Posted by Direct Care Alliance on October 14th, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Comments Off on Home Care Workers Rising
The 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 »
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 »
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 »
I’ve been covering the world of long-term care for almost 20 years now, focusing for more than half that time on direct care workers, so I’ve thought a lot about the many traits—including competence, compassion, reliability, attentiveness and patience—that make good direct care workers so good at their work. But not until my own mom became a “total care” nursing home resident did I learn to appreciate what I now think is the most important trait of all.
A massive stroke at the end of 2012 left Mom with severe expressive aphasia. She can usually understand what is said to her and knows what she wants to say in response, but she can rarely get out the words she needs to make herself understood. She’s come a long way, after months of speech therapy, but for every time she can say the right word or short phrase there are many more when she can only get out a string of unconnected words.
Watching people react to Mom has taught me a lot about how our words define us. Continue reading »
Watch Respect: The Joy of Aides, a wonderful 20-minute documentary by Eva Sweeney, a woman with CP, about how to hire and manage aides and what it’s like when a direct care worker and a client work well together.
Direct care work, in one sense, made me feel like a rock star. When a stranger asked me what I did for a living, and I said, “I work in a facility for emotionally troubled teenagers,” the response was often: “Wow, that’s so great.” No other job I’ve ever done—and I’ve sampled dozens—has ever netted me such a consistent response.
And the job was great, for all the reasons these strangers guessed. It was important work that pulled my heart and soul and body into the huge effort required each day. It was clear as I started a shift at the residential center that I would be challenged and that I would have the chance to help young people in crisis.
I think part of the awed response to these direct care positions comes from the urge that everyone has to do meaningful work. Many people have jobs that don’t feel meaningful to them, and those people fantasize about leaving a position to make a difference. Most people respect a job where, at the end of the day, you can clearly point to a crisis you helped solve or a person in pain who you helped comfort.
It’s mysterious and tragic that the respect we have on a one-to-one basis for meaningful jobs doesn’t translate to respect for an industry or a whole category of employees: the group of direct care workers.
The lack of respect results in things like low wages and stressful working conditions.
Posted by Jessica Brill Ortiz 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 »
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).
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 »
Posted by Direct Care Alliance 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
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 »
Posted by Peg Ankney on April 6th, 2014 at 11:04 pm | Comments Off on Speaking Up for the Profession I Love
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 »
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.
Posted by Carla Washington on March 24th, 2014 at 11:53 am | Comments Off on It’s Women’s History Month: Time to Pay Tribute to Direct Care Workers
Skilled. Compassionate. Hard working. Good listener. These are just a few of the many positive adjectives often used to describe direct care workers. Since women make up over 88 percent of the direct care workforce, Women’s History Month is yet another perfect opportunity for Direct Care Alliance (DCA) to recognize you for being “the backbone of nurse work,” as CNA Katrina Gilbert put it in HBO’s Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert.
In other words, you rock!
Lately a lot of attention is being paid to the direct care workforce—and by more than those of us who usually pay attention to the topic. Just last week, Paycheck to Paycheck premiered on HBO. A joint project of HBO and The Shriver Report, this portrait of a CNA working at a nursing home offered, as the movie’s website put it, “the deeply personal, unvarnished, and moving story of Katrina Gilbert, single mom of three, whose daily struggles illuminate the challenges faced by the 42 million women who living in poverty or on the brink of it and the 28 million children who depend on them.” Continue reading »
After reading about a jobless home care worker in Pennsylvania whose unemployment benefits were ending, the wife of a Virginia man with end-stage dementia who relies on home care paid the worker’s mortgage for a month.