Archive for ‘as leaders’

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on October 21st, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News

The people that take care of me deserve a living wage,” says home care recipient Kyle Auxier.

How well a home care worker is treated has depended entirely on the employer. Now, that’s finally changing.

Award-winning home health aide Joe Quinn on how home care workers go above and beyond for their clients.

Nearly three-quarters of direct care workers are forced to rush through basic care for the elderly and disabled, survey finds.

Ai-jen Poo on why it is essential that we pay home care workers enough to support their familiesContinue reading »

Home Care Workers Rising

Posted by on October 14th, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Comments Off on Home Care Workers Rising

forest of signs 2The following photos and stories are from the Voices Institute graduates, several of whom were also DCA board members, who represented Direct Care Alliance and their profession at the Home Care Workers Rising summit. The summit was hosted by Caring Across Generations in St. Louis on October 6 and 7.

It Rekindled the Fight in Me

I was fortunate to be invited to the Home Care Workers Rising summit by the Direct Care Alliance board of directors. The summit brought together members of the SEIU, AFSCME, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Jobs with Justice, Hand in Hand, Caring Across Generations, and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice to spark and rekindle the Home Care Worker fight for a job that is respected, pays a living wage, includes benefits and paid time off. We were home care workers and consumers, all sharing and learning what each other were doing in the fight to improve home care jobs.  Continue reading »

DCA Maine forms Partnership with Maine People’s Alliance

Posted by on July 31st, 2014 at 11:49 am | Comments Off on DCA Maine forms Partnership with Maine People’s Alliance

image for david moreau storyDCA Maine has a long history of empowering direct care workers to speak up and voice their concerns on issues regarding their work.  Members have testified before legislative committees, spoken with our elected representatives in Congress and taken part in work groups and coalitions to improve the conditions of direct care work.

Notable successes include two grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA); one for helping direct care workers to obtain health insurance through their employers and another for training direct care workers on core competencies so they can easily transfer from one population to another.  We are also proud of being part of the campaign to remove the companionship exemption for home care workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

But a lot still needs to be done to create a world where direct care workers receive adequate pay, support and training to do the work we love. So when Direct Care Alliance let us know it had run out of out of funding, we looked for another group that could support our work.  Continue reading »

Farewell and Thank You

Posted by on June 23rd, 2014 at 10:09 am | 21 Comments »

Dear Friend of DCA,

group shot panoramic for web

With your support, Direct Care Alliance has been the national advocacy voice of direct care workers for almost ten years.  We can all be proud of what we have accomplished together.

Inspired by the vision of former Executive Director Leonila Vega, we built a nationwide advocacy network of direct care workers through the Voices Institute and other means. These worker leaders are eloquent about the value of their work and have a passion for improving our system of long-term services and supports.

We influenced legislation and regulation, taking important steps at the state and federal level to improve the health and economic security of direct care workers, invest in the workforce and enhance training and advancement opportunities. A key recent victory was the final home care rule extending basic labor protections–including federal minimum wage and overtime pay–to home care workers nationwide.

We developed a national credentialing program that is an important step toward building recognition of personal care work. We assisted many direct care workers in finding health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. We also provided technical and financial assistance to direct care worker state associations.

Unfortunately, the world has changed, and our income has decreased every year. The board has grappled with this over the years, trying to trim costs while maintaining services and supports for workers, but we don’t have enough funding to continue operating. We regretfully inform you that DCA staff operations will cease and our offices in Washington, DC and New York will close by June 30.  Continue reading »

Direct Care Worker Voices Ring Loud and Clear at Capitol Hill Briefing

Posted by on May 18th, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Worker Voices Ring Loud and Clear at Capitol Hill Briefing

“That was so compelling.” “How can I learn more?” “How powerful!”

That was some of the feedback I received from the people who approached me following a May 8 briefing on Capitol Hill. The Washington, D.C. briefing was hosted by OWL–The Voice of Midlife and Older Women, to observe the release of its annual Mother’s Day report. The focus of this year’s report is long-term care, services and supports (LTSS), including growing demand, challenges, and opportunities for improvement, and I had been asked to talk about how direct care workers fit into that picture. My co-panelists highlighted key considerations including how best to meet the needs of older adults and people with disabilities, the challenges facing family caregivers, financing, and the lack of a political will for change. I spoke about the critical role played by direct care workers and how best to strengthen and support the direct care workforce to meet the growing demand for high-quality care and support.

When I spoke, there were gasps from the audience at the size and anticipated growth of the workforce, the percentage of women in the profession, and the low wages and high rate of dependence on public assistance among direct care workers. We are so familiar with these facts and figures that we sometimes forget how shocking they are to people who are new to them, but reactions at the briefing proved that we were reaching new people, teaching them about the urgency and importance of direct care workforce issues, and inspiring them to take action. Continue reading »

Why It’s Crucial to Make the Link Between Better Jobs and Better Care

Posted by on May 5th, 2014 at 1:51 pm | 3 Comments »

Deborah Little is the chair of the Sociology department at Adelphi University. Her chapter in Caring on the Clock, a book on direct care work that is due out this fall from Rutgers, looks at DCA’s work to support and empower direct care worker advocates. She recently talked to DCA’s Elise Nakhnikian about what strategies are most effective and why.

Voices Institute students at work with an instructor (far left).

Voices Institute students at work with an instructor (far left).

What got you interested in this topic?

I was hired by DCA to do an evaluation of the pilot senior CNA project that started three years ago. As part of that, Leonila [Vega] invited me to attend a national Voices Institute in Wisconsin, because five participants from the senior CNA project attended that year. At the Voices Institute, I got very interested in the organizing and empowerment work that DCA was doing. I took extensive field notes during the Voices Institute, and spent a lot of time speaking with participants in informal interviews. After that, I expanded my research to look at the DCA blog and the literature on organizing direct care workers.

What got me interested in this topic was a moment that I talk about at the beginning of the paper, where one of the workers at the Voices Institute was willing to give up a wage increase because she thought it would be difficult for her clients to afford the extra cost. I thought, how can this be? How can she not readily see the connection between the quality of her job and the quality of the care she is giving? And how can she be so willing to sacrifice her own needs and the needs of her family? Continue reading »

Greater Houston DCA Members Take Time to Recharge

Posted by on April 21st, 2014 at 4:58 pm | Comments Off on Greater Houston DCA Members Take Time to Recharge
Carla Washington

Carla Washington

“You touch with your heart long before you touch with your hand,” said one of the almost 200 participants attending the Care for Elders 17th Annual Direct Care Workers Conference in Houston, Texas, earlier this month.

Direct care workers came together to recharge, reconnect and remember why the care and services they provide to the elderly and people with disabilities is vital work, provided not only in Houston but by more than 300,000 direct care workers across the state. Members of Greater Houston Direct Care Alliance  (GHDCA) start planning early to ensure they’re available to attend the annual conference, because GHDCA’s members recognize the importance of taking care of themselves so they can provide quality care, services and support to their consumers. Continue reading »

Speaking Up for the Profession I Love

Posted by on April 6th, 2014 at 11:04 pm | Comments Off on Speaking Up for the Profession I Love
Peg Ankney

Peg Ankney

About a month ago, DCA’s Jessica Brill Ortiz invited me to attend a March 25 advocacy day in Washington DC. The day was organized by Caring Across Generations, a movement of family members, workers, and others advocating for a system of quality, dignified care. I did some work with Caring Across last year through DCA, which is a member of their leadership team. I was impressed by their ethics and the work they are doing to improve our long-term care system, for both consumers and workers.

I wanted to visit the Capitol because of what I have already been experiencing in my state of Pennsylvania–and I am definitely not alone!

I’ve been a direct care worker for almost 40 years, 25 of them in home care. During the past 10 years I have witnessed a critical depletion in my workforce as demand grows. Because our senior population is living longer, there’s been a huge increase in the need for direct care workers who are passionate as well as compassionate, but too many of the trainees I see coming into the field have no heart for the profession. Instead, they see it only as something to pay the bills, or a stepping stone to something “better,” like a career as a nurse. Continue reading »

Operations End but Work Lives on for FL DCW Association

Posted by on January 27th, 2014 at 2:08 pm | 4 Comments »
Terry Bucher (L) and Joan Leah

Terry Bucher (L) and Joan Leah

At the end of this month, the Florida Professional Association of Care Givers will shut our doors after nearly 20 years. Endings are always hard, and this one is particularly difficult for those of us who love our profession and understand the need to advocate for it. However, the work FPACG has done will not be forgotten.

FPACG originated in September 1995 as The Nurse Assistant Educational Support Group, formed by Margaret T. Carleton-Bucher, LPN—or Terry, as she has been known to hundreds of members since then. I am one of them, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to have been a member and board president of FPACG. Continue reading »

Aging Today Outlines How the Home Care Rule Was Won

Posted by on January 27th, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Comments Off on Aging Today Outlines How the Home Care Rule Was Won

aging today“While the extension of minimum wage and overtime protections to homecare workers was a great win, a tremendous amount of advocacy is needed to maintain it,” write Direct Care Alliance (DCA) Executive Director Carla Washington and National Advocacy Director Jessica Brill Ortiz in the January-February issue of Aging Today, the bimonthly newspaper of the American Society on Aging. “We continue to work with our allies to ensure that the regulations are not derailed by Congress. We are also working to ensure that workers, consumers, employers and other stakeholders nationwide understand what the rule means for them—and why it is a victory for us all.”

Their article, Recent Victory for Homecare Workers is a Win for Advocates, outlines why home care workers were excluded from federal Fair Labor Standards Act protections and how DCA and its allies have worked to undo that longstanding injustice.

Home Care Worker Fights for the Right to Assist Clients

Posted by on December 3rd, 2013 at 9:55 am | Comments Off on Home Care Worker Fights for the Right to Assist Clients
Trumeko Foxx

Trumeko Foxx

On October 4, Nashville home care worker Trumeko Foxx and librarian Exie Mai Harrington, along with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and SEIU Local 205, filed a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee. The suit challenged emergency rules that placed harsh restrictions on anyone who takes part in or facilitates public education about the new health care marketplaces or insurance plans available under the Affordable Care Act. A judge has issued a temporary restraining order against the rules, which are now expected to be rewritten by early next year. Trumeko Foxx and Local 205 Political Director Freda Player talked to DCA’s Elise Nakhnikian about why they fought for this victory and what it means to home care workers and their clients.

How did this get started?

Freda: It started with the union. We were concerned about the emergency rules and how they would affect our members who work in social services. We knew they helped their clients a lot with things like medical bills and doctor visits and with finding medical help, and we knew it would be hard for them to assist their clients while following the rules as they were written.

We wanted to show that people could be fined a thousand dollars just for doing their everyday daily work, and a) they couldn’t afford it and b) it wasn’t fair because they were just doing their jobs.

How did Trumeko get involved?

Freda: Trumeko worked in health care and was a leader in our union. We felt that she would be a natural fit, so we approached her and asked if she’d be interested in getting involved.

Trumeko: When Freda called me and let me know what was going on, I was like: Wow! You can get fined for doing that? I had assisted my clients with what we call TennCare here in Tennessee, which is a kind of insurance. Continue reading »

Learn How to Go from Home Care Worker to Business Owner in WI

Posted by on November 21st, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Comments Off on Learn How to Go from Home Care Worker to Business Owner in WI

cooperative_care_logo with borderIn a recent Minnesota Post article, Tracy Dudzinski helped explain why home care co-ops are a promising solution to the growing need for home care services. If you live in Wisconsin, please join us on December 5, when Tracy will explain this exciting opportunity in a Direct Care Alliance informational session on what it takes to start a home care co-op.

Tracy is a caregiver, administrative coordinator, and board chair at Cooperative Care, a leading home care co-op based in Wautoma, Wisconsin. She also serves as DCA’s board chair. About 60 home care workers at Cooperative Care provide services for about 150 clients in Waushara, Winnebago, Green Lake, Adams, Fond du Lac and Marquette counties.

Join our conference call to hear Tracy explain what a co-op is, how it is governed and what the benefits are to caregivers and clients. She’ll also answer your questions. Continue reading »

Standing up for Myself and My Fellow Workers by Joining DCA

Posted by on October 18th, 2013 at 4:43 pm | 2 Comments »
Mohan Varghese

Mohan Varghese

The first time I contacted Direct Care Alliance was after I was told by my employer that I would be accompanying him on the road for trips that lasted several days and would be paid for only 12 hours a day of my time. My immediate thought was: I will contact the Department of Labor (DOL) and they will take care of it.

But when I contacted DOL, I learned that they could not help because we home care workers were shut out of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) under the companionship exemption. I searched online to find a way to stand up for myself and my fellow workers, who put in long hard hours doing skilled tasks only to be mischaracterized as companions or elder sitters.

I found DCA during my search. Continue reading »

Direct Care Alliance of Maine Attends the Common Ground Fair

Posted by on October 18th, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Alliance of Maine Attends the Common Ground Fair

Helen Hanson at the Common Ground Fair

“Do you know about direct care workers?”

That’s the question we settle on at our table at the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine, as people stream by in the big Social Action tent where we set up shop from Friday, September 20, though Sunday the 22nd.

The answers are as varied as the people, “Yes, I am one.”

“Oh sure. We had someone coming to the house when Mom was sick.”

“No. Tell me about them.”

“Not really. But I’m a teacher/social worker/therapist/doctor/nurse/therapist and I support what you guys do.”

“No. But we need someone to take care of Dad. How would we go about doing that?”

For many years the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has hosted the Common Ground Fair. It has goats, chickens, donkeys and oxen. It has sheep herding demonstrations with border collies scurrying happily in the arena. It has soap making and weaving. You can buy honey, maple syrup, lamb’s wool sweaters and solar collectors. There are lots of children with painted faces and people speaking about sustainability. There’s music. It is Maine the way life should be.

It is also a very popular attraction, so we decided we should be there, representing Direct Care Alliance of Maine, the national DCA, and our profession. Continue reading »

DCA’s Voices Institute Goes to Brooklyn

Posted by on October 8th, 2013 at 9:14 am | Comments Off on DCA’s Voices Institute Goes to Brooklyn
Carla Washington (front right) with the Brookyn attendees

Carla Washington (front right) with the Brookyn attendees.

What an amazing group of direct care workers I got to meet on September 25 and 26, at a Voices Institute training for CenterLight Best Choice Home Care in Brooklyn, New York! Direct Care Alliance Executive Director Carla Washington and I led the training for 19 home health aides, who had a total of 103 years of direct care experience between them.

As we did our introductions on the first day, the group shared their challenges and the passion for their work that makes them get up every morning to do it all over again, with smiles on their faces. One worker talked about a colleague who was also there, saying she went above and beyond the call of duty by taking a long subway ride and then walking 20 minutes to get to one of her clients. The woman she was talking about said: “But this is my job! I would do that for any one of my clients.”  Continue reading »

Why I Advocate for Medicaid Expansion

Posted by on October 8th, 2013 at 9:13 am | 1 Comment »
Vernell Simmons

Vernell Simmons

Last month, I traveled from my home in Houston to Austin to meet with people from nonprofit organizations around Texas. I represented Direct Care Alliance and our local chapter, the Greater Houston Direct Care Alliance. Many groups were represented—low-income children, people with mental illness, and so on. We were all there to talk about how to support implementation of the Affordable Care Act–including getting Texas to expand its Medicaid program.

I am currently caring for two private-duty clients in my job as a home care aide. To pay the bills and get affordable health insurance, I have to work full-time at another job, as a claims assistant in my regional VA office. Most of my co-workers and friends who are home care workers do not have any health insurance, because they are either employed by individuals who can’t provide them with coverage or by agencies that do not offer it. In Texas we have the highest percentage of uninsured people in the country. That is why I am an advocate for getting Medicaid expansion passed in the state of Texas. We need to get these people insured. Continue reading »

Celebrating a Major Battle Won

Posted by on September 23rd, 2013 at 7:13 pm | 5 Comments »

Today in Washington, D.C., DCA joined with allies from AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Caring Across Generations, Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Association, the Institute for Policy Studies, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, NCLR,the National Employment Law Proiect, PHI and SEIU to celebrate home care workers and the rule that will give them minimum wage and overtime protections. This is the toast I gave there, on behalf of DCA.

Tracy Dudzinski

Tracy Dudzinski

I would like to thank President Obama, Secretary Perez and the Department of Labor for meeting with and listening to the people who do this work every day and the people we serve.

I remember when I stood with President Obama as he announced the proposed rule in December of 2011. I was proud to hear him speak about my profession with such respect. That night I felt like I could fly back to Wisconsin without boarding the plane. I had the same feeling last week when the final rule was announced. Thank you again! Continue reading »

A Texas Progress Report from DCA’s Executive Director

Posted by on September 23rd, 2013 at 8:13 am | Comments Off on A Texas Progress Report from DCA’s Executive Director
Carla D. Washington

Carla D. Washington

Ninety-seven years old. One hundred years old. One hundred and four years old. These are ages of just three of the clients that I had the privilege of meeting while spending time with the Greater Houston Direct Care Alliance (GHDCA). It was an eye-opening and humbling experience to be invited into the assisted living facility where they live to observe the skilled care provided lovingly by Dream Care home care workers.

The owner of Dream Care Home Care Agency, LaDonna Williams, considers her work much more than a business. It’s a life she’s chosen, and she instills this same feeling in others by always making herself available for consultation with her workers, her clients’ families, and the staff of the facilities where some of her clients live. Most importantly, she models for her workers why this profession of theirs demands devotion and deserves respect. Continue reading »

How I Became a Direct Care Worker Advocate

Posted by on August 12th, 2013 at 12:22 pm | 3 Comments »
Sunny Smith

Sunny Smith

I’ve worked as a professional direct care worker for more than 25 years, off and on (mostly on), between other jobs. In-home caregiving is where I’m most happy. I feel, as most of us do, that it’s a calling. But just because we love our work doesn’t mean we should have to live in poverty, go on food stamps or rely on Medicaid. We deserve basic benefits like paid sick time and affordable health care. Many of us are left out of those basic benefits due to a lack of understanding, appreciation and respect for our work. And, through no fault of our own, lack of training often causes safety issues for our clients and ourselves.

About five years ago, I was offered the opportunity to join the Arizona Direct Care Worker Association, a grassroots professional organization. I said yes immediately and wrote a check for a whopping $10 a year. You see, I knew what it means to be a part of an association. Yes, the benefits I now had access to were worthwhile, but more than that, I wanted to be part of a professional association just like any other professional, from nurses to attorneys to social workers. Continue reading »