Archive for November, 2010

Manning the Ship: Using our voices to protect ourselves and those we serve

Posted by on November 29th, 2010 at 1:05 pm | 3 Comments »

Lisa Hurst

The most important thing I learned at the Advocacy Voices Together training is that as direct care workers and consumers we need to find our voices to speak with out Representative(s) about the current situation now facing the long-term care industry. This needs to be done both at the local and national level. Without people to lobby for us we truly have no voice.

As a direct care worker, I wasn’t aware of the proposed changes to both Medicaid and Medicare and how they would impact both myself and those I serve daily. It seems to be one of those situations where you “assume” someone is manning the ship and come to find out that: A) Either no on is, or B) That the compass you are using is severely outdated and your ship is about to hit rocky shoals.  It’s time for us to help man the ship and use our voices for change.  Nobody is going to do it for us.

As a direct care worker, I feel that we deserve and have a right to the same basic job standards and benefits that any other profession or career would be entitled to. Namely: fair wages, health insurance, job security, proper training, (including ongoing training,) and most importantly, the ability to have a voice about our own future.

Just as a body cannot function without a brain or a heart,our clients and their families cannot survive and have a reasonable standard of living without us as direct care workers. Continue reading »

Shadowing Others Can Lessen Isolation on the Job

Posted by on November 29th, 2010 at 11:54 am | 1 Comment »

This is a guest post from Sheila Caldwell, in response to the policy brief, “Better Jobs for In-Home Direct Care Workers”, which cites isolation as a major problem for many workers.  Sheila is a family caregiver in Maine and is a member of Maine PASA/DCA-Maine. She lives in Windham.

According to the latest DCA policy brief, isolation is a major challenge for in-home direct care workers.  Personally, I have not faced a lot of isolation in my job – I take care of my mom, who lives with me. However, the flip side of that is that it is hard to find workers to go in for a few hours of respite care when I need a break. When I have someone new coming in, I first have them shadow me so that they can learn the ropes and see if they will be compatible with mom.

I strongly feel that a job shadow is one way that employers can help workers get used to the job, and get used to their client. Many times, workers may be fearful when going into a home for the first time. A job shadow would help greatly before a worker is left alone with a client. With a job shadow, be it for a new hire or a seasoned worker, you learn more about your client than you do just by reading the care plan. You also know what to expect on the other side of the door, and you won’t be going in blind. Continue reading »

Mother, Celebrity Wife and Family Caregiver: Shelley Unser describes caring for her daughter

Posted by on November 22nd, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Comments Off on Mother, Celebrity Wife and Family Caregiver: Shelley Unser describes caring for her daughter

A couple weeks ago I met Shelley Unser, an incredibly inspiring and motivated woman who spoke at the New Mexico Direct Care Givers Coalition Conference about her caregiving experience.  Shelley – former wife of famous racer Al Unser, Jr. – discussed the challenges of caring for her daughter Cody, who was left paralyzed by the rare disease called Transverse Myelitis.  Shelley described the fear and frustration she experienced as a caregiver, and talked about the importance of taking care of yourself and looking for resources and support in the community, such as the New Mexico Direct Care Givers Coalition and other groups.

Continue reading »

From the Family Caregiver Conference: Telling Our Stories

Posted by on November 22nd, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Comments Off on From the Family Caregiver Conference: Telling Our Stories

It is such an exciting month to be a direct care worker.  So many people have stepped forward this month to increase awareness around important issues such as Alzheimer’s care and family caregiving!  The day after the New Mexico Direct Care Givers Coalition Conference, we attended the 6th Annual Family Caregiver Conference in Albuquerque. Hundreds of family caregivers and their loved ones gathered with direct care workers and other allies to discuss the joys and challenges of caring for others. A theme throughout the conference was that caregivers often don’t take a pause to care for themselves.  One really important thing I took away from the conference is the vital role of direct care workers in helping family caregivers do that.  Direct care workers can spend a couple hours per week – or even just per month – providing assistance, giving family caregivers a much-needed reprieve.


(LtoR): Mark Narvaez, Leonila Vega, Ellen Teresa Costilla & Gene Varela

That afternoon, I attended a panel discussion called “Telling Our Story: Caregiver Advocacy & Action.”  Panelists Leonila Vega (Direct Care Alliance), Mark Narvaez (New Mexico Alzheimer’s Association), Gene Varela (AARP) and Ellen Teresa Costilla (NM Human Services Department) discussed the importance of organizing at the grassroots to increase public awareness and education for home and community-based care.  They also discussed current public policy affecting caregivers and grassroots legislative advocacy opportunities, such as the Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act. Continue reading »

Pennsylvania Direct Care Workers Association Launches Philly Chapter

Posted by on November 22nd, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Comments Off on Pennsylvania Direct Care Workers Association Launches Philly Chapter

On October 21, the Philadelphia chapter of the Pennsylvania Direct Care Worker Association  held its roll-out meeting in Center City Philadelphia. After months of planning and working together, I am so proud of us for making it happen!  We are especially grateful for the support and attendance by Roy Gedat of the Direct Care Alliance, Brenda Nachtway of the PADCWA and the Valentine Foundation – who has made this all possible. And I have to mention the absolutely divine cheese pie that was prepared by Peg Ankney along with other light refreshments.

Philly chapter

Direct care workers gather to launch Philadelphia chapter of PADCWA

Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers, Employers & Allies Caring Across New Mexico

Posted by on November 22nd, 2010 at 11:43 am | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers, Employers & Allies Caring Across New Mexico

It has been another exciting year for the New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition! On November 5, we hosted the second annual statewide summit, Caring Across New Mexico.  We were thrilled to have so many employers and vendors in attendance along with direct care workers – it was an example of how important it is for everyone to work together.  To kick off the morning, DCA’s Leonila Vega delivered a keynote address on national healthcare policy and what is being done to improve working conditions for direct care workers and the quality of care for elders and people living with disabilities. Watch a video of her presentation, below:

Next, we had an amazing panel of service providers discuss the importance of training, respect and recognition, and better working conditions for direct care workers.  These employers demonstrated an extreme commitment to their staffs and the people they serve. Continue reading »

To Stay or Not to Stay? When Will We Ever Get Ahead?

Posted by on November 15th, 2010 at 11:42 am | 6 Comments »

Tracy Dudzinski

I have been a direct care worker since 1996. I love my profession and do not want to leave it, but the system is not making it easy to stay.

My family has relied on the Wisconsin health insurance plan for some years now.  I got my start in long-term care at a nursing home.  I qualified for the health insurance, which was employer sponsored through the union.  It was good insurance. I went from the nursing home to home care organization that did not offer health insurance, but my family qualified for Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, Badger Care, which covered all our needs for a relatively low monthly fee.  From there I moved to the worker-owned home care agency where I’ve been for the last six years. Cooperative Care offers health insurance, it covers 70% of the monthly premium and I couldn’t afford the other 30%. Fortunately we still qualified for Badger Care.

We were very grateful for the coverage because my husband and two of our four children are Type 1 insulin- dependent diabetics.  If we hadn’t had Badger Care, I don’t know what we would have done.

But I am about to find out. Continue reading »

Improving the Quality of Direct Care to LGBT Older Adults

Posted by on November 15th, 2010 at 11:11 am | 3 Comments »

This is a guest post by Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders).  Our thanks to Michael for writing this intro to DCA’s latest policy brief, Supporting Direct Care Workers in Caring for Aging Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Individuals by Nancy McKenzie.

Michael Adams

There is no denying the importance of direct care workers and their potential impact on the health and well-being of older adults, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Direct care workers such as home health aides and nursing assistants deliver vital services that allow older adults to stay in their homes and communities, aging in place successfully. LGBT older adults are especially reliant on these services because they often cannot depend on family members for caregiving. Further, many LGBT elders fear that they will face hostile or unwelcoming health care providers, or might encounter care workers who are unfamiliar with the needs of the LGBT community. This can cause LGBT older adults to delay seeking necessary health care, sometimes indefinitely, and can lead to premature institutionalization in nursing homes and long-term care facilities due to fear of hostile in-home care providers. Continue reading »

Direct Care Heroes Gather in Iowa: Compassion in Action

Posted by on November 15th, 2010 at 10:53 am | Comments Off on Direct Care Heroes Gather in Iowa: Compassion in Action

This is a guest post from Pam Biklen, Program Director at the Iowa CareGivers Association.

Nick Uhlenhopp, Iowa State University's football program & Di Findley, Iowa CareGivers Association executive director.

This fall, the Iowa CareGivers Association held their annual educational conference and awards reception for direct care workers – Hometown Heroes: Compassion in Action. There were 318 people in attendance at this conference, 234 of which were direct care workers. The theme, “Hometown SuperHeroes” celebrated the work of all of those direct care workers who provide hands on care in a number of health care settings in Iowa. In our eyes, each and every one of them is a “SuperHero.” Not only do direct care workers provide care and supportive services to those who need it, they do the little things that make a difference in the lives of their clients. They honor the dignity of others as they provide compassion and care. They have qualities of humility and inner strength that provide them with courage to do this rewarding but emotionally and physically challenging work. They provide essential services to our communities. And those are all qualities of a “SuperHero”!

The theme of the day was entertwined with some great educational programs, including topics like hospice, depression, Alzheimer’s, skin care, and many others. There were even some special guest appearances by Wonder Woman, aka Di Findley, Executive Director and SuperMan aka Greg DeMoss, conference committee chair. Continue reading »

The Adventure of Caring for People with Alzheimer’s: A Direct Care Worker Celebrates Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Posted by on November 15th, 2010 at 10:32 am | Comments Off on The Adventure of Caring for People with Alzheimer’s: A Direct Care Worker Celebrates Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Cathy Bouchard

In honor of National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, I wanted to share my thoughts on working with people living with this disease. I’m a direct care worker at an Alzheimer’s Care Center. I came to work here, coming from home care, because I needed the security of full-time employment with benefits. I didn’t have a lot of experience with the Alzheimer’s population, but with the training provided and the guidance of my co-workers, I progressed.

Emotions are experienced in all who are involved as the behaviors come forth adding to the adventure of the day. Becoming a caregiver for someone living with Alzheimer’s can make things easier, interesting, and fun for them and the people in their lives. Some residents love you and think you’re great really appreciating the assistance they get. Others need more time, and you’ll have to try again later. But once you build trust, it is such a pleasure working with them. Continue reading »

Maine PASA Hosts Regional Social on Nov. 13

Posted by on November 1st, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Comments Off on Maine PASA Hosts Regional Social on Nov. 13

Join us for this brief social where workers can network with each other and get local support for their work. The program starts promptly at 10 am and runs until noon.

Members of Maine PASA’s Leadership Council will be there to update workers on all that is happening with the workforce. The Leadership Council wants to hear from workers about their jobs, what they feel needs improvement and what they want their leaders to work on.

If you’re a direct care worker in the Bangor area, please join us!

For more information and to RSVP, contact me at

Poems by Direct Care Workers: My Aunt’s Repeat Story About My Mother

Posted by on November 1st, 2010 at 10:55 am | Comments Off on Poems by Direct Care Workers: My Aunt’s Repeat Story About My Mother

On the surface, this poem has nothing to do with work. But my mother would have been a good direct care worker. She would have known that any system of care needs to include everyone.

My Aunt’s Repeat Story About My Mother

Ruth Tiernan once took thirteen kids
in one car swimming at Cobbet’s Pond.
It was a hot day in Nashua, New Hampshire,
July, nineteen-fifty. She was sixteen
and had just gotten her driver’s license.
Grandpa Tiernan had just bought the family’s first car,
a 1939 Plymouth with the stick on the floor,
and he let her take it, which surprises me,
for I remember him an old man, always mad
at us kids for tromping up the stairs.
But they remember him giving them all he could.

My mother hollered, anyone want to go swimming
get your bathing suit!

and whoosh there were eleven kids at the car
in less than a minute. Let me tell you it’s tough
when you’re sitting three deep in the back seat
my Aunt Clara says.
Continue reading »

New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition Hosts 2nd Annual Statewide Summit

Posted by on November 1st, 2010 at 10:29 am | 1 Comment »

Mark Cerna

On November 5, the New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition will host its 2nd Annual Statewide Summit: Caring Across New Mexico.

We’re gearing up for the event, which brings together all stakeholders in the field of direct care, including:  direct care workers; the elderly and individuals living with disabilities that employ caregivers; state agency employees; caregiver agency administration; and family and friends of caregivers.

The Summit is a venue for communication among caregivers on career opportunities, job advancement, job benefits, advocacy and legislation affecting those who provide care. The Summit is an opportunity for family and professional caregivers to come together to share what works in caring for the elderly and individuals living with disabilities.

Read more about the New Mexico Direct Caregivers 2010 Summit and register.

Do Criminals Receive Better Treatment than Elders?

Posted by on November 1st, 2010 at 10:18 am | Comments Off on Do Criminals Receive Better Treatment than Elders?

Judy Clinco

This seems like an outrageous question, doesn’t it?  But consider it as a hypothetical: given the neglect of our long-term care system, the comparison does make a point.  Millions of older Americans rely on long-term care services, but so many more are still in need of assistance.  Access to quality home and community-based services is not widely available and certainly is not an entitlement.  That’s why the short commentary piece – “Let’s put the seniors in jail and the criminals in nursing homes” – which has been circulating the Internet for some time, makes me ask the question: do criminals really receive better treatment than those depending on long-term care?  As leaders and advocates for change in direct and long-term care, we can make sure this isn’t the case.  According to the commentary, prisoners receive:

  • Access to showers, hobbies, and walks.
  • Unlimited free prescriptions, dental and medical treatment, wheel chairs etc.
  • Fresh bedding twice a week, and clean laundry which is ironed and returned to them.
  • Access to a library, weight room, spiritual counseling, pool, and education.
  • Simple clothing, shoes, slippers, P.J.’s and legal aid, free of charge.
  • Private, secure rooms for all, with an exercise outdoor yard  — with gardens.

Continue reading »