Grassroots Advocacy Team Presents at Well Spouse Association’s 30th Annual Conference

Recently, the Government Affairs Office’s (GAO) Grassroots Advocacy team attended the Well Spouse Association’s annual national conference. This year marked its 30th conference, and our Grassroots team got to play a special role at this milestone program. The Association, which serves as a family support organization for “well” spouses who act as primary caretakers for their chronically ill loved ones, holds this yearly weekend-long conference to provide education, tools, resources, and social supports to members.

The Grassroots team attended the conference for the first time to host a break-out session to lead members through an interactive discussion about health care advocacy. Attendees discussed the importance of advocacy and of unifying their voices to help our elected officials better understand the value of home care and health care in their families’ everyday lives.

We were able to connect to so many new and experienced advocates and share our Hearts for Home Care message. One member even used the Hearts for Home Care legislative portal to identify their legislator and their contact information to call and leave a voicemail about the importance of quality in-home care! The importance of advocacy is well-known to many service office employees—it is important that we extend this message to our families and clients as their stories make a huge impact on our decision makers’ ability to understand home care and its effects on families across the country. If you have a client that sounds like a good fit for advocacy, please contact me or direct them to sign up for Hearts for Home Care.

Using Social Media as an Advocacy Tool

Every day, BAYADA employees, clients, and families use social media to connect with one another, keep in touch with distant friends and relatives, and learn about news and events near and far. But social media has evolved far past the traditional definition of “social.” In today’s world, social media gives the home care community the opportunity to spread public awareness about home care’s impact and the opportunity to more conveniently advocate for better home care laws and policies.

Advocacy simply means communicating to elected officials what home care means to you and how it impacts your everyday life. Because our state and federal lawmakers make decisions that affect home care providers’ ability to recruit and retain quality caregivers to serve our clients and their families, it is important that they are able to connect home care to their constituents’ names and faces. Social media outlets, particularly Facebook and Twitter, allow for members of the home care community to advocate from the convenience of their home or office.

Sharing a video of a family expressing the value that their in-home nurse or aide brings to them and their loved ones, for example, enables other social media users to understand how home care impacts them, their neighbors, and thousands of people across the country. Our Hearts for Home Care platform is designed to share videos, quotes, photos, news, and advocacy opportunities with elected officials and the community at-large.

In addition to this platform, it’s important that members of the home care community—including staff, clients, and family members—are aware of the power they hold at their own fingertips. Getting involved in advocacy through social media is easy, and the more we share our voices the better we can be heard. In addition to following our Facebook and Twitter, you can tell your elected officials what home care means to you in three easy steps:

  1. Find your elected officials on Hearts for Home Care’s Find My Legislators page
  2. Like and follow them on social media (the links are right on the page!)
  3. Connect with them regularly: Share Hearts for Home Care’s posts with your legislators, post on their pages about what home care means to you, or message them to ask them about meeting them in-person to talk about the value of home care. You’ll find that their pages will also give you information about news and events like Senior Expos and Town Halls that may be valuable for you, your staff, or your clients.

Social media not only brings people who value home health care together, but it shows those who have not yet needed home health care its value and necessity. It gives our industry a face and a voice and allow our representatives and senators to see that it affects real people in their communities, and it shows our elected officials that our friends and neighbors with special medical needs should be able to receive the care they need in the place the feel the safest and most comfortable–at home. To learn more about how you can be a voice for home care, join Hearts for Home Care today.

The Heart of Client Advocacy: How You Can Make a Difference

Home care client advocates for his disabled wife and his home health aide
Mike Pollock (left) advocates on behalf of his wife Kathy (center in red) and Kathy’s aide Alma (standing)

Imagine this scene: A woman feels a familiar, nagging stiffness in her lower back as she leans over the edge of the tub to bathe her teenage daughter. Her daughter, who has a significant degenerative muscular disease, sits quietly and securely on a customized bath chair that fits snugly inside the tub. The tub area is decorated with different pieces of adaptive equipment such as a specialty grab bar, floor mat, hand-held shower head, and other items to make the bathing process possible for a person who cannot physically jump in and out of the shower. From start to finish, the entire bathing process takes more than an hour to safely complete.

Whether it is giving a bath, doing a tracheostomy change, starting a gastronomy tube feed, or transporting someone with multiple pieces of medical equipment, families who care for a loved one with a significant medical condition live a vastly different lifestyle than many other families. This lifestyle is not easily understood unless you’ve experienced it.

Legislative advocacy makes a difference

We have learned that when our clients and families talk to our elected officials and the people who make decisions about health care funding and regulations, it makes a difference. We have seen clear evidence across our country that when more people speak up, creating a stronger and louder voice, it is more likely that government-funded insurances—such as Medicaid and Medicare—will adjust funding and regulations to benefit families.

Many of our elected officials have personally not had the experience of bathing an adult child, performing a tracheostomy change, or providing the other types of medical and personal care that are frequently needed in the home. It’s also sometimes forgotten that this care is not just provided once a week or month, but many times a day or week, over years—over a lifetime. The continuous nature of these care needs is what makes home health care services so necessary.

We consult with legislators and insurance officials and ask for increases in our reimbursement rates so we can hire more employees and reduce open shifts for our clients. Our requests often are not approved. However, when the families who actually use the home care services join with us, it makes a big difference.

When clients and families explain why it is important to them not to have open shifts or why their paid caregiver needs a better wage, and share their personal experiences from within the home, it helps these officials understand the need for home care. The people who we petition for increases and better regulations are the same elected officials you vote for, and who are entrusted with serving the best interests of those they represent. This is at the heart of how and why people gathering and joining voices can make a difference. This is the heart of client advocacy.

How can you get involved?

Think about your personal experiences and consider what it’s like to care for a loved one who is in your home or nearby. Let’s unlock those firsthand experiences about the difference a home care nurse, aide, or therapist makes in the care that your loved one needs or receives. Voices of families coming together can create opportunities. Better insurance reimbursement can help us recruit more nurses and aides to fill open shifts. Better wages can mean a more sustainable career for home care workers, which in turn allows more people to remain at home while they receive the care they need.

For more information about how you can join the movement for a better tomorrow for home care, visit our website and sign up to be a Heart for Home Care today.

GAO Conducts Study on Best Ways to Communicate with our Clients and Employees

At BAYADA, our employees strive to fulfill our mission of helping people have a safe home life with comfort, independence, and dignity.

One way BAYADA stands out among home care providers is by encouraging our clients and families to actively share their stories with their state and federal elected officials. This process is called advocacy—a critical part of democracy that allows clients, families, and their caregivers to share their voices with government officials who make decisions that affect the services they see in their homes every day. We realized that to effectively communicate the importance of advocacy and involvement to our clients and employees, we needed to find out how they preferred to be communicated with and what topics are important to them. 

During March of this year, our Government Affairs Office (GAO) conducted a quantitative online survey with three key BAYADA audiences in mind: clients, field employees, and office employees. To account for clients without access to email, the survey included 50 telephone interviews with randomly selected clients. A total of 868 respondents were polled. Of the 868 respondents, 285 were clients, 250 were field employees, and 333 were office employees. Respondents included individuals from different practices, age ranges and geographic regions so that GAO could obtain the best and most accurately representative data possible.

Some Interesting Survey Results

The survey enabled GAO to glean a wealth of information about what topics our audiences wanted to hear about, and how often. It also informed us that most individuals prefer email communication, followed closely by text messages. Facebook was the top-rated social media platform in terms of frequency of use, followed by Instagram, which is rapidly growing in popularity. Cell phones are the communication devices most commonly utilized for all communication, including email, social media, texting and calls. We also learned that, because more and more people are managing all their communications on cell phones, we must tailor our communications practices to meet our audiences where they want to be. This means that our messaging needs to be short and to the point or our clients and employees may not read it.

The topics of highest interest to our clients and employees are those that could affect them personally, such as possible changes or funding reductions to government programs like Medicaid and Medicare. This is likely one reason why 62% of the clients and employees would like more information about advocacy and updates related to the Hearts for Home Care program. This was encouraging news for GAO because it means that people are interested in advocacy, and that they are interested in hearing what we want to tell them.

Additionally, the survey informed us that parents of pediatric clients lead in interest and involvement in advocacy, as they often rely on home care services for long periods of time throughout their children’s lives. We also learned that photos of clients tell a visual story about the emotional impact home care brings without requiring many words. 

This wealth of important data will assist GAO and BAYADA as a whole to better communicate with our employees, our clients, and our clients’ families. It will also better inform our advocacy efforts and in turn, help our company secure better reimbursement rates from government programs.

To find out more information or learn about ways you can get involved in advocacy, please reach out to me at rhynick@bayada.com or Manager of Client and Family Advocacy Tara Montague at tmontague@bayada.com.

20×2020 – An Advocacy Goal

What counts as advocacy? Advocacy is any message, big or small, delivered to state or federal decision makers to express the importance of home care.

This means that as an employee, you could advocate by sending an email or a letter to a legislator, sharing a story about home care on social media, attending your state’s lobby day, or helping a client advocate.

We have seen many times over how these messages add up to bring positive change to our staff’s and clients’ lives. During this year’s Ambassador of the Year Awards, US Senator Debbie Stabenow talked to attendees about how our email campaign in which BAYADA employees sent over 138,000 messages to our federal legislators, stopped Congress’s attempt to cut Medicaid funding. All of your advocacy activities add to our collective message that home care is important and should be prioritized when the government makes public policy decisions.

Don’t be afraid to share your voice to make positive changes for a better and stronger home care industry. To learn more about how you can be involved in advocacy and be part of that 20 percent, please contact me, Rick Hynick, at rhynick@bayada.com.

Why Client Advocacy Matters

 

BAYADA client Carly (front) is pictured here with NJ Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (right) during a legislative home visit, which served to familiarize the assemblyman about how home care affects his constituents. Carly and her mother Christina (left) also testified at a legislative hearing in Trenton about the need for increased Private Duty Nursing (PDN) rates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Client advocacy matters more than that of home care industry professionals. While home care professionals can share facts and figures about home care with legislators, it is clients’ stories that truly paint the picture of what home care means to legislators’ constituents.

Whether a home care client is an infant, senior, or any age in-between, it is very likely that the nursing or aide services that they rely on is from a Medicaid or Medicare program.  What this means is that government officials are the ones making the decisions on care regulations and reimbursement rates rather than those who are regularly affected by home care.  Home care providers must accept these rates and regulations and provide care to the best of their abilities based on what the government has set forth rather than on what is actually best for clients and their families.

Home care employees regularly see that many of the government reimbursement rates for home care are low and have not been increased in years. This has a domino effect in that if providers can’t bring more revenue in, they can’t pay higher rates to attract more staff to care for current clients or for new clients who will need care in the future.

Many areas of our country are starting to age and will need caregivers to allow people to live in their homes instead of in facilities, yet projections indicate fewer people want to be professional caregivers due to the industry’s low wages. Additionally, more nurses are choosing employment in other types of settings, which makes it difficult for many home care clients to have adequate nursing coverage because facilities such as hospitals can pay nurses a higher wage.

As elections come and go, we see changes in our government leaders and with these changes come the possibility of healthcare policy changes. These changes can be sudden and unpredictable, and these changes often threaten funding cuts to important programs such as Medicaid or Medicare. Any funding cuts to these programs would be devastating to home care providers and to program beneficiaries.

The interesting thing is that the representatives and senators who we vote for at the state and federal level make these decisions, and few of them have strong healthcare backgrounds.  In addition, it is their job to represent all of the people from their respective districts to the best of their abilities. While provider employees can share their voices through legislative meetings, clients’ and their family members’ advocating and sharing their stories matter most.

Clients who benefit from home care and their family members have their own special stories to tell.  As the end users of nursing and aide services, clients and family members have the first-hand knowledge of how the Medicaid and Medicare programs are working and what could be done to improve them.  Clients names, faces, and shared stories paint a far more detailed picture of home care than industry professionals can with facts and figures. When legislators vote on issues related to home care, clients stories are better-remembered, and legislators are much more likely to vote for favorable home care policies with these in mind.

“I’ve been an advocate for my wife, who is 100 percent dependent, for 16 years,” said Mike Pollock, the husband of a client who advocates to protect home care for his wife and all who need services.  “Thanks to Medicare and Medicaid and BAYADA, I’ve been able to care for her at home.  Although Medicare and Medicaid are excellent resources, they have their issues.  An excellent resource for solving these issues are our elected officials,” Pollock said.  “In fact, elected officials are the only people capable of fixing issues that arise within Medicare and Medicaid. But they can’t help if they don’t know what we as family caregivers are dealing with every day.  Never hesitate about reaching out to them. It’s been my experience they are eager to help,” Pollock concluded.

By putting advocacy into action and connecting our clients to their elected officials, there is a far better chance that Medicaid and Medicare will be protected and grow with the needs of our clients. Please email me at rhynick@bayada.com for more information related to client and family advocacy and what you can do to help protect and strengthen the home care industry in your state and at the federal level.

The Importance of Trust in a Client/Caregiver Relationship

Submitted by Rick Hynick, Director, Client and Family Advocacy (GAO)

 Having worked closely with  clients and their families at BAYADA for many years, one of the most important values that can be seen in the relationships families have with their caregivers is trust.  Charles Milliner, a long-time client knows this very well.  “When you have a caregiver that is a good match, trust grows between the client and caregiver,” Milliner explained.  “I know that my caregiver not only wants the best for me, from the care perspective, but also for standing up for home care as an advocate because we have to think about tomorrow.  There is an unseen mutual respect that evolves creating a very strong bond based on human trust, respect and compassion,” Milliner concluded.

 

PA Client Visit to Discuss BAYADA’s Advocacy Program

Submitted by Rick Hynick, Director, Client and Family Advocacy (GAO)

 On Friday, October 20, Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro and I met with adult Home Health Aide client, William Bezdziecki at his home near Wilkes Barre to discuss the BAYADA Hearts for Home Care program and different client advocacy opportunities.  Also, present at the meeting were William’s parents, Jack and Mary Lou Bezdziecki, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (WBS) Clinical Manager Susan Youells, WBS CSM Kristie Spinello and Certified Nursing Assistant Gerald Stevenson.

Building the Client & Family Advocacy Program

Submitted by Rick Hynick, Director, Client and Family Advocacy (GAO)

 

On August 23, the Government Affairs Office (GAO) gathered in Philadelphia, along with a few office and field employees with advanced advocacy interests.  The goal of the day was to develop tactics to engage both clients and employees who enjoy advocacy to influence decision makers to support home health care.  Building awareness, Inspiring engagement and Empowering advocates were three main phases that were at the heart of our discussions related to grassroots advocacy efforts for our clients and families here at BAYADA and also for the many others who will be moved to join us from the community.