In her opening remarks last Friday morning in Washington, D.C., DCA National Advocacy Coordinator Jessica Brill Ortiz urged the advocates heading to Capitol Hill for the National Day of Action to speak from personal experience when they talked to legislators and their staff about why home care workers need Fair Labor Standards Act protections. “Your stories are very powerful,” she said, “and you can tell them best.”
Their stories aren’t the only tool in these advocates’ belts, but they are certainly one of the most powerful, as seen in the following excerpts from conversations held after their Hill visits with DCA Communications Advisor Elise Nakhnikian.
Timothy Doe (L) waiting to board a train to DC.
“At Senator Kyl’s office, the staff member we talked to knew about the bill. He said his aunt is a caregiver, so he knows how hard we work. He also asked us what we do as caregivers. We described it from the top to the bottom, and he was very impressed.”
— Home care worker and DCA member Timothy Doe, Tucson, Arizona
“I told him the demand is great and the jobs are growing, but we can’t attract new people because we can tell them the job is great but the money is not good.”
Before heading to DC with the DCA this spring, CNA Renee Tillman, the founder and president of the Texas Association of Nurse Assistants, asked her colleagues what they wanted her to tell legislators about direct care work. Here’s what they said.
In this video, nurse aide and DCA Direct Care Worker Specialist Brenda Nachtway discusses her years as professional direct care worker and her commitment to her profession. Please share this moving story with anyone who might benefit from hearing a direct care worker talk about her profession.
In this new video from the Direct Care Alliance’s Video Diary series of videos by direct care workers, home care worker Helen Hanson talks about her work. She also interviews her daughter Jeanne about the sacrifices her family has to make because of her low wages and tapes Eunice Spooner, the woman she works with, as Eunice talks about what her home care workers mean to her. It all adds up to a 360-degree view of the challenges and rewards of direct care work.
Posted by Roy Gedat on July 22nd, 2009 at 11:09 am | Comments Off on On the Road With Roy — An Update from the DCA’s National Advocacy Director
Across the country, direct care workers are speaking up and being heard by policy makers, long term care consumers, and employers. In my work with the DCA, I’ve traveled far and wide and been fortunate enough to be part of a national movement of direct care workers who are finding their voices, standing up and speaking out.
In the past few weeks, I was invited on a TV talk show here in Maine (see video) to talk about the work I’ve been doing to make health care more affordable for direct care workers. I’ve attended and spoken at direct care worker conferences in Texas — both Houston and Killeen — and in Pennsylvania. I’ve helped organize and participated in more than 50 visits with House and Senate members in Washington DC by direct care workers and their allies. And I’ve met with new DCA partners in New Mexico.
Change is in the wind! To see what I mean, come along while I revisit the highlights of the last two or three months: Continue reading »
If you want something done, they say, give it to someone who’s already busy. And if you want someone to run a leadership program for direct care workers, who better than a busy direct care worker?
The Direct Care Alliance got the right person for the job this week when direct support professional Bridget Siljander moved into the newly created position of Coordinator of the Voices Institute.
A graduate of the Voices Institute National Leadership Program’s first class, Bridget has provided care and supports to elders and people with disabilities for the past 12 years. She has worked in hospitals, group homes, and nursing homes, but most of her work has been in home care. For the past nine years, she was the primary aide for one home care client.
In addition, she chairs the Direct Support Professional Association of Minnesota and writes curriculum for the National College of Direct Support. She is also a member of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals board of directors’ Advocacy and Legislation Committee. On top of that, she is a member of the Alliance for Full Participation – and, until she moved into her new position, she worked half-time as a direct care worker specialist for the DCA.
“Bridget’s proven leadership abilities, professionalism, commitment to excellence and personal knowledge of the direct care workforce made her an ideal choice to lead our signature program,” says DCA Executive Director Leonila Vega. “Her addition to the DCA staff marks a historic expansion and validation of our nationwide leadership development initiative. With her leadership, we will achieve our goal of expanding our state and regional Voices Institute leadership programs.”
Watch part one (above) to hear the first part of Tracy’s testimony, and part two to hear about the changes she would like to see.
What do you do when you get a call from the executive director of the DCA asking you to go to Washington, D.C. to tell the people at an Institute of Medicine symposium what it’s like to be a direct care worker?
You panic for a second. You think: “Why me? What would I say?”
Then you take a deep breath to calm your nerves and think: “Why not me? I am the expert in direct care, and people need to hear the voice of the worker if we are ever going to change things.”
I told Leonila I would be happy to speak to the group. Then I panicked again and waited for a call from Elise, the DCA’s communications director. After our conversation, I felt much better. I went home that evening and wrote out my testimony. (PDF) I worked with Elise and she helped me make it as powerful as I could.
Then we had a call with the people from the Institute of Medicine and I found out that I had to cut parts of my testimony, since it was 20 minutes long and it needed to be closer to 10. (And here I’d thought I wouldn’t have enough to say.)