes, a worker may stay over an additional 15 minutes or so, to finish the job. This is uncompensated and is on the workers’ own time. She stated that many agencies discourage their workers from overtime because the agencies’ reimbursement rates are so low.

I explained the difficult situation I’m facing along with several co-workers. We take care of a man that has MS and is now completely disabled. They are short one worker because this worker did not completely understand the job or the type of care this gentleman needs to remain home. It is putting an additional burden on us because we have to fill in the shift the worker left. This man wants to remain home and he wants to die there, and we are providing this man that opportunity. Continue reading »

Prescription For Growth: Health Care & Job Creation

Posted by on September 16th, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Comments Off on Prescription For Growth: Health Care & Job Creation

9/16/10 – The National Journal hosted a policy summit at the Newseum in Washington, DC, to discuss the impact of the Affordable Care Act (health care reform) on job growth in the health care industry. Nancy-Ann Deparle, Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, spoke to the group about why health reform was necessary and described the great need for job creation in the industry.  As one of the fastest growing occupations in the country, direct care is a vital part of the national discussion on health reform and the creation of jobs in the health industry.  Watch video coverage of the summit, below.

Panelists Ellen-Marie Whelan (Center for American Progress) and Dr. Richard “Chip” Davis (Johns Hopkins Medicine) both spoke to the growing consumer demand for in-home health care. Continue reading »

Court Says Right to Choose Providers Doesn’t Include Race/Ethnicity

Posted by on September 13th, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Comments Off on Court Says Right to Choose Providers Doesn’t Include Race/Ethnicity

The United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has ruled in a recent case that honoring consumer preferences for care providers violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if the choice is based on race/ethnicity.

Brenda Chaney vs. Plainfield Health Care Center

Historically, recipients of health care services have had a privacy right to choose or reject health care providers based on gender preferences, meaning – for example – that a woman may reject a male health care provider for the performance of intimate tasks. But this type of consumer choice only goes so far. Brenda Chaney, a certified nursing assistant, filed a discrimination claim against the nursing home alleging that a hostile work environment was created by allowing residents to exclude her from providing care on the basis of her ethnicity. The U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with her, finding that the nursing home violated the Civil Rights Act by enforcing this type of consumer choice.


The right to choose one’s health care providers stems from the movement for consumer direction and a laudable public objective: Enhancing the quality of care for Americans receiving long-term care services and supports. Continue reading »

The Color of Care

Posted by on September 13th, 2010 at 3:18 pm | 1 Comment »

John Booker

After hearing about Brenda Chaney’s case, I began to reflect on my experiences as an African American direct care worker over the past 30 years.  I am reminded of those tough days when I have had to resort to some of my social survival instincts or racial coping skills in order to provide the highest quality of care possible and remain in the profession that I have grown to love.

More than 28% of direct care workers are African American, and many of us have at one time throughout our careers had to choose between maintaining our jobs or our dignity. When one is already challenged by working for low wages and little-to-no benefits, these types of incidents makes an already tough job just that much harder.  Minority direct care workers of every ethnicity at some time during their career have likely been challenged in one way or another because of their race.  During those critically personal times and traumatic episodes, it was always an administrator  or charge nurse whose interaction and intervention  (or lack thereof ) weighed heavily on my decision to stay or leave the job.

A well-trained and responsive nurse or a totally disengaged and uncaring administrator or charge nurse  has directly affected my final decision to continue on or to  find another job. Administrators and nurse supervisors making proper and just decisions based on sound policies can make all the difference in upholding both the worker’s dignity and the consumer’s right to choice.

One such example occurred years ago when I was working at a private facility on the West Coast.   Continue reading »