Archive for ‘Featured News’

Welcome to Our New Home!

Posted by on March 6th, 2015 at 6:03 pm | Comments Off on Welcome to Our New Home!
Ai-jen Poo (far right), me (second from right) and other members of the DCA group at last summer's conference.

Ai-jen Poo (far right), me (second from right) and other members of the DCA group at last summer’s conference.

When we realized that we could not keep our doors open past 2014, the board and staff of Direct Care Alliance began searching for a new home for our members and network. We thought the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) would be an ideal fit, so I am truly delighted to announce that they have agreed to become our new home.

It’s been a long process, but the papers were signed last week. NDWA looks forward to welcoming all the direct care workers, friends of direct care workers, and state organizations that were once affiliated with DCA, but first I wanted to tell you a little about why we chose them. Continue reading »

The Last Word

Posted by on October 27th, 2014 at 3:51 pm | Comments Off on The Last Word

Dear Friends:

When we closed our doors this June, we maintained a virtual office for three months while some of us looked for a new home for our members and supporters. We are now closing those virtual doors as well. As of tomorrow—October 28, 2014—DCA will no longer exist as a legal entity.

That means you won’t be hearing from us any more on this blog or on our social media, but we hope you will join our Board Chair Tracy Dudzinski and other workers who were part of DCA on their new Facebook page, DCA Workers United.

We may have one last piece of good news for you later on. Our executive committee has identified a group that may be able to provide a home for our members, our allies, and some of our programs. So if you get an email in a few weeks that mentions Direct Care Alliance in the subject line, please be sure to read it.

In the meantime, we’ll all keep looking for ways to advocate for better respect, wages, benefits, training, and working conditions for direct care workers, and we know you will too.

The DCA board

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 »

Combating Client-Inflicted Workplace Violence among Direct Care Workers

Posted by on September 25th, 2014 at 3:30 am | 4 Comments »
Shelly S. McDowell-Porter

Shelly S. McDowell-Porter

Greetings! I am the proud daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend of many direct care paraprofessionals (DCPs), the term I am using for my PhD project on frontline workers such as home health attendants, home health aides, certified nursing assistants, and personal care assistants. I am also a licensed clinical social worker and a PhD student at the Howard University School of Social Work in Washington D.C. If you are a direct care worker, I need your help to complete a survey on client-Inflicted workplace violence for my doctoral thesis.

My doctoral research is a tribute to the women in my family, who did the hard work of caring for others in order to care for their loved ones. It focuses on client-inflicted workplace violence, the victimization of DCPs at the hands of their clients or their client’s family members. Workplace violence comes in many forms, including (but not limited to) physical assault, sexual assault, verbal abuse, and emotional abuse. Continue reading »

How My DCA Blog Post Won Me a Car

Posted by on September 16th, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Comments Off on How My DCA Blog Post Won Me a Car

Chevy Prizm keysOn a Treadmill Going Backward, my Direct Care Alliance blog post about how hard it is to get by on a home care worker’s wages, is developing a life of its own.

Right after it was published, Steve Farnham of the Aroostock Area Agency on Aging asked permission to give copies to legislators and legislative candidates “to support an effort to increase wages and promote benefits for direct care workers in Maine.” The Maine Peoples Alliance asked me to read the essay on their Town Hall telecommunication system last month—to about 10,000 people!  On Labor Day I gave a copy to Mike Michaud, who is running for governor of Maine.  And I will be reading the story at the Kennebec Valley Organization’s Candidate night on September 18.

Meanwhile, Jack Hayes, who read and commented on my blog post, was inspired to offer me the most amazing gift.  Continue reading »

Surveying Workplace Hazards for Home Care Workers

Posted by on September 3rd, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Comments Off on Surveying Workplace Hazards for Home Care Workers
Patricia Buckley

Patricia Buckley

Most Americans can go to work each day with confidence because their workplace is regulated for safety, but this is not the case for those who work in a private home. There are currently no provisions to address workplace safety for home care workers, and that makes it difficult to create a stable and predictable work environment. No wonder home health care and personal care always rank among the occupations with the highest rates of job-related injuries on Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

An unsafe workplace not only endangers the aides who work there but undermines their ability to support the client. For example, home care workers often face scenarios like this:  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 »

FAQs About DCA’s New Status

Posted by on June 23rd, 2014 at 10:09 am | Comments Off on FAQs About DCA’s New Status

I hear DCA is closing down. Is that true?

Our offices closed and our staff stopped working on June 30, 2014. The board is operating a “virtual office” to respond to members through October 28. Our communications consultant is also staying on part-time to maintain our website, blog and social media.

What happened?

Finding grant funding has became more and more challenging in recent years, and our income has been steadily decreasing. The board has been trimming costs where it could, but we arrived at a point at which things were no longer sustainable.

What will DCA do between now and October 20?

The board is exploring possible partnerships with other organizations in hopes of finding a new home for our members and allies. If you know of a group that might be interested in partnering with us, please let us know.  Continue reading »

What Makes a Good Caregiver: The Most Important Trait of All

Posted by on June 16th, 2014 at 10:41 am | 8 Comments »
Me and Mom after her stroke

Me and Mom after her stroke

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 »

On a Treadmill Going Backward: Surviving on a Home Care Worker’s Wages

Posted by on May 29th, 2014 at 10:34 pm | 5 Comments »

The following is an edited excerpt from a journal I kept in October 2004 about life as a home care worker in Augusta, Maine.

Beat_up_carTwo days ago, I pulled the ligament under my kneecap at a client’s home, catching my foot on a plastic rug. Then my car started to make “dentist drill” noises and my mechanics told me I needed to replace the pulleys on the alternator. I squeezed another 12 miles onto the odometer before I felt a change in the power steering, letting me know the alternator wasn’t doing its job. Welcome to the home care worker’s biggest nightmare: Lack of wheels!

I reflected on my need for transportation as I took a taxi to work yesterday. Basically, my car is used for business transportation. “Drive to work, work to drive,” as a friend used to say.   To save money, I do all my errands on my way home from an elder’s house. Of the thousands of miles on my old car, I have probably logged about a thousand traveling for pleasure, usually to see family and friends. The rest were all spent driving to and from my clients’ homes.  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 »

Thanks to Obamacare, I Finally Have Health Insurance Again!

Posted by on May 18th, 2014 at 1:36 pm | 2 Comments »
Tracy Dudzinski

Tracy Dudzinski

Have you ever done a happy dance? Well I don’t dance, but I did a happy dance when I completed the enrollment process for health insurance through the new health care marketplace. It was frustrating at times, but the frustration was worth it because I finally have health insurance again!

I have had to deal with a lot of stress in the past in keeping my family insured through Badger Care, Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, as the children got older or the rules changed.  I’ve also had my own struggles with maintaining health care coverage. For many years as a home care worker I qualified for Badger Care. Then I got a raise and was making $50 a month too much to qualify, so I had to switch to my employer’s insurance plan. That lasted for years, but I lost that insurance in November 2011 when the home care agency I work for stopped offering insurance because it was too expensive.

I went without health insurance for two and a half years after that. There were several times during that period when I should have seen a doctor but did not because I couldn’t afford it. 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 »

Obamacare Gave Me Back My Medicaid Coverage

Posted by on May 5th, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Comments Off on Obamacare Gave Me Back My Medicaid Coverage

Dorothy Lee is a home health aide living in New York City who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare), with the help of our Get Direct Care Workers Covered initiative.

Dorothy Lee

Dorothy Lee

I’ve been working for an agency here in New York for three years. Before that, I worked at a Ritz-Carlton in Florida. When I moved here I wanted to switch to working with the elderly. I like working with people, and when my grandmother was old I didn’t get to give her any attention. It feels good to be able to help other people’s grandparents.

When I worked at the hotel I had insurance through Aetna, but I started going without insurance soon after I started doing home health care. At first I had Medicaid through Health Plus, but they took it away because I was earning too much. They said I have to make less than $700 a month to get back on Medicaid.  Continue reading »

Talking About #fairpay

Posted by on April 22nd, 2014 at 2:18 pm | Comments Off on Talking About #fairpay

equal pay graphicLast week Direct Care Alliance, 9to5 and the National Partnership for Women & Families co-hosted a tweet chat about why women still earn much less than men and what we can do to change that.

Equal pay for women is an important issue for direct care workers–and not just because 90% of all direct care workers are women. Like teaching, child care and other forms of “care work,” direct care is a traditionally female profession that pays less than it should because it has been pigeonholed–and devalued–as “women’s work.” And even within the profession, female direct care workers earn less than male workers on average.

Here are highlights from the chat.

 

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 »