Archive for ‘Maine’

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 »

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 »

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on September 15th, 2014 at 2:55 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News

Maine needs to increase reimbursement rates and give us direct care workers a raise, says Helen Hanson in a Bangor Daily News editorial.

How negative public attitudes toward direct care work can damage workers’ morale and self-image.

Not just anyone can do direct care work, says a striking worker: “It takes a very long time to understand how to work with very complex people with very complex needs.”

A strong op-ed on what’s wrong with Britain’s “zero-hour” home care contracts, which offer workers no protection and no guaranteed hours.

With a statewide average wage of $8.60 an hour, home care workers in Missouri are calling for higher wages.

An ethics instructor considers what fair pay for home care workers would look like—and why we need to make it happen.

This video for NADSP’s Direct Support Professional Appreciation Week (September 7-13) celebrates the work done by DSPs.

Professors Lisa Dodson and Nancy Folbre on why the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn decision will hurt home care consumers.

Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on August 15th, 2014 at 9:35 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News

A new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor would raise the minimum wage for VA hospital CNAs and other federal contractors to $10.10 an hour.

A new guidance and updated fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Labor help states make sure home care workers are paid fairly under the minimum wage and overtime rule.

Another excellent editorial from the New York Times on why U.S. Department of Labor must resist pressure to delay implementing the minimum wage and overtime rule for home care workers.

Home care worker Maureen Lewis on why we must improve the lives of the next generation by improving wages for direct care workersContinue 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 »

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 »

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 »

New Training Opportunities for Maine Direct Care Workers

Posted by on February 24th, 2014 at 11:30 am | Comments Off on New Training Opportunities for Maine Direct Care Workers
Susan Rovillard

Susan Rovillard

Direct care workers in Maine can learn new skills and obtain certificates to demonstrate their expertise free of charge, thanks to a new pilot training model that blends online and in-class training.

The Maine Direct Service Worker Training Program provides flexible, convenient, and efficient training opportunities for direct service workers in Maine’s adult long-term services and supports system, easing the way to employment. Workers interested in a career pathway within the direct care profession can be cross-trained and more easily certified to work with multiple populations.  Continue reading »

Snowbound at the Chicken Farm

Posted by on January 13th, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 3 Comments »

snowstorm Just recently, something–a snowfall, maybe? Who knows?–surfaced a memory from a November day in 1997 when I shared a very special moment with one of the many elders I have cared for over the years.

As I put the blind up that morning, I could see soft white snowflakes dancing in the light wind. The silent flakes covered the trees, outlining their shapes while slowly giving the brownish-gray bark of the skeletal trunks softer tones and shapes, coating branches and crevasses.

My usual kitchen and bedroom pickup went as smoothly as the snowfall outside. Excitement was surfacing as I dressed, feeling the joy of putting on a red wool sweater over my clothes. There is something powerful and warm about a colorful winter sweater. Continue reading »

A Family Member Thanks Her “Saving Grace,” Direct Care Workers

Posted by on January 13th, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Comments Off on A Family Member Thanks Her “Saving Grace,” Direct Care Workers
Erin Hayes

Erin Hayes

In a moving editorial published by the Portland Press-Herald on the day before Christmas, DCA board member Erin Hayes describes her gratitude to the direct care worker who comes to her home every morning to help her husband, a C4/C5 quadriplegic, get ready for work. “She has given Ben the independence that he deserves–independence from me.” Erin writes. “Imagine your wife or even your mom caring for you every single day. How would that make you feel? Direct care workers help alleviate that burden, not just on family members but also on those who need the care.

“But direct care workers need help, too. Low government reimbursement rates, mostly through Medicaid and Medicare, for the services they provide mean low wages for these workers, who average around $10 an hour.

“Add to that inadequate training and little respect and support, and it is not surprising that it can be almost impossible to retain direct care workers,” she continues. Read Erin’s editorial.

Direct Care Alliance of Maine Attends the Common Ground Fair

Posted by on October 18th, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Alliance of Maine Attends the Common Ground Fair

Helen Hanson at the Common Ground Fair

“Do you know about direct care workers?”

That’s the question we settle on at our table at the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine, as people stream by in the big Social Action tent where we set up shop from Friday, September 20, though Sunday the 22nd.

The answers are as varied as the people, “Yes, I am one.”

“Oh sure. We had someone coming to the house when Mom was sick.”

“No. Tell me about them.”

“Not really. But I’m a teacher/social worker/therapist/doctor/nurse/therapist and I support what you guys do.”

“No. But we need someone to take care of Dad. How would we go about doing that?”

For many years the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has hosted the Common Ground Fair. It has goats, chickens, donkeys and oxen. It has sheep herding demonstrations with border collies scurrying happily in the arena. It has soap making and weaving. You can buy honey, maple syrup, lamb’s wool sweaters and solar collectors. There are lots of children with painted faces and people speaking about sustainability. There’s music. It is Maine the way life should be.

It is also a very popular attraction, so we decided we should be there, representing Direct Care Alliance of Maine, the national DCA, and our profession. Continue reading »

Companionship Exemption Hurts CNAs Too

Posted by on July 15th, 2013 at 3:12 pm | 4 Comments »
Helen Hanson

Helen Hanson

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 25, 1938. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, the first woman to ever hold a seat as a presidential cabinet member, was the driving force behind a minimum wage, a 40 hour work week, and abolishing child labor. Secretary Perkins and President Roosevelt pushed for FLSA because they believed in a livable wage for a day’s work. Over the years, those labor protections have been expanded to more and more workers for the same reason every time — and the same reason President Obama gave in 2011 when he proposed to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers — “it’s the right thing to do.” Yet, home care workers continue to be excluded from these protections.

Continue reading »


Posted by on July 15th, 2013 at 3:09 pm | 1 Comment »
David Moreau

David Moreau

Stefani got her trach out, which is good news,

but now she no longer needs nursing care

and is going to lose her home placement –

and day program as well.


She’s pretty upset about it.  And I’m upset too.

She’s been good with Toby,

who follows her like a puppy,

but she likes him and can tell him,

“Toby, I need my space now,”

unlike Fay who gets upset and needs

someone to step in between them.

Continue reading »

My Elder’s Changing Life

Posted by on June 4th, 2013 at 7:20 am | 6 Comments »

empty_roomThere are times when I drive somewhere, go into a neighborhood and am very envious of the cozy atmosphere that I will work in. That’s what happened when I started working with a gracious lady in Brunswick, Maine. If I were to move anywhere, it would be Brunswick. The Main Street says it all.

But the more important connection happened as I got to know my client. lt is joyous when I find an elder who shares my beliefs, values and hobbies, and gratifying when someone has new things to teach me. I learned about my elder’s religious beliefs and her life story while bonding with her little dog, a sheltie. Continue reading »

Why All My Fellow Home Care Workers Deserve Overtime Pay

Posted by on May 20th, 2013 at 4:32 pm | 8 Comments »

James O'haraI’m a direct care worker at Graham Behavioral Services in Augusta, Maine, providing in-home support for adults with mental illness. Our clients usually have a set of goals they want to achieve, and we help them achieve those goals. It’s usually things like learning to eat healthier, remembering to call in for appointments, remembering to take their meds and take care of their personal hygiene—life skills. The goal is to work yourself out of a job. You want to get to the point where your clients can do things for themselves, so they don’t need you as much.

The average person off the street can’t do this work. It requires someone with a lot of patience and a lot of creative thinking. 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 »

National Day of Action: Workers Advocate for their Profession

Posted by on September 25th, 2012 at 12:43 am | 1 Comment »

In her opening remarks last Friday morning in Washington, D.C., DCA National Advocacy Coordinator Jessica Brill Ortiz urged the advocates heading to Capitol Hill for the National Day of Action to speak from personal experience when they talked to legislators and their staff about why home care workers need Fair Labor Standards Act protections. “Your stories are very powerful,” she said, “and you can tell them best.”

Their stories aren’t the only tool in these advocates’ belts, but they are certainly one of the most powerful, as seen in the following excerpts from conversations held after their Hill visits with DCA Communications Advisor Elise Nakhnikian.

Timothy Doe (L) waiting to board a train to DC.

“At Senator Kyl’s office, the staff member we talked to knew about the bill. He said his aunt is a caregiver, so he knows how hard we work. He also asked us what we do as caregivers. We described it from the top to the bottom, and he was very impressed.”

— Home care worker and DCA member Timothy Doe, Tucson, Arizona


“I told him the demand is great and the jobs are growing, but we can’t attract new people because we can tell them the job is great but the money is not good.”

— Home care worker and DCA member Elizabeth Cross, Tucson, Arizona  Continue reading »

What the Affordable Care Act Means to Me

Posted by on June 28th, 2012 at 8:36 am | Comments Off on What the Affordable Care Act Means to Me

David Moreau

I am a direct care worker at a day activity center in Maine for adults with developmental disabilities, where I have worked since 1998. I am married and have two children.

My job is a good job, and I don’t want to leave it, but I wish the insurance were better. I’m lucky to have health insurance through my employer, but my plan isn’t as good as it used to be. The contribution taken out from my paycheck is bigger and my coverage has decreased, making my health care bills bigger.

Also, this insurance plan covers only me. There is a family plan available, but it is prohibitively expensive.  Continue reading »