Archive for ‘Iowa’

Iowa CareGivers Association Faces Drastic Potential Cuts

Posted by on April 30th, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Comments Off on Iowa CareGivers Association Faces Drastic Potential Cuts

The Direct Care Alliance is posting the following information from and at the request of the Iowa CareGivers Association (ICA). The budget being finalized now in Iowa may cut several crucial direct care worker programs, including several vital to the work of the ICA. The association is asking people who care about direct care work and workers to contact the legislators on the budget committee today (April 30) or tomorrow to urge them not to cut the programs. 

We need your help RIGHT NOW!

The direct care worker programs and services provided by the Iowa CareGivers may be cut. A conference committee of 5 State Senators and 5 State Representatives has been assigned to a “Conference Committee” to work out the final hour details of the Health and Human Services Budget. They will determine the fate of the many programs we provide direct care workers throughout the state. The following programs could be eliminated:

Direct Care Heroes Gather in Iowa: Compassion in Action

Posted by on November 15th, 2010 at 10:53 am | Comments Off on Direct Care Heroes Gather in Iowa: Compassion in Action

This is a guest post from Pam Biklen, Program Director at the Iowa CareGivers Association.

Nick Uhlenhopp, Iowa State University's football program & Di Findley, Iowa CareGivers Association executive director.

This fall, the Iowa CareGivers Association held their annual educational conference and awards reception for direct care workers – Hometown Heroes: Compassion in Action. There were 318 people in attendance at this conference, 234 of which were direct care workers. The theme, “Hometown SuperHeroes” celebrated the work of all of those direct care workers who provide hands on care in a number of health care settings in Iowa. In our eyes, each and every one of them is a “SuperHero.” Not only do direct care workers provide care and supportive services to those who need it, they do the little things that make a difference in the lives of their clients. They honor the dignity of others as they provide compassion and care. They have qualities of humility and inner strength that provide them with courage to do this rewarding but emotionally and physically challenging work. They provide essential services to our communities. And those are all qualities of a “SuperHero”!

The theme of the day was entertwined with some great educational programs, including topics like hospice, depression, Alzheimer’s, skin care, and many others. There were even some special guest appearances by Wonder Woman, aka Di Findley, Executive Director and SuperMan aka Greg DeMoss, conference committee chair. Continue reading »

Iowa State Football Coach Thanks Direct Care Workers

Posted by on October 1st, 2010 at 10:00 am | Comments Off on Iowa State Football Coach Thanks Direct Care Workers

Iowa State University football coach, Paul Rhoads, pays tribute to direct care workers in a new public service announcement for the Iowa Caregivers Association.

Iowa Caregivers Association Increases Awareness of Direct Care Workforce Issues

Posted by on June 21st, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Comments Off on Iowa Caregivers Association Increases Awareness of Direct Care Workforce Issues

Leonila Vega

Last month, a Des Moines Register editorial called for more support for those caring for the elderly.

According to the Register, “Iowa has one of the highest rates in the country of admissions to nursing facilities. Going forward, more and more Iowans will want to live in their own homes as long as they can. This state must do more to help people do that successfully – with help from paid professionals and family and friends who volunteer.” “If you hire someone to cut your hair or massage your back, the state licenses the worker, who must have minimum training. But if you hire someone to go to your mother’s house to fix her meals or bathe her, the person may not even be known to the state, let alone have any experience or training.”

Last week, the Iowa Caregivers Association and the Iowa Department of Public Health weighed in, joining the call for more support.  President of the Iowa Caregivers Association, Betty Grandquist, wrote, “Each of us is one accident or illness away from a disability. Each of us is aging. We need to ask the basic questions: Who will care for us? Will there be enough qualified workers to provide that care? What quality of care will we receive? People who do [direct care] work are typically referred to as “family” by those they serve. Their work is often called “priceless.” Yet it is greatly undervalued by society as a whole. Continue reading »

NCCNHR Conference Attendees Learn about Direct Care Workforce, DCA

Posted by on November 11th, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Comments Off on NCCNHR Conference Attendees Learn about Direct Care Workforce, DCA
Roy with Di Findley (L) and Diane Frerichs at the conference

Roy with Di Findley (L) and Diane Frerichs at the conference

The DCA was front and center at “Quality Care, No Matter Where,” the 34th annual conference of NCCNHR – The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.

In my last week as the DCA’s national advocacy director last month, I presented a workshop titled Improving the Direct Care Workforce: A Job for Consumers and Workers with Iowa Caregivers Association leaders Di Findley and Diane Frerichs.

I talked about the DCA’s advocacy agenda, initiatives with consumers and direct care workers, and our priority focus of empowering workers as activist leaders. I also talked about the need to address teh egregious conditions that direct care workers often endure when providing long-term care services. I told attendees that the DCA’s main advocacy priorities are to secure living wages, health benefits, and safer working conditions. Continue reading »

Voices Institute NLP Graduates New Crop of Direct Care Worker Leaders

Posted by on October 15th, 2009 at 9:05 am | 3 Comments »
DCA board chair Vera Salter teaching members of the 2009 class

DCA board chair Vera Salter teaching members of the 2009 class

“Let the root thrive” was the birthing motto of the Voices Institute inaugural class, inspired by the lakeside location of the DeKoven Center in Wisconsin, where the first graduates launched DCA’s signature National Leadership Program (NLP) to turbo-charge direct care worker leadership and activism.

When I wrote, after the first class graduated, that the inaugural program was one “historic and successful step forward for the movement to empower direct care workers and to fix our broken long-term care system,” I was dreaming of the possibilities. From September 27 through October 3 of this year, direct care workers once again proved their capacity to make the seemingly impossible happen, and to claim the respect they deserve as professionals. The roots are thriving at the state and national level, and the new class of graduates have a place from where to build national policy success. Continue reading »

Bankrupted by Health Care Costs, CNA Cindy Ramer Shares Her Story

Posted by on September 19th, 2009 at 3:16 am | 3 Comments »
Cindy Ramer with a photo of herself and her husband

Cindy Ramer with a photo of herself and her husband

A moving story in the September 7 issue of Iowa’s WCR Courier traces the troubles experienced by long-time CNA Cindy Ramer because she and her husband could not afford health insurance.

Rising medical costs forced the Ramers to file bankruptcy in 2003. Two years later, Cindy tells the paper, she lost her husband to a heart attack – and she still can’t afford to buy him a tombstone.

“It’s really a very, very sad commentary on our society when the very people that are providing care don’t have access to care themselves,” says Iowa CareGivers Association President Di Findley.

Ramer is a graduate of the 2009 Voices Institute National Leadership Program.

Voices Institute Welcomes Another Remarkable Class

Posted by on September 10th, 2009 at 5:06 pm | 8 Comments »
Angel Saylor (R) with home care aide Kelvin Jefferson at a DCA focus group

Angel Saylor (R) with home care aide Kelvin Jefferson at a DCA focus group

The Direct Care Alliance’s signature program, the Voices Institute, is about to hold its second National Leadership Program. The week-long retreat is an intensive learning journey, and this year’s class is another remarkable group, which will surely join the pioneers from the VI inaugural class to leave its mark on the direct care worker movement. We are returning to the DeKoven Center, where the roots that were planted at the first Voices Institute National Leadership Program will again thrive.

This year, we are welcoming men and women who care for people of all ages in a variety of settings, including nursing homes, hospice, group homes, day programs, assisted living, and home- and community-based programs. Consistent with the DCA’s objectives to build a broadly inclusive movement of empowered direct care workers, the class of 2009 represents a wide spectrum of direct care workers. Continue reading »

Real Wages Keep Falling for Personal and Home Care Aides

Posted by on September 9th, 2009 at 11:17 am | 1 Comment »

state chartbook coverAs every direct care worker advocate knows, personal and home care aides earn far too little for the important work they do. And now an updated version of PHI’s State Chart Book on Wages for Personal and Home Care Aides (PDF) gives advocates a valuable tool, proving that real wages are actually getting worse.

The chart book analyzes data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, adjusting last year’s wages for inflation to see how their earning power compares to average wages in 1999.

Nationwide, these inflation-adjusted rates, which the chartbook calls “real wages,” have decreased by 3 percent over the past nine years, dropping from $7.50 an hour to just $7.31. Real wages increased in more than half the states during that period, but not enough to make up for their decline in the other 21.

Median wages in 2008 ranged from $7.05 an hour in Texas to $12.55 in Alaska in 2008, or real wages of $5.61 to $9.90. “Wages for personal and home care aides are so low,” says PHI Director of Policy Research Dorie Seavey, “that about 20 percent of these workers received a raise on July 24 when the minimum wage increased to $7.25/hour.”

The chartbook also compares wages to federal poverty level wages for a one-person household.

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

Worker Associations Plan Fall Conferences

Posted by on September 8th, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Comments Off on Worker Associations Plan Fall Conferences

NM conference cover artThe Iowa CareGivers Association (ICA), the Florida Professional Association of Care Givers (FPACG), and the New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition are all hosting their annual conferences this fall.

Iowa CareGivers Association

The ICA’s event, Cracking the Caregiver Code, will be held on October 9 in Des Moines. It will feature educational sessions on caregiving topics, like “The Top 10 Things to Know About Autism” and “A Crash Course in Preventing and Managing Conflict,” as well as sessions aimed at honing attendees’ self-care and leadership skills. Attendees can get free bone density, blood pressure, and body mass index screenings, and blood lipids and glucose screenings will be offered for a minimal fee. Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on August 25th, 2009 at 6:53 pm | 2 Comments »
Faye Miller

Faye Miller

Faye Miller Honored as South Dakota’s DSP of the Year

 A special issue of The DSP Chronicles is devoted to Faye Miller, South Dakota’s Direct Support Professional of the Year. Miller was honored by ANCOR (the American Network of Community Options and Resources) for her dedication to the people she assists, who have an array of disabilities, including mild intellectual disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, defiant disorders and traumatic brain injury. “Faye is the total package of a DSP — talented, very professional. Kind,” says Gigi Healy, the supervisor who recommended her for the award. “She’s never in a hurry or too busy to listen. She brainstorms things with the people she supports and always has creative thoughts. She loves them and they love her.”

Healy says Miller helped one of the people she works with get meaningful employment and helped another publish a book he had written. “My work is about the relationships, getting to know everyone I support as an individual,” Miller says. “Sometimes they are shy. I take them to lunch, I listen to them and their stories and their lives. It’s an investment of time, finding out where they want to shine. I network in town, and assist individuals in integrating into the community. It’s about having a one-on-one relationship with every person I support. Learning to know someone in depth is a gift.”


CNA Eileen Alig Receives National Award

“Family members of residents comment that Eileen is never rushed when working with residents,” says Dana Reese, administrator of the Good Samaritan Center in Manson, Iowa. “Her beaming smile and contagious laughter help her to communicate with residents regardless of their cognitive state.” Reese is talking about Eileen Alig, 81, the Good Samaritan Society’s 2009 Certified Nursing Assistant of the Year. According to an article in the August 10 Fort Dodge, Iowa, Messenger, Alig started working as a CNA 44 years ago. She still works three days a week and alternating weekends.

Alig was chosen for the national award from a pool of more than 7,000 CNAs who work for Good Samaritan at more than 230 locations. “She is definitely the moral compass of the Alig clan and her priorities are always in order,” said her granddaughter, Sara Martin. “She treats everyone with respect because she expects the same respect in return. Her faith carries her, and the rest of us every day and I can only hope to mimic her poise, service and character as I try to raise my own grounded family.”


Joseph Kearney Jr. (L) with his father

Joseph Kearney Jr. (L) with his father

Chronicle of a Young Man’s Journey to Caregiving

An article in the August 11 Des Moines Register describes the “passion for nursing” 18-year-old Joseph Kearney Jr. discovered five years ago, when he began caring for his father after he was paralyzed in a car crash. “The crash put Joseph Jr. on a fast track to adulthood,” says the article.

Graduating early from high school, Kearney enrolled in a summer nursing assistant program. People who read about him in another newspaper article donated money toward the cost of the classes, giving him added confidence as well as needed funding to help with tuition. Kearney recently passed his final clinical exam to become a CNA and hopes to start work at a nursing home soon.

We Need to Take Control of Our Health Care

Posted by on August 25th, 2009 at 12:02 pm | 1 Comment »
Ray Erickson

Ray Erickson

I have been thinking about health care reform for over a month now, wondering how to write about it without offending anyone. But no matter what I write, I’m sure it will offend someone. For this I apologize in advance.

I also want to thank all my instructors at last year’s Voices Institute. Without them, I would not be writing this now. They convinced me that one voice can make a difference, and that speaking up about what I believe may help others use their own voices to make a difference.

Some of you reading this know me personally and know that I have had quite an extensive medical history over the last 11 years. I have been one of the fortunate ones, since I can afford health insurance through my employer. Without that insurance, my wife and I would probably be medically bankrupt several times over. But a lot of our coworkers are not so lucky.

About a third care of all direct care workers can’t afford insurance, due to high premium rates and low wages. (Those low wages are a whole other issue.) How many of us go to work sick because we cannot afford to miss a day due to illness? We can’t take proper care of you or your loved ones if we’re sick ourselves – or if we’ve let a chronic condition go untreated so long that it’s gotten too back to let us work.  If you want to know more about this, PHI just published a new fact sheet (PDF) about it. Continue reading »

No Health Care Without Health Care Workers, Warns Iowa Editorial

Posted by on July 22nd, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Comments Off on No Health Care Without Health Care Workers, Warns Iowa Editorial

des moines register 1“It’s a simple fact: Access to coverage does not equal access to care. Ask the many Iowans who already have trouble finding and keeping a health-care professional,” writes John Hale, the policy director for the Iowa CareGivers Association, in the July 14 Des Moines Register.

In “Health Care Won’t Improve Without Enough Workers,” Hale says Iowa is ahead of most states in documenting and addressing the growing health care worker shortage. However, he argues, the state can’t fix the problem on its own: The federal government needs to help.

Hale’s editorial lists several things the federal government can do. The most important, he says, to “give this looming crisis the sense of urgency it deserves and provide funds to the states to allow them to act.” The health care reform bills currently being considered in Congress, he adds, provide “an opportunity to deal proactively with the health- and long-term-care work force that each of us depends on.”

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

House Health Care Bill Amendment Would Support Direct Care Workforce

Posted by on July 21st, 2009 at 11:35 pm | 1 Comment »
Rep. Dave Loebsack

Rep. Dave Loebsack

An amendment added to the House Education and Labor Committee’s version of the health care reform bill would mandate three kinds of support for the direct care workforce, including new core competencies for personal and home care aides.

“The voices of direct care workers are being heard,” says DCA National Advocacy Director Roy Gedat. “Health care reform is providing an opportunity to make some much-needed improvements to direct care jobs.”

The amendment (PDF) was introduced by Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) at the encouragement of PHI and the Iowa CareGivers Association.

Continue reading »

DCA Publishes Fact Sheets for Direct Care Worker Advocates and their Allies

Posted by on June 25th, 2009 at 10:56 am | 1 Comment »

A full set of DCA Direct Care Fact Sheets, one for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, is now available in the Resources section of our website.

The one-page sheets were created as a resource for direct care worker advocates and their allies, legislators, policymakers, members of the media, and others interested in direct care issues. They include key facts such as:

  •   The number of home health aides, nursing assistants, and personal and home care aides in the state in 2006 and the projected numbers of each in 2016
  •   The average hourly wage for the state’s direct care workers
  •   What percentage of direct care workers in that state or region are without health insurance

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

An Inside Look at the Voices Institute National Training

Posted by on April 14th, 2009 at 9:45 am | 1 Comment »
We're working on personal empowerment. That's me standing in the background.

We're working on personal empowerment. That's me standing in the background.

Hello, fellow direct care workers.

Helping to plan the DCA’s Voices Institute National Leadership Training this year is making me think about last year’s training. I want to tell you what that was like, in case you’re thinking of joining us this year.

Last year’s training was at the Dekoven Center in Racine, Wisconsin – the same place where it will be this year. The Dekoven Center is on a 20-acre, wooded campus on the shore of Lake Michigan between Milwaukee and Chicago. It’s a beautiful place, but there wasn’t much time to enjoy the scenery. A few of us took walks every morning at 6, and we had a few classes outside, but that was about it.

They said it would be a retreat. When I think of a retreat, I think of relaxation and kicking back. Boy, was I wrong about this one! We started classes every day at 9 and finished at 5 or later. Some nights, we didn’t get done till 7. It was really worthwhile – it’s a good training – but it was intense. You’re there to learn.

Continue reading »

ICA Asks Lawmakers to Expand Health Care Coverage for DCWs

Posted by on February 11th, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Comments Off on ICA Asks Lawmakers to Expand Health Care Coverage for DCWs

The Iowa CareGivers Association reminded state lawmakers of the need to expand health care coverage for direct care workers at a January 26 ICA Day at the Capitol event.

ICA members handed out yo-yos to state lawmakers, explaining that “yo-yo” is an acronym for “you’re on your own,” which is what the lawmakers would be telling elders and people with disabilities if they didn’t support efforts to improve access to health care.

“People are beginning to talk about health care access and workforce issues in the same sentence. I think they’re finally beginning to realize that access to health and long-term care services at any level is not possible without those people who are working on the front lines.” said Di Findley, executive director of the Iowa CareGivers Association, in an interview with WHO Radio in Des Moines.

The event was also covered in a legislative roundup in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier.

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

Voices Institute Alumni Keep the Fire Lit

Posted by on October 21st, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Comments Off on Voices Institute Alumni Keep the Fire Lit

voices-institute-group-shot1There is no question that the 22 direct care workers who participated in the very successful Voices Institute leadership training retreat in the spring of 2008 became a tight-knit core group of direct care worker advocates. We still discuss the impact that this experience has had on our lives and how we will never forget the incredible growth that took place. As a group, we are building a grassroots movement bit-by-bit with passion and determination.

On October 20, eight of our alumni gathered for our first follow-up conference call. We learned about some exciting things that our group has been working on:

Ray Erickson had just given a speech to close to a 100 people at the Iowa CareGivers Association Annual Meeting.

His wife, Vicki Erickson, had recently sat in on a forum with local legislators for a couple of hours.

Jackie Merkle spoke about her efforts to develop organizational relationships with the Long-Term Care Alliance. One person in her group is working on legislative activities, such as a position paper to try to move forward with legislation. She also shared some frustrations she’s had around trying to generate interest among direct care workers by going through providers, who sometimes are not receptive to her message.

Lorenzo Raffa talked about Maine PASA’s conference, which attracted 1,500 attendees. John Booker, the Chair of the Direct Care Alliance, was the keynote speaker. Vicki Erickson of the ICA spoke about her Voices Institute experience. Roy Gedat, the National Advocacy Director for the Direct Care Alliance, was also present.

Continue reading »

Voices Institute Graduate Makes a Splash in Iowa

Posted by on October 21st, 2008 at 6:55 am | Comments Off on Voices Institute Graduate Makes a Splash in Iowa

ray_ericksonI was asked to speak at the Iowa CareGivers Association’s annual meeting in Des Moines this week. My topic was Recognition: A National Voice. I thought you might like to hear what I said.

Good Evening,

My name is Ray Erickson. I am a Certified Medication Aide in an 88-bed SNF. I have worked the last 22 ½ years in the health care industry. I got my start just after my 17th birthday, when I enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves in Sioux City. I spent two years serving my country in the reserves as a navy corpsman. I have spent the last twenty years working in nursing facilities. Just this last week, I celebrated my fifteenth year at my current facility.

I am also an EMT-B here in the state of Iowa. I also have a CNA and Restorative Aide certification.

I joined ICA in the fall of 2002 with my wife, Vicki Erickson, who is a member of the Direct Care Worker Leadership Council. During the last year, I have taken the ICA Leadership program in Boone. 

In May of this year, I had the honor to represent Iowa at the National Level by attending DCA’s Voices Institute leadership training in Racine, Wisconsin, with Vicki. We went through an intensive training for five days. During those five days, we were taught many ways on preparing speeches, public speaking, and working with multiple stakeholders. It was interesting seeing 25 people from 12 different states coming together for one cause, advocating for the direct care worker, consumer, and employer. We all have to work together as a team to make direct care a more fulfilling profession.

Continue reading »