Archive for November, 2011

Improving Care Quality by Developing Direct Care Worker Leaders

Posted by on November 29th, 2011 at 11:12 am | 2 Comments »

Beverly Faulkner

Developing direct care workers’ leadership skills can be an effective way of improving job and care quality in long-term care, according to early feedback from a collaboration between the Direct Care Alliance and four New York City-area nursing homes. The program is part of a pilot being conducted by DCA, the Beth Abraham Family of Health Services in New York City, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The project partners developed a new job description for certified nursing assistants (CNAs), creating an intermediary Senior Resident Care Associate position between the traditional CNA position and licensed nurses. The main goal is to develop direct care workers’ leadership skills so they can better advocate for improved working conditions, career advancement, and respect. The new position essentially creates a CNA career track, allowing seasoned nursing assistants to take on more responsibility and earn more pay without having to abandon the profession.

According to sociologist Deborah Little, PhD, the program’s evaluator, 30 CNA leaders—“the cream of the cream of the crop”—will be trained over the next three years. The first ten came from two of Beth Abe’s four homes. Each of the remaining two homes will contribute ten more. Training began for the first group this fall and begins for the last group next spring.

Continue reading »

Life Without Overtime: Averaging 60 to 80 Hours a Week

Posted by on November 29th, 2011 at 10:32 am | 1 Comment »

Home care worker Evelyn Coke (pictured) fought for the right to overtime pay.

The home care worker whose story you are about to read chose to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job.

In order for me to pull my weight, I average 120 to 160 hours every two weeks. My husband loads trucks 40 hours a week. It takes me almost twice as long to earn what he does. I can work in two weeks what some people work in an entire month, because we home care aides don’t get paid time and a half for overtime in Florida.

A couple days a week, I work from 8 in the morning until 8 at night. Sometimes I work from 8 at night until 3 in the afternoon. I spend a lot of my days just going from one client to another from early morning to late at night.

These days I’m not driving too far between clients, but there were times when I was traveling 30 to 50 miles a day to get from one client to the next. We used to get paid for that travel time and mileage, but now we don’t, and gas costs a lot more now than it used to. Continue reading »

Strengthening Social Security to Improve Direct Care Workers’ Retirement Security

Posted by on November 14th, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Comments Off on Strengthening Social Security to Improve Direct Care Workers’ Retirement Security

Download a PDF version of the brief

Recent proposals to cut Social Security benefits would threaten the already fragile retirement security of direct care workers, according to Maintaining and Improving Social Security for Direct Care Workers. Instead, argues the 16-page issue brief, the program can and should be strengthened in ways that will increase retirement security for these workers.

Author Shawn Fremstad of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) explains why Social Security is particularly important to direct care workers, who are “among the most poorly compensated and economically insecure workers in the United States.” Only about one in every four direct care workers have employer-provided retirement benefits, says the brief, and few can afford to amass any other savings, so the great majority rely solely on Social Security if they become disabled or retire. But workers who have put in a lifetime of poorly paid work as caregivers are eligible only for extremely modest Social Security benefits. Continue reading »

Life Without Overtime: I Wish I Could Take Weekends Off

Posted by on November 8th, 2011 at 10:37 am | 2 Comments »

Home care worker Evelyn Coke fought for the right to overtime pay.

The home care worker whose story you are about to read chose to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job.

I receive $7.75 per hour. We home care workers don’t get paid overtime in Texas, so I usually work 50 or 60 hours a week. Sometimes it’s less, but sometimes it’s more. Usually I have to work every day of the week.

I work for two agencies now, one for 20 hours a week and the other for 20 or more, sometimes more than 40. But even when I worked for just one company, I didn’t get time and a half for all that overtime. I don’t get any benefits either.

I got into this work after I started taking care of my mom and my dad in 1987. My friend said, “Do you want to care for old people?” I said “No way! I don’t want to do that kind of job. I just want to take care of my mom and my dad.” Then I didn’t find another job. I told my friend I’d try it, but as soon as I found another job I’ll quit. But I never tried to find another job, because once I started doing this work I found out that I love it. Continue reading »

Protecting the Social Safety Net

Posted by on November 8th, 2011 at 10:32 am | 1 Comment »

CNA and DCA member Kelly Gessner testifying at a Senate briefing last week.

UPDATE: Help us fight to preserve these crucial programs by emailing your elected representatives. Our action alert makes it easy to send them a letter.

Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are under attack. Over the past several months, these social safety programs have become the focus of a political battle over what our government needs to do to create jobs and stimulate our struggling economy. This is alarming because these programs are fundamental to the already shaky economic security of our seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families—a group that includes many direct care workers and their families, as well as most of the people they assist.

Unfortunately, the debate about whether to cut social safety net programs is being driven by politics, not the realities that millions of low-income families and individuals face every day. The Direct Care Alliance and many of our allies are waging campaigns to preserve these crucial programs. Continue reading »

Life Without Overtime: Was I Living? Was I Really Taking Care of Anybody?

Posted by on November 1st, 2011 at 3:45 pm | 7 Comments »

Home care worker Evelyn Coke (pictured) fought for the right to overtime pay.

The home care worker whose story you are about to read chose to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job.

Here in Florida, when you work for an agency you don’t get time and a half for overtime. Most of the agencies will give you all the time in the world—and you have to take it, if you’re not getting overtime and you’re only making $8.25 an hour. You need to book the hours; you don’t have much choice. The only time I’ve gotten time and a half is on a holiday, and that’s because they’re in a bind and that’s the only way they could get someone to cover it.

I made $8.25 when I first started and worked my way up to $9 an hour. After taxes, that comes to $7.50 an hour, for everything I’m doing. I never got any overtime when I worked for agencies, so I had to work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, just to get by. I was bringing home $750 a week [before taxes], but was I living? Was I really taking care of anyone? Continue reading »