Medically Complex and Turning 21: Rhode Island Families Struggle to Access Home Care

Brandon Stone (center, seated) has been able to grow up at home among his parents and siblings due to home care nursing. Turning 21 has threatened his ability to continue with that care.

For most people, turning 21 is a milestone to celebrate. But the State of Rhode Island is putting undue pressure on medically complex Rhode Islanders who are turning 21. For those who receive home care services under Medicaid, such as the Katie Beckett waiver, their medical coverage changes on their 21st birthday, which affects who pays for their services, the types of services available to them, and their state-authorized hours and funding levels. Without proper planning and communication, these changes can result in uncertainly of continuity of care and access to home care services.

For young adults like Zach, Corinna, Brandon, and their families, turning 21 has been a source of significant stress and uncertainty rather than the celebration it deserves to be. Upon “aging out” of Medicaid, they have received word from the state that their care would be changing without much warning. Parents of medically complex individuals tend to be lifelong advocates on behalf of their children, and so all three have been able to retain their services on a month-to-month basis. “This is just a band-aid that covers the issue,” says BAYADA Home Health Care’s Government Affairs Director Ashley Sadlier. “Each month, they don’t know whether that band-aid will stay on or get ripped off. Everyone deserves to stay at home if it’s their wish to do so, and it’s arbitrary that a birthday is basically a penalization in Rhode Island.”

The interesting fact is that the State has already created a policy stating that home care children and their families are to be educated on their options by the age of 17. But Rhode Island has not upheld its end of the bargain: Families find that they receive little to no communication from the State, and that when they reach out to find out their children’s care options, the State is slow to respond and typically unable to provide proactive guidance to help families navigate this change . “Modern medicine and advances in home care have allowed for many children to live past the age of 21. That should be a reason to celebrate, not a reason to cut an individual’s services off suddenly,” says Corinna’s mother Michelle. “Home care saves the state money, and it keeps families together. Why would you put a child in danger when it’s clear that home care has enabled them to live their best life?”

Families, home care providers, and and other organizations across the state are currently working with the State to identify a solution. Without home care, clients stand a greater risk of infection, hospitalization, or even a permanent move to a skilled nursing facility. Parents know that a child doesn’t stop being your child when they reach adulthood, but it’s time that Rhode Island recognize this as well.

South Carolina Families Suffer as Reimbursement Rates Stay Stagnant for Over a Decade

Home care clients like Rashad (right) can stay at home with skilled nursing care, but a lack of state funding is making it more difficult for many South Carolinians
Home care clients like Rashad (right) can stay at home with skilled nursing care, but a lack of state funding is making it more difficult for many South Carolinians

The facts are clear: Home care is less expensive than hospital or other institutional care. Plus, it enables medically complex children and adults to remain at home amongst their loved ones. But because the State of South Carolina has not increased reimbursement rates for skilled nursing home care services since 2008, families are finding it increasingly harder to access the skilled, high quality care that they need to stay as independent as possible in their communities.

State funding for home care has not been increased in more than a decade. At the same time, hospitals and other facilities have been steadily able to increase wages. Even more so, nurses can make more in home care in surrounding states. Now, home care providers find that they can compete for less than a quarter of all the nurses available in South Carolina. When agencies face such recruitment and retention struggles, home care recipients and their families suffer.

When there are less home care nurses available, families find that they experience missed shifts, which can not only create undue stress and chaos as loved ones must miss work, lose out on sleep, and forego other necessary activities—but it also puts the client in danger. For those who need skilled nursing care, missed shifts can mean dangerous consequences, including trips to the ER and unnecessary hospitalizations.

Even more so, many major home care providers have already left South Carolina because of the low funding for home care. Stagnant rates that are more than a decade old make keeping their doors open unsustainable. As more and more agencies leave the state, the harder it is for families to access care. Simply put, if the State does not take action to increase funding for home care, South Carolina’s most medically complex and vulnerable families will have few options for care.

South Carolina’s concerned families are making their voices heard: They are reaching out to their legislators and media to share their message: Increase funding for home health care so that families can access the high quality, reliable care that they need to be where they want to be: At home.

To find out how you can get involved in advocacy, contact us at advocacy@bayada.com today.

Home Health Care in the News

The New York Times recently published an article that highlights caregivers’ and home health care clients’ challenges

The looming home health care crisis has recently been making headlines. From Home Health Care News to the New York Times, industry leaders, home health aides, clients, and family caregivers have been sharing the same message: As Medicaid rates continue to stagnate, home health aides and nurses can’t make a fair wage. As a result, the industry is facing a worker shortage and clients’ access to care is being significantly threatened across the country. Below, please find links to recent media coverage on the issue, all of which present compelling data that point to an impending home health care crisis for the most vulnerable and medically fragile populations.

Home Health Care News, September 5: “Home Health Care Training Programs Popping Up As Caregiver Crisis Worsens”

New York Times, September 2: “On the Job, 24 Hours a Day, 27 Days a Month”

Thrive Global, August 30: “The Future of Healthcare: “First and foremost, reprioritize long-term care into the home setting” with David Totaro of BAYADA Home Health Care”

Vox, August 21:https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/8/21/20694768/home-health-aides-elder-careHome health aides care for the elderly. Who will care for them?”

Everyday Health, July 27: “Demand on the Rise for Home Healthcare”

Home Health Care News, June 20: “Bayada Hits 1M Clients Served. Here’s Why Hitting 2M Will be More Difficult”

The Summer of the Home Visit: Across NJ, FL, and PA, home health care offices are hosting amazing visits!

Across our BAYADA states, offices and clients are engaging in advocacy through impactful home visits!

Clients and family members have been stepping up and opening their homes to help legislators better understand the vital role that home care plays in their lives. In collaboration with our Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors, in the last few months, six families in four states have taken the opportunity to educate their lawmakers and take a stand for home care.

The visiting legislator is hearing first-hand the problems clients are facing and it makes the issue about real families facing real problems – not about facts and figures.

NJ client Carly H. and her mother Lori hosted Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez on a visit in their home earlier this year. Carly, who has spinal muscular atrophy and is attending Rutgers University with the assistance of her home care nurses, was able to boast that due to her nursing care at home, she has never needed to be hospitalized.

The family of client Unzilla Z. in Egg Harbor, NJ was extremely candid about the challenges they face during their home visit.  Assemblyman Armato shared that to “hear” through emails and calls are one thing, but the impact of “seeing” what families face is beyond compare.

Pennsylvania state senator Mario Scavello visited East Stroudsburg resident Mrs. Mliss S. to learn about the merits of hospice care. Smith, who receives end of life services from BAYADA Hospice in East Stroudsburg, welcomed the opportunity to meet her senator. Senator Scavello learned a great deal about how hospice care helps patients and their families, whether in a facility or a private home. Mrs. Smith’s daughters emphasized how supported they felt by their hospice team and were thrilled at the care and attention provided to their mother.

NJ Assemblyman Jim Benson visited client, Jim D., where a small group of ambassadors discussed the extensive needs of our clients and showed, firsthand, many of the behind-the-scenes activities that go into providing care for a client. It’s not just about scheduling a nurse or an aide. This is an important message, as we advocate for increased PDN coverage.

And client William B. in Florida hosted US Senator Vern Buchanon on a home visit to demonstrate to the federal legislator the value of home care and the need for our federal Medicaid and Medicare programs to cover home care as a cost-effective option to facility based care. Mr. B. receives physical therapy and occupational therapy to help him regain his strength and promote independence in home. He enjoyed the Congressman’s visit and his PT, John Lumpkin, was able to talk about the care he provides and demonstrate some of the exercises performed. Overall, the visit was great and informative for the Congressman, who plays a very important role in current legislation that is to help eliminate PDGM.

Hearts for Home Care continues to look for clients to host legislative home visits throughout the remainder of the summer and into the fall session. If you’d like to be considered for participation in one of these opportunities, please speak with your Clinical Manager or Client Services Manager today or reach out to us at advocacy@bayada.com.

Help us access the nursing care we need: Indiana Mom Annie Shares Her Voice with RTV6, and wih Lawmakers

Indiana families like the Goellers are struggling to access the in-home nursing care they need to keep their medically-complex children safe at home

Indiana moms are coming out to share their message with State decisionmakers: “Help us access the nursing care we need!” Recently, RTV6—Indianapolis’s ABC affiliate—aired coverage of mom Annie and her daughter Emma. Emma, and more than 14,000 like her across the state, rely on skilled nursing to live safely at home, but often struggle to access it. The State has until June 30 to make a decision to help alleviate families’ struggles by increasing funding for state programs that pay for in-home nursing coverage.

The issue lies in State funding for programs that allow families like the Goellers to access the skilled in-home nursing they need. Because nurses can make more money in hospitals, rehab centers, and other facilities, nurses are more attracted to those settings rather than home care. The constant turnover creates a revolving door of nurses. In the past six years, Emma, who has cerebral palsy, has had dozens of different nurses. “I would say probably at least 20 or 25,” said mom Annie.

Such turnover means that Emma doesn’t see reliable, consistent nursing coverage, which puts her at risk. For many families, this also means that shifts are missed and parents must bear the burden of providing care. Lack of sleep, calling out of work, and being unable to care for other family members are all unintended consequences that come from the lack of skilled in-home nurses.

No child deserves to grow up in a hospital or facility, and no parent deserves to be an untrained nurse for their child. When we unite our voices in advocacy, we can make sure that our message is heard and that decision-makers and key influencers are aware of the issues that they have the power to make changes on. Contact advocacy@bayada.com to learn about how you can share your story and make an impact today.

Delaware Hearts for Home Care Advocate Shares Heartfelt and Impactful Story with Legislators!

Recently, a Delaware pediatric licensed practical nurse (LPN), Charlene Chappell, signed up for Hearts for Home Care and wanted to get involved. And did she come out in full force!

After sharing powerful and heartfelt testimony in Dover, DE’s Legislative Hall about the impact she makes on families and the challenges low Medicaid rates bring to nurses who want to provide one-on-one care to families at home, Charlene listened to a radio show where host Joel Olsteen spoke about “an itch you just can’t scratch.”

That got Charlene thinking about more advocacy. Charlene said, “I feel that the majority of men and women that serve as elected officials have no clue what’s required of a family when they have a child that has special needs and is differently abled! They don’t understand that nurses need to be attracted to home care so that families can rely on this care to keep their medically-complex children at home.”

That inspired her to write the below story and send it to all Delaware legislators. Read Charlene’s powerful story below!

My Itch!

I have an itch! Mo matter how hard I try to let someone know, I can’t.  I’m 8 years old and I can’t tell Mommy where I itch! I can’t reach my itch! Its 2:30 in the morning and Mommy has fallen asleep in the chair next to my bed because she had to work today and then take my sister to her dance lesson. When she finally arrived home she threw some dirty laundry in the washer, and cooked dinner. After dinner she put the wash in the dryer, and then she loaded the dishwasher. She came in my room to check on me and feed me. Off she went to make sure my sister had done her homework and was in the shower. Oh no, an alarm is going off! Here comes Mommy. I wish I could tell her how much I love her for all she does and about my itch. She looks so tired. It’s almost 8:00 pm. The phone is ringing. Hurry Mommy before they hang up!

I can hear Mommy on the phone. “What! Oh no, please tell me it’s not true. I’m so tired tonight. I don’t know if I can stay up all night with him but I must. I have to make sure he’s ok on his ventilator and his medications are given at the right time, so he doesn’t have a seizure, and that the tube feeding is running properly. He has to be repositioned every two hours so his skin doesn’t break down. I have to check his diaper too. Well… thanks for the phone call.”

Oh no. Mommy just found out my favorite night nurse called out tonight, and the rest of forever. The agency is going to try and find a replacement as soon as possible, but that may take some time. Nurses aren’t as anxious to get into home health care nursing because they can make more money at a hospital. Mommy is going to miss work because she will have to stay up with me as Daddy’s gone from home with his job right now. Mommy may lose her job. I’m so sad my nurse left. She really knew me and she knew when I had an itch. She would gently scratch me all over till she found it, like Mommy does. She understands my cues and my facial expressions as I can’t talk, or walk, or move because of my illness. 

I heard Mommy talking to the lady at the agency about the nursing shortage in home health care. She told Mommy that the money provided for reimbursement by Medicaid, not Medicare, has not increased in 13 years! The last time there was an increase in Medicaid was in 2006! I wasn’t even born then! She also told Mommy that the companies are running out of their own funds to supply the raises the nurses deserve. God bless the nurses that do work in home health care, for a lesser wage then they deserve, and take care of not only me but my mommy and Daddy too. Without them my Mommy and Daddy would not get the proper rest, would have to quit work to care for me. It would not be a good thing for my family. We would all suffer. I don’t want to go anywhere but here in my room. What if we can’t find a new night nurse? Where will I go? I overheard the doctors and nurses at the hospital talking last time I was admitted for a bad seizure and they said that all children do better in the home setting for getting well once they can leave the hospital. They are less likely to get sick again from a disease they acquired while in the hospital, and all of us are more comfortable in our own bed!

I hope my story has helped you to understand why we need to increase the Medicaid budget. Not Medicare, but Medicaid. Mommy told me that some people get confused so that’s why I will say it one more time. Please increase the Medicaid funding for home health care nurses.

Thank you for reading this. Mommy thanks you as well as all the other children and their parents that require specialized home health care nursing.  And yes, Mommy found my itch!

Thank you, Charlene, for sharing your creative and passionate story with Delaware’s legislators. We must all share our voice to make an impact, and your advocacy highlights your deep commitment to your clients’ care.

Hearts for Home Care is seeking to advocate for higher reimbursement rates for skilled nursing services in Delaware so that nurses can be better attracted to home care, and so families that need this care to stay together at home can more easily and reliably access it. For information on how you can get involved, contact us today

Thank You for Keeping Me Home: A Message from an Advocate

North Carolina advocate Ari A. during a trip to Washington, D.C.

We often think of advocacy as sharing our stories, our challenges, and asking for legislative support in addressing those challenges. But advocacy is much more multi-faceted: It’s about building relationships by cultivating legislative connections so that they become home care supporters for life, and it’s certainly about saying Thank You when the support pays off by resulting in a law or policy that is beneficial to the individual and to the home care community at-large.

Below, find a Thank You note written by North Carolina home care recipient and Hearts for Home Care advocate Ari A. Ari has been able to thrive and stay independent at home because of the skilled nursing services he receives under North Carolina’s Medicaid program. Recently, he wrote to Medicaid staff to thank them for resolving a critical issue that enabled him to continue these services. Medicaid staff are committed to improving health and well-being of North Carolinians, and their transactions are often behind the scenes and receive little recognition. Hearts for Home Care applauds Medicaid staff across the country for their commitment to helping individuals stay at home, and we applaud Ari for his sincere thankfulness of their work.

To All I Work with in NC DHHS and Medicaid,

Some of you I’ve known for years and some a short time. Through it all, the one and most important factor that has been consistent has been the capacity to care. Time and time again over the years I have had to get battle ready in order to keep my life-saving services. However, instead having to scale cold-hard hearts, impenetrable like a fortress, you invited me into your hearts. You consistently agreed to provide for my intensive care in my home instead of a medical facility; which essentially would have been leaving me out in the cold to die. Instead of fighting me you have been my allies, always being there for me when I needed you the most.

These truths became ever more apparent a couple weeks ago. For the past two years, my mom and I have been getting things ready to transfer my medications, physical therapy, and supplies to Medicare without de-stabilizing my PDN services under Medicaid. It has been a mind numbing, complicated process. We have been hyper-vigilant not to miss any details that could easily be overlooked. We recently turned in sensitive paperwork to the Department of Social Services (DSS) well before the deadline. On November 30 we spoke with the Director of Policy and Procedures for Medicaid Sandy Terrell about how to safeguard my PDN even more during the transition. Ms. Terrell told Saunja Wilson from PDN to double check if everything was in order by the end of the month. Thank God, Ms. Wilson decided to check right away. The sensitive paperwork we emailed to DSS was present, but hadn’t been pulled up yet even though my caseworker had the paperwork in her email. One of the Supervisors at DSS had also confirmed that we had it turned in. We were told email or fax was equally acceptable for documentation.

The breakdown was that this particular caseworker did not use her email for business and preferred to have documents faxed to her. My caseworker tried to alleviate a little bit of pressure off my mom and I by telling us to ignore the ‘Termination of Medicaid Services’ notice in the mail. Yet, the absolute terror that rose up from the pits of our stomachs when we received the notice was totally indescribable! Despite the paperwork being directly faxed to my caseworker, we still waited for the approval. Thankfully over a week later, the situation was taken over by one of the Supervisors at DSS. She rose to the occasion and kindly brought the matter to a close so that my mom and I could peacefully go on with our lives.

Frighteningly, the bottom line is that I am not exaggerating when I say my life would have been ‘Terminated’ if Saunja Wilson from PDN hadn’t been ‘quick on the draw’ to find the error. If Ms. Wilson had waited to check just two or three days later, I wouldn’t have been able to disregard the Termination notice and my life would have been ruined! I say again, Thank God for my champions in NC government. You always rises up out of the mist to do a heroic save! This is what the rest of America could be and should be as far as healthcare policy.

Frighteningly, the bottom line is that I am not exaggerating when I say my life would have been ‘Terminated’ if Saunja Wilson from PDN hadn’t been ‘quick on the draw’ to find the error. If Ms. Wilson had waited to check just two or three days later, I wouldn’t have been able to disregard the Termination notice and my life would have been ruined! I say again, Thank God for my champions in NC government. You always rises up out of the mist to do a heroic save! This is what the rest of America could be and should be as far as healthcare policy.

All of you keep doing a spectacular job and always keep your focus on the people you serve instead of the numbers, especially as NC transitions to Managed Care. If you ever need my help just let me know anytime!

Sincerely,

Ari A. Charlotte, NC

Advocates in Action: Dimpal Patel Inspires NC Ambassadors at Ambassador Symposium

Client Dimpal P. inspires Ambassadors during North Carolina’s Ambassador Symposium

On March 28, our annual North Carolina Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Symposium took place, where we provided tools and resources to our volunteer Ambassadors. The training focused on a variety of topics, including leading a legislative meeting and building relationships with lawmakers. 

In addition to special guests former Representative Bill Brawley, Senior Healthcare Campaign Director of MomsRising Felicia Burnett, Association for Home & Hospice Care’s VP of Government Affairs Tracy Colvard, and Staff Attorney with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Louise Pocock, the shining star of the Symposium was client Dimpal, who inspired all of our Ambassadors with her story of her journey into advocacy.

Beyond detailing the specific challenges she and her family face as a result of low state Medicaid reimbursement rates, Dimpal also described the ways in which home care and her nurses have changed her life and granted her independence:

“Without my nurses, I wouldn’t have been able to go to college and to live a full life. Without them, I’d likely be stuck in a hospital or a nursing home,” said Dimpal.  

It was this gratitude for her nurses that propelled Dimpal to share her story and to advocate for others who rely on the state’s Private Duty Nursing (PDN) program to survive.

To hear more about Dimpal and the importance of advocacy, you can watch her full speech here. You can also read about her nursing care in the Gaston Gazette after a reporter came to her house to learn more about how her nurses impact her everyday life.

Special thanks to our Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors for volunteering their time and talents advocating for our staff and clients!

To learn about ways you can get involved in advocacy, email advocacy@bayada.com today

Legislation Close to our Hearts: NJ Mobility Bill Named after Hearts for Home Care Advocate’s Daughter, Mary!

Mom Tara Montague (left) and daughter Mary (center) during a home visit with Asw. Carol Murphy. Asw. Murphy recently introduced “Mary’s Law.”

Home care supporter and New Jersey Assemblywoman Carol Murphy recently introduced a bill which will address unequal access to the purchase of modified vans through the Catastrophic illness in Children Relief Fund.

Assemblywoman Murphy was alerted to the issue after Hearts for Home Care manager and advocate Tara Montague told her about the issue, and how it has impacted her daughter, Mary, and many of New Jersey’s medically fragile children. Mary and Tara have utilized the fund, and have been important advocates in ensuring the fund is both adequately funded and accessible for the many New Jersey residents that need it.

Currently, families can apply to the Catastrophic Fund to purchase a modified van so that they can safely transport their medically fragile child. However, current regulations require that families pay for the van upfront and wait to be reimbursed by the Fund. This stipulation presents a sincere barrier to transportation for families that cannot afford to front tens of thousands of dollars while they wait to be reimbursed.

Mary’s Law addresses this issue by requiring the Catastrophic Fund to provide direct payments for the purchases of specialized, modified motor vehicles. In addition, this legislation will increase the annual surcharge for New Jersey employers from $1.50 to $3.00 per employee to insure the Catastrophic Fund is adequately funded to meet the its purpose and demands.

“Medically fragile children like Mary deserve to travel safely and freely. This legislation ensures that children and their families receive the help they need regardless of their financial situations. Ever since Mary was born, I’ve been a staunch advocate for her needs and for better laws and policies, but I never thought advocacy could hit so close to home–Mary and our family are ecstatic that we can bring about change for all New Jersey’s children and families that need it,” said Tara.

Thank you to Tara and Mary for continuing to be effective advocates on access to transportation. Hearts for Home Care will continue to provide updates as the legislation progresses through New Jersey committees and chambers. If you have questions about this legislation or how to get more involved in advocacy on behalf of yourself, a loved one, or your staff and clients, please contact advocacy@bayada.com today.

Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA) Legislative Day Pictures

On April 9, more than 300 home care advocates—clients, families, caregivers, and employees—joined the Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA) at the state capitol in Harrisburg. Advocates met with hundreds of the state’s representatives and senators to deliver an important message: Home care is important to me, and it should be important to you too.

Check out pictures from the legislative reception, the kickoff rally, legislative day meetings, and the PHA press conference! Care about home care and want to share your voice? Check out heartsforhomecare.com or email advocacy@bayada.com to find out how you can get involved in advocacy today!

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