Archive for ‘career advancement’

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 »

Celebrate National Nursing Assistants Week by Giving R-E-S-P-E-C-T Year-Round

Posted by on June 17th, 2014 at 11:42 am | Comments Off on Celebrate National Nursing Assistants Week by Giving R-E-S-P-E-C-T Year-Round

Read this editorial on Huffington Post

Carla Washington

Carla Washington

If you talk to direct care workers about what they do for a living, you will discover within the first five minutes of your conversation that they are proud of the care they provide. Talk to them a little longer and you will probably also hear how conflicted they are about their work, largely because of how underappreciated and disrespected it is by the rest of us.

Growing up I can vividly recall my mother, a 30-year career CNA (now retired), exemplifying that dichotomy when she spoke to me and my brothers about her work. While she certainly enjoyed the care side of direct care work, I could hear the disappointment in her voice when she talked about how the work she and fellow direct care workers provided was rarely appreciated or talked about with respect by others within the nursing home and VA hospital she worked at.  Continue reading »

How to Improve Elder Care

Posted by on May 16th, 2014 at 11:49 am | Comments Off on How to Improve Elder Care

This Wednesday, Direct Care Alliance, Eldercare Workforce Alliance and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care hosted an Older Americans Month tweetchat on how to support older adults’ independence, safety and health. Here are highlights from the chat, including links to moving testimonials, useful resources, and tips about how you can help.

What Older Americans Really Need

Posted by on May 5th, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Comments Off on What Older Americans Really Need
Jessica Brill Ortiz

Jessica Brill Ortiz

May is Older Americans Month, traditionally a time to recognize older adults’ contributions to the United States. But if we genuinely want to use this May to give back to the parents, grandparents and other elders who have done so much for us, we must turn our attention to the direct care workers who help millions of older adults live as healthily and independently as possible. We must stop shortchanging elders by turning our backs on the direct care workers they depend on.

Read the rest of my editorial in The Hill’s Congress blog.

DCA to Speak About Direct Care Workers at D.C. Briefing

Posted by on May 1st, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Comments Off on DCA to Speak About Direct Care Workers at D.C. Briefing
Jessica Brill Ortiz

Jessica Brill Ortiz

DCA National Advocacy Director Jessica Brill Ortiz will speak at a May 8 briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

OWL–The Voice of Midlife and Older Women is holding the briefing to observe the release of its annual Mother’s Day report, which focuses this year on long-term care, services and supports. Brill Ortiz will speak about the critical role played by direct care workers and how best to strengthen and support the workforce so workers can meet the growing demand for reliable, high-quality care and services.

The briefing will address a critical juncture at which America stands and how we can successfully navigate it: As our population ages and lives longer, we are experiencing a fast-growing need for long-term care, services and supports. Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on April 22nd, 2014 at 11:54 am | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News

DCA’s Jessica Brill Ortiz will be one of the participants at a May 8 Capitol Hill briefing on long-term care hosted by OWL – the Voice of Midlife and Older Women. Jessica will explain the importance of direct care workers and the direct care workforce issues that must be addressed in order to ensure quality long-term care services and supports for all who need them.

A new bill would create advanced positions for CNAs with specialized skills in care transitions, dementia and other areas. 

An issue brief from Center for Law and Social Policy looks at the challenges many direct care workers and other low-income parents face as they cope with scheduling child care and other difficulties caused by volatile job schedules.

We must pay home care workers enough to support themselves and their families, say state senator Patricia Jehlen and Executive Director Lisa Gurgone of the Home Care Aide Council in Massachusetts.  Continue reading »

New Mexico Uses DCA Credential to Help Caregivers Prove Skills, Knowledge

Posted by on April 6th, 2014 at 11:03 pm | 1 Comment »

Adrienne Smith

While certified nursing assistants and home health aides have to take at least 75 hours of training and pass a certification exam to prove their fitness for the job, there is no federally mandated educational program or credential exam for personal or home care workers. To help fill that gap, Direct Care Alliance (DCA) developed the Personal Care and Support Credential in 2011. The credential measures the eight core areas every caregiver should know in order to perform his/her job at the highest levels, giving workers a way to prove their skills and knowledge and employers a way to evaluate potential caregivers.

In 2012, the New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition (NMDCC), a statewide organization that advocates for caregivers, negotiated a partnership with DCA to administer the credential. Continue reading »

The New Face of Our Economy: Direct Care Workers

Posted by on January 13th, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Comments Off on The New Face of Our Economy: Direct Care Workers
Jessica Brill Ortiz

Jessica Brill Ortiz

Fifty years into the war on poverty, it’s time to focus on direct care workers, explains DCA’s Jessica Brill Ortiz in the Huffington Post.

“As we work to advance the goals of the war on poverty, improving the economic security of direct care workers and their families should be at the top of the list, because improving direct care workers’ wages, benefits and career advancement opportunities will let us accomplish three important goals,” writes Jessica in The New Face of Our Economy.  “We can help ensure a stable, qualified direct care workforce large enough to meet growing demand. We can transform one of our fastest-growing job categories so that it bolsters our middle class and strengthens our economy instead of swelling the ranks of the working poor. And we can deliver on the promise of a nation where hard work is rewarded and respected.

Her piece outlines several current and pending policy initiatives that will help accomplish those goals.

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 »

Growing the Movement in 2013

Posted by on January 3rd, 2013 at 10:19 am | Comments Off on Growing the Movement in 2013

Tracy Dudzinski

As I look back on all that DCA has accomplished in 2012, I can’t wait to see what we’ll get done in 2013. I truly believe that the growing wave of aging baby boomers is about to meet up with the growing pressure from DCA and our many wonderful allies to create a perfect storm of awareness, a storm that will finally push our issue—the need for better care quality for elders and people with disabilities and better job quality for the direct care workers they depend on—onto the national agenda.

2012 was a busy year. Our movement lost a great champion when Leonila passed away in November, but we will celebrate her legacy by remaining committed to training and supporting direct care worker leaders and growing our movement to make their voices heard and direct care a respected profession. Continue reading »

Voices Institute Training Empowers, Inspires Arizona Workers

Posted by on December 4th, 2012 at 2:11 am | 2 Comments »

Read DCA’s press release

Arizona Voices Institute 2012 attendees and trainers with State Sen. Paula Aboud (front row, 2nd from R).

“I want to be with the person I assist, doing home care, helping them lead the life they want to live, and I want to be respected for doing that,” said home care worker Pamela O’Neal at the Arizona Voices Institute 2012.

Pamela was one of the direct care workers who honed their leadership and advocacy skills on November 14-16 at the event, a state-level version of DCA’s intensive, interactive national Voices Institute training program.

“This training was a great opportunity for direct care workers to learn about the numerous opportunities that exist right now for them to tell their stories and make their voices heard on

a variety of issues that have a significant impact on themselves, their families and their colleagues,” says DCA National Advocacy Coordinator Jessica Brill Ortiz, one of the trainers for the event. Continue reading »

FPACG Celebrates, Educates Florida Direct Care Workers

Posted by on October 23rd, 2012 at 8:55 am | Comments Off on FPACG Celebrates, Educates Florida Direct Care Workers

Terry Bucher (L, with FPACG President Joan Leah) was honored for 15 years with FPACG.

“This was my first time here and I really enjoyed myself. I will be back next year,” said CNA Anita Cross of Lake County of the Florida Professional Association for Care Givers’ 17th annual convention, which was held on October 16 in Altamonte Springs. Our conference was a great success, drawing direct care workers from 11 counties.

We started out with a day of classes before the convention to help CNAs who are renewing their licenses cover all their mandated topics, including CPR and computer skills. That day ended with a Care Givers recognition dinner, where we celebrated the contributions made every day by caregivers.

We also recognized Care Giver of the Year Carolyn Gay, our first winner to be nominated by a member of her own family.

Continue reading »

Home Care Workers Crucial to Care Quality, Say Consumers

Posted by on October 2nd, 2012 at 2:22 am | 2 Comments »

When the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (The Consumer Voice) surveyed home care consumers about what they do and don’t like about the care they are receiving, one thing came through loud and clear: they love their home care workers, and they want them to have better working conditions. Late last month, DCA’s Elise Nakhnikian talked to Consumer Voice Executive Director Sarah Wells about what her group learned about that crucial relationship.

Sarah Wells

Your report says you found “the same critical importance of workers to consumers” in home care as you did in nursing homes, when you surveyed residents there in 1985. Why are direct care workers so important to long-term care consumers?

In all long-term care settings, that personal relationship is so important. Good relationships between direct care workers and consumers—good communication and mutual caring—is often the main thing that makes things work in nursing homes. Those relationships are really, really important to a good outcomes.

But it seems that in home care, from what the consumers told us, workers are able to develop those relationships with consumers to an even greater degree. Being in that person’s home, being with their families, spending time with the person talking one-to-one is all very conducive to creating a really personal relationship. One consumer told us, “I’m able to sit and talk to my worker about my personal philosophy of life.” Continue reading »

Florida Caregivers to Walk a Mile in Clients’ Shoes

Posted by on September 11th, 2012 at 8:11 am | Comments Off on Florida Caregivers to Walk a Mile in Clients’ Shoes

CNA/HHA and FPACG President Joan Leah

Florida caregivers can expand their knowledge, meet other people in their field, and feel celebrated as the professionals they are at the 17th annual convention of the Florida Professional Association of Care Givers (FPACG) next month. The convention will be held on October 16 in Altamonte Springs.

In keeping with this year’s theme, Walk A Mile In My Shoes, the event will provide several opportunities for direct care workers to see things from the perspective of the people they assist. In her keynote address, Dr. Lisa Brown, a clinical psychologist who teaches in the School of Aging Studies at the University of Tampa, will explore the strengths and weaknesses of aging. In an afternoon session, attendees will have an opportunity to experience how it feels to lose your senses such as eyesight and hearing and how it feels to use durable equipment like wheelchairs. Those who attend this session will also learn skills to help maximize the comfort for those they care for.  Continue reading »

DCA Announces Credential Scholarships for Home Care Workers

Posted by on July 30th, 2012 at 1:17 pm | 4 Comments »

Download this release as a pdf

The Direct Care Alliance’s (DCA) Personal Care and Support Credential will be offered free of charge to 400 home care workers nationwide. This innovative program helps consumers, family caregivers, and home care agencies identify skilled home care workers. DCA will award scholarships through participating organizations throughout the country to home care workers who meet employment, training and other eligibility requirements.

As the fastest growing workforce in the United States, home care has emerged as a key sector of our economy. Recruiting and retaining qualified home care workers has proven to be very challenging for the industry, a problem that is exacerbated by the growing demand for home care. “The rapidly increasing demand for in-home services makes it that much more urgent that we institute a national standard to measure the knowledge and skills required to provide quality home care,” says DCA Director of Policy and Planning David Ward. “We are thrilled to be able to respond to this need by enabling hundreds of home care workers to take the Personal Care and Support Credential exam free of charge.”

Continue reading »

New Mexico Direct Care Workers Hone Leadership, Advocacy Skills

Posted by on June 11th, 2012 at 7:56 pm | 1 Comment »

New Mexico Voices Institute attendees and instructors with Rep. Lucky Varela (in sunglasses).

“I left at the end of our two-day training with a feeling of accomplishment and hope, knowing the workers in attendance had committed to the cause,” says Brenda Nachtway, DCA’s national field director, of a leadership and advocacy training event she participated in last week.  “As one of the attendees, Fermina Lopez, put it: ‘Though I may not speak English well, I leave today knowing that, with the coalition and the DCA, I now have a voice. I will walk beside you in this fight to make change.'”

Brenda was talking about the New Mexico Voices Institute, a state-level version of an intensive, interactive national training program for direct care worker leaders that was held on June 7 and 8 in Albuquerque. To read more about it, download our press release.

Home Care Cooperatives Spotlighted at White House Briefing

Posted by on May 7th, 2012 at 7:46 pm | 1 Comment »

Direct Care Alliance Board Chair Tracy Dudzinski was at the White House last Friday for a briefing on cooperatives.

Tracy Dudzinski at the White House

DCA: Who was there and what did you talk about?

TRACY: The National Cooperative Business Association invited leaders from 150 cooperatives across the nation to talk to the White House staff about what co-ops can do for the economy.

My agency, Cooperative Care, is a worker-owned home care cooperative, and I’m the chair of their board too. Cooperative Care was one of the featured success stories in the packet of information that NCBA made up for the White House staff. There were only eight or ten of them, so that was pretty good.

Did you get a chance to speak?

One of our allies from here in Wisconsin got the floor and talked about home care co-ops. Then she nodded at me and said I was from Cooperative Care and we were a success story, so I was able to speak a little about how we’re doing so well that we have hired 15 new people in the last year.  Continue reading »

Why I Had to Quit the Home Care Career that I Loved

Posted by on February 21st, 2012 at 9:26 am | 5 Comments »
Helen Hanson (L) at her CNA graduation.

I have worked as a caregiver since 2003. The work has been basically the same all these years, but the title keeps changing.

I started out at a home care agency, first as a homemaker and then as a personal support specialist. Next I provided home care to a woman with quadriplegia who directs her own care. I am currently working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in a skilled nursing facility, because the work is steadier and the benefits are much better, but if all else were equal I’d go back to home care in a heartbeat.

My experience has made it crystal clear to me why we need to grant home care workers basic labor protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Nearly everyone who needs help with daily activities would rather get it at home than in an institution, right? So why are we making it so hard for home care workers to make a living?  Continue reading »

In Their Own Words: CNAs Discuss Their Work in New Journal

Posted by on February 21st, 2012 at 9:24 am | 4 Comments »

The current issue of Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, a new academic journal from Johns Hopkins Press, is built around personal reflections about CNA work from DCA Board Chair Tracy Dudzinski and nine other nursing assistants.

The third and last in a year-long series that also featured testimonials from patients and physicians, the issue concludes its section on nursing assistant work with two scholarly commentaries on the testimonials.

The nursing assistant stories cover a broad range of concerns, experiences, observations, and sensibilities, from Tracy’s testimonial, which was adapted from a speech she delivered at an Institute of Medicine symposium, to a letter from retired nursing assistant Margaret Fletcher, who offered life lessons she has gleaned over the years. Genevieve (Jeni) Gipson of the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants assisted the editors in putting the symposium together.  Continue reading »