Archive for April, 2012

Minnesota Direct Care Workers Launch DCA Chapter

Posted by on April 30th, 2012 at 9:59 pm | 1 Comment »

Anne Keithahn, a direct support professional (DSP) in Fairmont, Minnesota, and her friend and fellow DSP Amy Derrera are launching the Southern Minnesota Direct Care Alliance, a state chapter of the Direct Care Alliance, next month. We asked them to explain what they’re doing and why.

Amy Derrera

Anne Keithahn

How did this idea get started?
Anne: After talking to Brenda Nachtway several months ago, I decided to start a DCA state chapter here in Minnesota. I have known Amy for many years, so I asked her to help me get it started.

Since then, we’ve had many phone calls with Brenda learning more about the DCA and the issues it is involved with.

Tell us a little about yourselves.
Anne: We both live in Fairmont, which is located in south-central Minnesota.

I’m a former CNA. I currently work as a DSP for adults with intellectual disabilities and as an independent living skills specialist for a center for independent living.  I have 25 years of direct care worker experience.

Amy: I have 20 years experience as a DSP for adults with intellectual disabilities. I’ve also done home care work. I’m involved with the local ARC and I volunteer for a center for independent living.

What do you want to accomplish with the Southern Minnesota DCA?
Amy: I’m concerned with seeing direct care workers get fair treatment, pay, and representation in the workforce.  Continue reading »

Florida Op-Ed Explains Need for Proposed Home Care Rule

Posted by on April 30th, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Comments Off on Florida Op-Ed Explains Need for Proposed Home Care Rule

Terry Bucher

In an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel, Florida Professional Association of Care Givers President Emeritus Terry Bucher explains why the proposed rule to grant minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers must be finalized. Noting that Florida is not one of the 21 states that provide their own minimum wage and/or overtime protections for these workers, she says: “Florida’s home-care workers are dedicated and diligent. But until they are guaranteed a fair wage, Florida will simply not be able to attract enough qualified workers to meet the growing need for home-care services.”

Bucher describes the pressure the home care industry is putting on the Department of Labor not to finalize the rule, claiming that employers cannot afford to pay minimum wage and overtime. In fact, she writes, the home care industry doubled its revenues between 2001 and 2009, while home care workers earn less than they did 10 years ago, after adjusting wages to account for inflation. “Clearly, the 30 percent to 40 percent profit margins of the top corporate home-care franchises are being underwritten by these abysmal, stagnant wages.”

Read Terry Bucher’s editorial.

Iowa CareGivers Association Faces Drastic Potential Cuts

Posted by on April 30th, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Comments Off on Iowa CareGivers Association Faces Drastic Potential Cuts

The Direct Care Alliance is posting the following information from and at the request of the Iowa CareGivers Association (ICA). The budget being finalized now in Iowa may cut several crucial direct care worker programs, including several vital to the work of the ICA. The association is asking people who care about direct care work and workers to contact the legislators on the budget committee today (April 30) or tomorrow to urge them not to cut the programs. 

We need your help RIGHT NOW!

The direct care worker programs and services provided by the Iowa CareGivers may be cut. A conference committee of 5 State Senators and 5 State Representatives has been assigned to a “Conference Committee” to work out the final hour details of the Health and Human Services Budget. They will determine the fate of the many programs we provide direct care workers throughout the state. The following programs could be eliminated:

House Budget Raises Red Flags for Direct Care Workers

Posted by on April 23rd, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Comments Off on House Budget Raises Red Flags for Direct Care Workers

Judith Solomon

Here in Washington, Congress is planning how the government will spend its money next year and for many years to come. The plan that the House of Representatives just passed includes many cuts that would be extremely troubling for direct care workers.

Adopted on March 29, the House’s Ryan budget (named after Congressman Paul Ryan, Chair of the House Budget Committee) would slash federal funding for Medicaid. By 2022, it would reduce federal Medicaid funding by one third, and the cuts would get even bigger in the following years.

The Ryan budget would make these massive cuts by fundamentally changing the way Medicaid works. Medicaid is a federal-state partnership. The federal government kicks in about 57 percent of the program’s costs, on average. States pick up the rest. When more people need coverage under Medicaid, the federal government automatically kicks in its share of the cost of covering them.

Under the Ryan plan, each state would instead get a set pot of money, a so-called block grant, for Medicaid. That amount wouldn’t increase in response to a recession, or a new disease, or even a medical breakthrough that could help people with a devastating disease like Alzheimer’s or cancer. Continue reading »

Send Us Your Stories

Posted by on April 23rd, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Comments Off on Send Us Your Stories

Part of our work to improve direct care jobs and help direct care workers gain the respect they deserve involves making this crucial work visible, and we do this partly by sharing the stories of the special people who do it.

We do this because we believe there is no better advocate for this workforce than the people who do the work, and no better way to help others appreciate the value of this work than by publishing stories that illustrate what it is and why is matters to the people who give and receive care. Since we launched this blog and our Direct Care News e-newsletter about five years ago, hundreds of workers have shared their stories with us and we have had the opportunity to share many of these touching and inspiring stories with our readers.

That’s why we’re inviting you to share your story with us. If you have a tale to tell about how a direct care worker has transformed a life, or you know an excellent direct care worker who deserves to be celebrated, please email our communications advisor, Elise Nakhnikian. Include your name, your contact information,and a little about the person or story you think we should tell our readers about.

DCA Expands Its DC Presence

Posted by on April 23rd, 2012 at 8:56 pm | 5 Comments »

Jessica Brill Ortiz

The Direct Care Alliance expands its advocacy staff today with the addition of National Advocacy Coordinator Jessica Brill Ortiz.

Brill Ortiz, who comes to DCA from the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (the Consumer Voice), is a committed advocate for long-term care reform. “I know Jessica shares our passion for improving direct care jobs and we’re excited to have a full-time staff member in Washington, D.C.” says DCA Director of Policy and Planning David Ward.

Brill Ortiz managed and led several key programs at the Consumer Voice, where her title was Program Manager. “Jessica has been a tremendous asset to the organization on a number of fronts, including leadership over family council support projects, providing technical assistance to hundreds (if not thousands?) of consumers and their families, and by serving as a key staff support to our Consumers for Quality Care No Matter Where initiative,” wrote Consumer Voice Executive Director Sarah Wells in the organization’s April 17 newsletter.

As DCA’s National Advocacy Coordinator, Brill Ortiz will lead DCA’s advocacy campaigns and our efforts to provide direct care workers with opportunities to participate in policymaking decisions that will affect them. Her email address is Please join us in welcoming her aboard!

Finding My Home in the U.S. through Home Care

Posted by on April 17th, 2012 at 9:39 am | Comments Off on Finding My Home in the U.S. through Home Care

Elizabeth Castillo

I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and then I lived for a while in Ciudad Juarez. I moved to El Paso in 1991. I’m an American citizen now, and I like being here better, but I love Mexico too. On every corner is a little store where we can buy tortillas and whatever else we need, and outside there are people everywhere, and everybody knows everybody. Here nobody is outside on the street.

Maybe that’s why I love my job. I love people, helping them and talking to them, and that’s what I do all day now as a home care worker.

Before I started doing this, I thought it would just be changing diapers. I had helped my sister take care of my mom and dad, and I loved them because they were my mom and dad. Then a friend asked if I wanted to come work with her taking care of other old people, and I said no way.  Continue reading »

Caring Across Generations Campaign Builds Momentum

Posted by on April 17th, 2012 at 9:38 am | 1 Comment »

Fresh from the success of having helped flood the U.S. Department of Labor with comments in support of the proposed home care rule, Caring Across Generations (CAG)  is gaining momentum in its campaign to ensure dignity and a good quality of life for elders, people with disabilities, and the people who care for them in their homes. The Direct Care Alliance is on the Leadership Team of this coalition of over 200 organizations. CAG has brought together a broad cross-section of advocates for both caregivers and care recipients to transform the way we care for people in their homes, and the value we assign to that care work.  Continue reading »

Skilled Nursing Rate Cuts Pose Threat to CNAs

Posted by on April 10th, 2012 at 9:04 am | 2 Comments »

Alan Rosenbloom

Recent cuts in the Medicare and Medicaid rates paid to skilled nursing facilities have caused nursing homes to hire fewer direct care and other workers and reduce wages and benefits, according to a survey commissioned by The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care (AQHNC).

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reduced Medicare payments to nursing homes by 11.1 percent last August. This February, Congress passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which made further cuts to Medicare payments. Meanwhile, many states have reduced or frozen Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes. AQNHC’s Spring 2012 Care Context report explores the impact of these reductions. Continue reading »

Worker and Consumer Panel Grounds Talk at Home Care Conference

Posted by on April 10th, 2012 at 9:03 am | Comments Off on Worker and Consumer Panel Grounds Talk at Home Care Conference

Connie Kreider

“We got bombarded afterwards by people who had more questions. They were very interested in what we had to say,” says home care worker Peg Ankney of the national Quality Work, Quality Care home care conference in Washington, D.C., where she spoke on April 2. Peg and her fellow home care worker Connie Kreider, both of whom are members of the Direct Care Alliance and the Pennsylvania Direct Care Worker Association, were joined by home care consumer family members Jim Croft and Jamie Bosland at a panel on the positive and negative aspects of home care work.

“All of us on the panel were geared in the same direction in what we talked about, and that was putting the needs of the residents first,” says Connie.

The day-long conference was on the relationship between quality work and quality care in home care, with an emphasis on how the safety, health and well-being of frontline workers affects the quality of their work. Continue reading »

Houston Partnership Honors, Educates Direct Care Workers

Posted by on April 3rd, 2012 at 10:31 am | Comments Off on Houston Partnership Honors, Educates Direct Care Workers

Attendees of the Hearts at Work conference

Last week, I got to visit with a group of direct care workers in Houston, Texas, when I was invited to present at the 15th annual Hearts at Work conference. I also learned about the workforce development initiatives that go on in Houston during the rest of the year.

The purpose of the conference is to thank direct care workers for their work and dedication to the field and to enhance their skills. More than 160 direct care workers were there, all from Houston and the surrounding areas. I spoke to CNAs from long-term care facilities, home health aides, and hospice aides. Thanks to the support of the Harris County Area Agency on Aging, the conference is free to attendees.

I attended several wonderful sessions before my own presentation, which was on leadership training and how direct care workers can advocate for themselves.  Continue reading »

Wisconsin Elder Care, Disability Advocates Win Budget Battle

Posted by on April 3rd, 2012 at 10:21 am | Comments Off on Wisconsin Elder Care, Disability Advocates Win Budget Battle

Advocates for the aging and people with disabilities in Wisconsin achieved an important victory on March 19 when the governor signed a law lifting the caps that had been imposed on three key Medicaid programs supplying home and community-based services. We talked to Lisa Pugh, the public policy coordinator at Disability Rights Wisconsin, about how the advocates won and why it matters.

Lisa Pugh

First of all, congratulations!

Thank you. It’s a huge victory for community-based services and the people who provide them.

For those of us who don’t live in Wisconsin, can you please explain what these programs do?

Wisconsin has a home and community-based care waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that we call Family Care. It’s a program for the aging and people with physical and developmental disabilities. This was born out of a bipartisan agreement in our legislature, about 10 years ago, that people should be able to live where they want, which is mostly their own homes or in the community. Continue reading »