Archive for ‘South Dakota’

Direct Care Workers in the News

Posted by on February 11th, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers in the News

A MomsRising blog carnival on how the Affordable Care Act is affecting health care coverage includes posts from DCA member and home care worker Mohan Varghese and from DCA’s Jessica Brill Ortiz and Elise Nakhnikian.

A worker from DCA Board Chair Tracy Dudzinski’s Wautoma, Wisconsin-based home care coop is one of the experts quoted in this NPR report on the growing trend of seniors caring for seniors.

Janice Lynch Schuster on why direct care workers deserve and need a living wage.

Direct care workers made Salon Magazine’s list of 11 jobs where an honest day’s work will leave you in poverty.

PHI has a new fact sheet on home care workers.

Direct care workers at a Fresno assisted living home protested over unpaid wages and overtime totaling $1.6 million.

Direct care workers in New Zealand rallied in support of a worker who sued for higher wages on the basis of gender inequality. (She won, but her case is being appealed by her employer.)

A new chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the huge growth in projected demand for direct care workers–especially home care workers–in the next eight years.

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 »

Advocating for Medicaid Expansion Under Health Care Reform

Posted by on May 20th, 2013 at 4:23 pm | 3 Comments »
Jessica Brill Ortiz

Jessica Brill Ortiz

Hundreds of thousands of direct care workers have no health insurance because they cannot afford pricey premiums and copays, yet they’re not eligible for coverage under Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program for low-income Americans. The Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as health care reform or Obamacare) provides important ways for these workers and other low-income individuals and families to get affordable health care coverage.

Unfortunately, resistance from state lawmakers and others opposed to key aspects of the law is limiting access to affordable health care in some states. That’s why Direct Care Alliance, our members and allies are advocating for affordable health care through the ACA—and we hope you’ll join us!  Continue reading »

What I Told My State Senators About Medicaid Expansion

Posted by on February 26th, 2013 at 9:10 am | 1 Comment »

Mohan Varghese

When I was first asked to testify to the South Dakota Senate Health and Human Services Committee about why we direct care workers need the state to expand Medicaid coverage under the new health care law, I wasn’t sure I could afford to go. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive, and I only had $60 to last until the end of the month. If I went, what would I use to buy the gas I need to get to work after I got back home?

But I wound up deciding I couldn’t afford not to go.

As a home care worker for a man who is quadriplegic, I don’t get health insurance through my work, and I don’t earn enough to buy insurance on the open market. That creates some very serious problems. Continue reading »

Health Care Workers Deserve Health Care

Posted by on January 15th, 2013 at 11:11 am | Comments Off on Health Care Workers Deserve Health Care

Mohan Varghese

“I, and many fellow South Dakota direct care workers, do not have health insurance. Imagine that. In a country as great and as wealthy as the U.S., health care workers must do without health care,” writes DCA member and home care worker Mohan Varghese in an editorial published last week.

Varghese’s editorial, which was published in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, calls on South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard to “do the right thing for us and other hard-working South Dakotans by expanding our state Medicaid program” under the Affordable Care Act.

The governor has said he is opposed to the idea of expanding Medicaid, though doing so would provide affordable health care coverage for thousands of South Dakotan direct care and other low-wage workers–those who earn a little too much to qualify for current Medicaid coverage but too little to afford private insurance premiums.

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 »

An Honest Day’s Work Deserves Fair Pay

Posted by on January 29th, 2012 at 11:48 am | 5 Comments »

A home care workers explains why we need to enact the proposed home care rule

Mohan Varghese

It is only just to give home health care workers the basic rights that are guaranteed by the Fair Labor Standards Act.  If you look at any other job that’s non-salaried, they have those rights. If you work at a fast food place flipping burgers, you’re getting all those requirements met, but if you are providing home care you don’t.

I have worked three-plus years at a nursing home as a certified nurse aide and three years as a home health aide caring for a spinal cord injury patient. I do all the things in home care that I did in the nursing home and more. Some of the extras are simple tasks like cleaning and cooking. Others are complex medical tasks that were done by licensed nurses in the nursing home, like urinary catheterization and administration of shots and other medications. 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

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.

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