Archive for ‘workloads’

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 »

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 Workers in the News

Posted by on June 16th, 2014 at 10:16 am | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News

Punitive managers and overreliance on rigid rules foster bad patterns of interaction in nursing homes, harming resident care and staff satisfaction—but there are methods managers can use to encourage positive interactions between staff.

Delay the minimum wage and overtime rule for home care workers even longer? Home care workers deserve better, and so do consumers.

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.

Good news for home care worker wages: a 5% pay raise in Minnesota, home care workers fighting for fair wages all across America, and rallies in Cleveland and Boston, where home care workers are calling for a $15 minimum wage for their profession.  Continue reading »

Why I Loved Direct Care Work, and Why I Quit It

Posted by on May 29th, 2014 at 9:59 pm | Comments Off on Why I Loved Direct Care Work, and Why I Quit It

Sonya Huber is a former direct care worker and the author of Two Eyes Are Never Enough: A Minimum Wage Memoir, an e-book about her experiences in the field.

Sonya Huber

Sonya Huber

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.

That, ultimately, was why I left direct care. 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.

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on May 5th, 2014 at 10:23 am | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News

An Older Americans Month toolkit from Eldercare Workforce Alliance helps journalists and other stakeholders find publications, programs, and personal stories that focus on the health and safety of older Americans from EWA member organizations—including DCA.

“Home care services are among the most important work there is, and if we want it to be done well, dedicated home care workers should be compensated at a level that reflects their commitment and skills,” says an editorial in Maine’s Portland Press-Herald.

Vermont home care workers have reached a tentative agreement with the state that includes significant raises and an annual cost-of-living adjustment.

An excellent new publication from Center for Law and Social Policy explains a crucial but often overlooked part of compensation: direct care workers and other low-income workers are far less likely to get paid leave than higher-wage workers. The brief describes recent and pending laws and policies aimed at leveling the paid time off playing field.

Want to know how to find and keep good direct care workers? Higher pay attracts talented staff, this study finds, but that alone is not enough. To keep them, you also need good working conditions.  Continue reading »

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 »

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 »

Researchers Seek CNAs for Survey About Work Roles

Posted by on April 3rd, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Comments Off on Researchers Seek CNAs for Survey About Work Roles

Researchers recently asked DCA to help spread the word about a survey they are conducting of CNAs. If you or someone you know might qualify, please read on.

survey check markResearchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Nursing want to better understand certified nurse aides’ (CNAs) confidence in performing expanded work roles based on general work self-efficacy, and to describe CNA interest in working under a more expanded workplace scope of practice.

This 16-item survey will ask about how confident you feel you are in the achievement of your workplace goals. This is a one-time, voluntary survey. This survey is confidential and you have as much time as you need to complete it. This study is for CNAs who work in the United States and speak English. There is no cost to you nor will you be compensated for participating in this research study.

Click here to participate. Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on March 24th, 2014 at 11:44 am | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News

Watch HBO’s Paycheck to Paycheck, the story of CNA and single mother Katrina Gilbert, free of charge on the Shriver Report website.

A brief on the problems caused by unstable work schedules–like those of home care workers–and policy approaches that would help.

A New York Times feature about the challenges of raising a family on under $10.10 an hour  features Erika McCurdy, a nurse’s aide in Tennessee.

Unions and the state of California are battling over the right to overtime pay for IHSS home care workers.

The executive director of an ARC in New York state urged the legislature to include a 3 percent raise for direct service staff, saying low wages make recruitment and retention difficult.

More progress on paid sick days: New York’s mayor has signed a measure that will extend paid sick days to 1.3 million more New Yorkers as of April 1 and a National Partnership for Women & Families fact sheet presents evidence of the economic benefits of paid sick days from the four jurisdictions with the longest-running laws: San Francisco, Washington, DC, Connecticut and Seattle.

Spotlight on Nursing Home Staffing

Posted by on March 11th, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Comments Off on Spotlight on Nursing Home Staffing

table from OIG report 4table from OIG report 4Nursing facility staff levels are drawing increased attention lately, spurring discussion about the connection between staffing levels and the quality of care, services and support received by residents.

A Center for Medicare Advocacy analysis has found that although most nursing facilities in the U.S. do not have sufficient staff to provide residents with necessary care, the federal enforcement system cites very few facilities with staffing deficiencies and often does not impose any financial penalties even when it finds that a facility has insufficient staff. “The federal enforcement system cannot be effective in improving care for residents if it is not used,” the study concludes.

table from OIG report 5

A recently released Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) report finds that one third of skilled nursing home residents are being harmed, and in some cases dying, as a result of “adverse or temporary harm events,” which are instances where harm results due either to the care provided by the facility or care that was not provided when needed.

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 »

Educating My Legislature About CNA Staffing Ratios

Posted by on May 14th, 2013 at 8:25 am | 3 Comments »
Helen Hanson

Helen Hanson

Read Helen’s testimony.

One of the good things about doing advocacy work is that it gets easier with time. That’s partly just because you get better at it. Every time I speak up about direct care worker issues, it gets easier to figure out what I want to say and how to say it, and it’s been years since I was nervous about talking to my legislators.

It also helps that other people who care about the same issues get to know you, so if something comes up that they know you’d want to speak up about, they’ll let you know about it.

That’s what happened to me a couple weeks ago when our State Long Term Care Ombudsman, Brenda Gallant, told me about a hearing the Maine legislature was about to hold on a nursing home staffing bill. The bill would eliminate mandated staffing ratios for each shift and staff based upon residents’ acuity levels instead. Continue reading »

Another Step Closer to Respect

Posted by on March 5th, 2013 at 12:05 am | 7 Comments »

Tracy Dudzinski

Last Friday, on the first day of Women’s History Month, I attended a meeting with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) about the proposed rule to end the exclusion of home care workers from minimum wage and overtime protections. It has been 14 months since I stood behind the President when he announced the rule as one of his “we can’t wait” initiatives. I hope my fellow home care workers and I won’t have to wait much longer, now that the rule is with OMB for the last step in the review process.

The meeting started with a summary of why we were there. The OMB representative started asking questions, and you could tell she had been talking to people from groups that oppose the rule. We explained that extending these basic rights to home care workers would improve care and recognize this work as a real job.

When it was my turn to speak, I told them it was an insult to be excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act. I said being a home care worker was a real job and a difficult job. I also said I didn’t understand why, when I worked in a nursing home. I had these basic protections, but now that I worked in home care I did not. I explained that when I worked at the nursing home I was supervised, so I actually use a higher set of skills in home care than when I worked in the nursing home. Something here just doesn’t add up. I explained that I am not a companion; I am doing intimate personal care with the consumers I serve. Companions do not do what I do.

After the meeting the OMB person came up to me and thanked me for being there and sharing my story. She also thanked me for the work I do and said she understands better now what I do and the importance of what we do. All in all, I feel that we made a difference and gave the OMB more to think about. We had real people there telling our stories, not high-paid lobbyists.

I hope that next time I attend a meeting about this rule, it will be to celebrate some long-overdue changes.

Why My Husband Wishes I’d Choose a Different Profession

Posted by on January 28th, 2013 at 7:02 pm | 2 Comments »

Gabriele Swe (standing) with a client.

I have been a direct care worker for about 10 years. I truly believe we make a difference in the lives of elders and the sick. I love my work and I get paid well for it, but I don’t get paid sick time or paid holidays.

I came here from Germany when I was 25. I didn’t speak any English. I was married to a military man, who brought me here. At first, I just took care of my husband and my house. I volunteered at a thrift shop just to get out, but I was very shy and always worried that I would say the wrong thing.

Then I got divorced and moved to Seattle. I started in a warehouse because I didn’t speak English well. Then I was hired by a large eye care company, where I was promoted to Quality Control Technician until the company moved out of state.

I went to a retraining center, where they tested me and suggested becoming a patient care technician. I always liked working with people, and I really love elderly people—I was 11 or 12 when my grandmother passed away, and up to then I was always with her, even when she was really ill. So I went into the PCT program and then went to work in a nursing home. Continue reading »

DCA Regretfully Accepts Leonila Vega’s Resignation

Posted by on November 5th, 2012 at 4:56 pm | 14 Comments »

Leonila Vega

I’m writing to let you know that I have decided to resign as executive director of Direct Care Alliance. It took a long time to reach this very difficult decision, but I recently realized that I need to reserve my strength and spirit for fighting the cancer I have been battling for more than a year. It’s time for DCA to find its next executive director, who will support and nurture direct care workers to lead the movement to improve direct care jobs. I will come back to the organization that I built, but I’m not sure when or in what capacity. In the meantime, the work must go on and DCA must move forward. — Leonila Vega


Tracy Dudzinski

It is with great sadness that we accept Leonila’s decision to resign so that she can focus on fighting this terrible disease. This was not an easy decision for her to make, or for us to accept. Under Leonila’s visionary leadership, DCA’s impact and influence has grown substantially. Thousands of direct care workers have been empowered to advocate for their profession who might not ever have made their voices heard without her leadership and encouragement.

While we are saddened by Leonila’s departure, we look forward to welcoming a passionate, creative and clear-sighted leader to build on the foundation that she leaves us with. — Tracy Dudzinski

Read more from Leonila and Tracy about Leonila’s decision and DCA’s next steps.