Hearts for Home Care Kicks Off 2019 with Two Heartfelt Visits with New Jersey Clients

Last week, Hearts for Home Care members and BAYADA employees Dave Totaro, Tara Montague, and Alisa Fox traveled to northern New Jersey to meet two home care clients and their caregivers to learn more about how home care has impacted their lives and how they advocate on behalf of themselves and their loved ones.

Meeting Addy and Gloria


Photo: DOV client Addy R. and her HHA Gloria have an unbreakable bond

First, the team stopped by a BAYADA service office in Dover, NJ to meet the staff and learn about the struggles the office regularly faces in recruiting and retaining home health aides. Per staff member Helena Anton, challenges lie primarily within staunch competition in the area and finding the high-quality and compassionate caregivers that “you can tell are put on this earth to care for others,” as Helena puts it.

“Smaller home health care companies can usually pay the caregiver more in wages because we put that money into benefits, training, and supplies. But the real problem is that Medicaid reimbursement rates are so low that these caregivers—no matter what company they work for—aren’t making enough. That’s why we need to advocate to make sure the state sees how low wages are impacting so many New Jerseyans that are able to live and their communities and thrive with home care,” added Helena.

After the discussion, the Hearts for Home Care advocates met home care client Addy and her aide Gloria. The crowd was nearly brought to tears by Addy’s story regarding the challenges she has been able to overcome with her “teammate”—which is what she calls Gloria.

“I was extremely touched by Addy’s and Gloria’s relationship. Not only is it clear how much Gloria has impacted Addy’s daily life and her sense of self-worth, but the way that Gloria talks about Addy’s influence on her own life is incredible. You can tell that Gloria was truly put on this earth to be the nurturing, compassionate caregiver that she is,” said Tara Montague.

Recently, Addy and Gloria visited Senator Steve Oroho to share their story and to advocate for better state home care policies. “Helping people is important. And it’s important that those who help others get the help that they need too,” Addy told the group. Addy recommitted to continuing to advocate for herself and for others who are impacted by home health care. “I want to share my message with legislators. It’s my way of giving back,” she said.

Lili and Emma Welcome Advocacy into Their Home


Photo: Lili and her nurse Barbara share a high five

Next, Dave, Tara, and Alisa traveled to Morristown to visit home care client Liliana “Lili” and her mother Emma in their home. As a single mom, Emma relies on home nursing so that she can keep her full-time job and keep Lili at home. She told us that her service office team works hard to ensure that every one of Lili’s shifts are covered. She also shared about times when that coverage wasn’t so steady: “Our routine and our comfort level is only as good as today…When Lili’s main nurse Liz retired, we had a few months where we didn’t know what tomorrow would bring.”

Lili benefits from New Jersey’s private duty nursing (PDN) program, which allows for children and adults with skilled care needs to live at home. Without this program, it is unlikely that Lili would have been able to grow up with her mom and graduate from school as she did. The PDN program’s rates need to be raised in order to better attract more nurses to home care, as most can currently make a higher wage delivering skilled care in a hospital or nursing home. One of Hearts for Home Care’s major advocacy goals for 2019 is to educate legislators on the need for a rate increase and to secure one on behalf of all New Jersey home care clients, families, and nurses.

Like Addy, Emma is committed to ongoing advocacy to ensure that nurses see home care as an attractive employment option, so that other families can receive the home care that they need too. In recent years, Emma has hosted state elected officials in her home. “Seeing our daily routine and how important it is for Lili to have a nurse at home is the most impactful way for an assemblyman or senator to understand home care,” said Emma. “As a mother of someone who is able to stay home due to in-home nursing care, I see it as my duty to advocate…Not just for Lili, but for those in the state who are struggling to get the nursing they need.”

“It’s our clients’ and families’ voices that make the biggest impact on our state and federal elected officials’ decisions about home care. Because of advocates like Addy and Emma, legislators better understand the impact home care has on their communities,” said advocate Dave Totaro, who also serves as BAYADA’s chief government affairs officer.

There are plenty of ways to advocate, even from home! To find out ways that you can make an impact, contact us at advocacy@bayada.com. Together, we can share our voices to make 2019 the best year for home care yet.

2019: The Year of the Ambassador!

GAO continues to grow and strengthen our Ambassador program. Symposiums and other engagement activities are currently underway–don’t miss your chance to get involved!

US Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) poses with Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro (center) and our Ambassadors of the Year at the 2018 Ambassador Awards trip in Washington, DC

When the Government Affairs Office (GAO) launched the Hearts for Home Care Ambassador program nearly ten years ago, we envisioned that each service office would have a designee who would essentially act as the GAO liaison for that office. How much we’ve grown! Today, our Ambassadors go above and beyond to be the voice for our staff and clients, and they truly exemplify the leadership and excellence qualities that have grown to be associated with the Ambassador program.

In 2018, GAO committed to a more robust and centralized grassroots program, including a stronger dedication to the Ambassador program. In 2019, under Grassroots Advocacy Manager Mike Sokoloski’s leadership, the program is set to have its strongest year yet. This year we will be sharing a new “Ambassador Dashboard” that will help our advocates stay engaged and track their progress, create more 30-minute advocacy Zoom trainings, and bring our top-performing advocates on an exclusive Ambassador Awards trip to Washington, DC in May!

Additionally, one of the most exciting changes we have underway is our newly-revamped state-by-state Ambassador Symposiums. Our Ambassador Symposiums are newly designed and structured to train rookie Ambassadors while simultaneously energizing more seasoned advocates. This year we are partnering with outside organizations and bringing in more legislative and client guest speakers to truly show attendees the impact that strong advocacy has in making meaningful changes for our staff and clients.

DE Senate Majority Leader Nicole Poore joined a recent Ambassador Symposium and shared her thoughts on the importance of advocacy with attendees

So far in 2019, we have held our first Ambassador Symposium in Newark, DE for both our Maryland and Delaware Ambassadors. Here, DE Senator and Majority Leader Nicole Poore came to share her passionate story about how she initially became involved in advocacy for her child, and how she now sees her role as being an advocate for all her constituents. Throughout the spring, we will continue to host Ambassador Symposiums in New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, New York and Rhode Island. Whether or not you’ve attended in the past, be sure to check out what being an Ambassador is all about during our upcoming symposiums!

As our Ambassador program continues to grow, we are seeking new Ambassadors from all service and support offices, and are seeking greater involvement from field staff, clients, and other organizations. It is vital that we join together as Hearts for Home Care to strengthen our collective voices in support of home care. Our Ambassadors serve as the forefront of our advocacy program, and truly make the difference in educating local legislators about home care and its impact on clients and communities.

For more information about the Ambassador program, upcoming Symposiums, or home care advocacy in general, contact me today!

2019 Ambassador Symposium Schedule*

SC – 2/20 at the state capitol in Columbia

GA – 2/21 at the state capitol in Atlanta

PA – 2/28  at the Hilton Garden Inn in Harrisburg

NJ – 3/13 at the New Jersey Learning Center in Pennsauken

NC – 3/28 at the North Carolina Learning Center in Charlotte

NY – TBD

RI – 4/9 at the Capitol in Providence (morning of Advocacy Day)

*Please note that the DE/MD Symposium has already occurred, but it’s not too late to become an Ambassador if you are interested! Contact Mike Sokoloski for information.

Reflecting on South Carolina’s and Georgia’s First Year with a Full-Time GAO Program

By: Melissa Allman, GAO Director for South Carolina and Georgia

Thank you to the many advocates that contributed to SC and GA’s successes in 2018!

What a difference a year makes. This time last year I was just transitioning out of my role as Division Director for the Palmetto Division and into my new role directing our advocacy activities in South Carolina and Georgia. I didn’t know I was in for so much! As I reflect back on 2018, my thoughts go immediately to two things: First, the successes that we were able to generate for our staff and clients and secondly, the many BAYADA leadership, staff, and clients that shared their voices and helped us win!

South Carolina

This year not only were we able to achieve an 8.2% rate increase for all personal care Medicaid waiver services in South Carolina, but we made so much headway engaging our office staff, field staff, and clients. As one person running around in the state house, I can only do so much. It is your stories and your voices that truly have made our first full-time year in South Carolina a remarkably successful year.

Aside from our rate increase, South Carolina advocates hosted five home visits with state lawmakers, hosted two legislative roundtables, and Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope attended a Hero Ceremony for his constituent—a home health aide from RHS. In addition, we attended several events to support our champions. Then-CLP Director, Haley Keisler was named South Carolina Home Care and Hospice Association’s (SCHCHA) 2018 Professional of the Year, and ROC client Mitchell H.’s mom and caregiver, Tammy Roberts, was recognized as the SCHCHA 2018 Caregiver of the Year. 

Left: SCHCHA Executive Director Tim Rogers (left) and I (right) pose with SCHCHA’s 2018 Caregiver of the Year Tammy Roberts (center) and her grandson.

Right: SCHCHA Executive Director Tim Rogers (left) and I (right) pose with SCHCHA’s 2018 Professional of the Year, former CLP director and current AVL director Haley Keisler and her family.

Additionally, we were able to engage a record 25 Hearts for Home Care ambassadors and advocates to attend Lobby Day, where we connected BAYADA staff to lawmakers to share why our families deserve to be able to stay together through home care.

A record breaking Lobby Day in Columbia

Georgia

As I reflect back on the past year, my heart is full of gratitude for all of Georgia’s leadership, Ambassadors, and advocates. Your support and advocacy made all the difference! Not only were we able to generate a rate increase for private duty nursing (PDN) services under the Georgia Pediatric Program (GAPP) waiver, but we’ve made our voices heard and our industry and company better known in the state capitol. We are truly set up for a stellar 2019!

So far in 2019 we have already began meeting with Georgia’s House and Senate leadership and the Georgia Department of Community Health (GCH). We are seeking to further increase the RN and LPN rates under the GAPP program and gain enhancements for PDN waivers for the adult population under the New Options Waiver (NOW), Comprehensive Supports Waiver (COMP) and Independent Care Waiver (ICWP) programs. We will be seeking even further involvement from our GA advocates, and I am excited to see what we can accomplish together!

Meetings are already underway for 2019: I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together for GA!

It was a true honor to work along side of you all, and I’m looking forward to working with you as we continue to raise awareness for our state’s most vulnerable children and adults. Thank you to the many advocates that made 2018 a success, and that will help pave the way for more successes in South Carolina in 2019 and beyond!

ADVOCATE OPINION: The Impact of Home Health Care in my Life

UPDATE, January 11, 2019: After advocate Dimpal Patel sent her opinion piece to her local paper–the Gaston Gazette–they sent out a reporter who profiled Dimpal and the impact her home care services have had on her in greater detail! Great work advocating Dimpal!

BAYADA Home Health Care client and Hearts for Home Care advocate Dimpal Patel shares her view on home health care in an opinion submitted to her local newspaper.

Home care advocate Dimpal and her BAYADA nurse, Chastity.

I might sound like your typical local 23-year-old: I recently graduated from UNC Charlotte with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. I absolutely loved living independently on campus, and I love to play games and watch movies. But I am very different from most 23-year-olds you know because I rely on a trach and ventilator in order to survive, and it’s because of my home care nurses that I am able to grow and thrive independently.

My two BAYADA Home Health Care nurses—Chastity and Toni—have been with me for nine and six years each. They are like family to me, and they really are lifesavers. Without them, my parents would not be able to work and keep me at home, and I certainly would not have been able to experience college life. Chastity and Toni not only provide me with the skilled services that I need to survive, but they really are like best friends to me. I can’t imagine what my life would be without them—not only would it be without my two friends, but I’d likely be stuck in the hospital, a nursing home, or rely on my mom or dad to quit their job to take care of me.

My worst fear is that lawmakers cut Medicaid funding like they tried to do in Washington last year. If this happened, not only would I likely lose my nurses, but I’d be at risk of having to move into a nursing home. As someone who has experienced living independently and how it has allowed me to earn a degree and contribute to society, I ask that our state and federal legislators be mindful of what funding and service cuts can mean—not only to the state’s financially needy or to the elderly—but to 23-year-olds like me who want to continue living a full life.

-Dimpal Patel, Belmont, NC

Advocacy Win! Home Care Employee Christine Detweiler’s Advocacy Efforts Lead to New SMA Law

Christine’s advocacy efforts led to the ultimate win: a new law that will benefit families!

Rep. Marguerite Quinn’s home visit with a five-year old client with SMA led her to introduce a bill about newborn screening for the disease!
Rep. Marguerite Quinn’s home visit with a five-year old client with SMA led her to introduce a bill about newborn screening for the disease!

Pennsylvania Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Christine Detweiler has always been a diligent advocate, but recently, her efforts have proven that home care employees can truly go beyond the call of duty for clients and staff by serving as their voices in our state capitals.

“Home care is important to so many Pennsylvanians, and many aren’t as readily able to meet with legislators to share their stories,” said Christine. “I see advocacy as an extension of why I do what I do as a home care employee: We need to make sure we get out there to be a voice for those who don’t have one!”

Christine has been progressively adding more interactions to her advocacy portfolio—Over the past year-and-a-half she focused on meeting legislators in their district offices, and in the past few months she has hosted multiple home visits. Home visits are the most impactful way to demonstrate the importance of home care to legislators because it gives them a chance to see firsthand how clients receive services. To say Christine’s home visit resonated with Pennsylvania state Representative Marguerite Quinn is an understatement.

A few months ago, Christine led the representative on a home visit with five-year old client Gideon M. who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). His mother shared their heartwarming story and opened up about their family’s challenges and Gideon’s ever-growing needs. Her story impacted the representative so deeply that shortly after the visit, Rep. Quinn emailed Christine to further assess the family’s needs and determine how she could help them obtain a transportation cart that would make Gideon’s care easier. The outreach didn’t stop there.

Rep. Quinn recently reported to Christine that she has arranged for a builder to come into the family’s home to build custom doors to create a private area for Gideon downstairs. She also reported that she contacted a rotary to find out if the family can be provided with a generator so that they do not need to constantly worry about their home’s power going out. It is truly remarkable how Christine’s efforts have impacted her client and his care.

In addition to her efforts for Gideon’s family, Rep. Quinn introduced a bill that would add SMA screening to the newborn screening list to help diagnose this disease before a child is even born. After introducing this legislation, Rep. Quinn encouraged the state Newborn Screening Advisory Board to support the measure. As a result of her continued efforts, this past month Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed the recommendation.

The Hearts for Home Care Team can’t be prouder of the impact that Christine has made! Her passion and tenacity has reached the hearts of many legislators, and she is truly making a name for herself in Harrisburg as a tireless advocate!

A special thanks to Rep. Quinn for her work to get this law on the books on behalf of all of Pennsylvania’s future families. Click here to read the opinion piece that Gideon’s mom, Ruth M., authored, and The Intelligencer published!

To learn more about how your office can host a home visit, or ways you can get involved with advocacy on behalf of all home care staff and clients, email advocacy@bayada.com today.

Pictured: Christine Detweiler (left) poses with fellow home care advocates and state Representative Craig Staats during The Pennsylvania Home Care Association’s Advocacy Day
Pictured: Christine Detweiler (left) poses with fellow home care advocates and state Representative Craig Staats during The Pennsylvania Home Care Association’s Advocacy Day

Combatting the In-Home Caregiver Crisis: What Can We Do?

North Carolina family meets with their state legislator to discuss the importance of home care in their lives.
North Carolina family meets with their state legislator to discuss the importance of home care in their lives.

Whether you worry about your aging parents’ ability to remember to take their medication on time or you have a medically-complex child that requires 24-7 skilled nursing care, families that rely on home care across the country are feeling the squeeze: There just aren’t enough quality in-home caregivers, and it is quickly becoming a crisis. While more of the general public is beginning to understand the negative impact this is having on our communities, there is much more to be done to mitigate the impending consequences. Together, we can advocate to combat this looming access-to-care crisis.

We’ve read the articles and we know the facts. Home care is the most cost-effective and patient-preferred healthcare setting for individuals and families who want to remain at home. This is true for older Americans who wish to age in place to parents who believe their child should live at home and not be raised in costly institutional settings. Moreover, demand for in-home caregivers will be continue to increase as baby boomers age and better treatments for chronic illnesses and disabilities continue to become more widely available.

If home health care is in high demand, why are we still facing a shortage of available workers? Home care providers struggle to recruit and retain enough quality caregivers to keep up with the growing demand. Because many insurance companies still do not cover in-home healthcare services, many home care providers rely on government reimbursement rates to cover provided services. That is: When a patient is prescribed and authorized for in-home care, the state reimburses the home care provider for delivering that service. The provider relies on that reimbursement rate to not only pay the direct care worker’s wages, benefits, supplies, and training, but also to cover wages and costs for the workers needed to coordinate and supervise in-home staff.

While rates vary widely depending on the service and the state the care is delivered in, there is a dominant trend that contributes to providers’ inability to keep up with demand: State governments’ reimbursement rates are too low to attract and retain the proper, high-quality workforce necessary to deliver this care. And there are several competitors at play: Hospitals and other institutional settings like nursing homes are able to pay workers more because one caregiver can deliver multiple services to multiple people during one shift, so institutions are able to rely on multiple reimbursements to cover employee wages and costs. Additionally, the home care industry faces competition from non-healthcare industries like fast food companies and retailers, which can often pay workers at competitive rates and offer more consistent schedules and other benefits.

While home health care offers one-on-one care to vulnerable individuals at a lower cost, these reimbursement rates have stagnated and fallen past the cost-of-living across many states. Some states, have not addressed reimbursement rates for decades, putting home care providers at even more of a disadvantage when competing for labor. For example, California has not increased its reimbursement rate for Medicaid home nursing services for nearly two decades. Even the most compassionate home care workers  who enjoy the personalized nature of home care are leaving the industry for better-paying jobs in neighboring states and in other settings and industries.

Who can resolve this issue? By and large, state governments are responsible for making decisions that affect home care, including reviewing reimbursement rates and adjusting them so that home health care providers can attract the workforce necessary to keep vulnerable state populations at home. While the rates vary in each state, one thing is consistent across state lines: legislators, who are responsible for making these decisions, are under great pressure to keep state budgets in line while making the necessary expenditures to all of the departments, industries, and populations that need the government’s financial support. All too often, other industries’ voices are heard louder, and home health care continues to fall by the wayside.

Is there any good news? Yes: People are beginning to see the problem. Public awareness of the importance of home care and of the impending access-to-care crisis is becoming more widespread. People care about the issue now more than ever before, and people across the country are beginning to realize that, even if it doesn’t affect them now, home care will impact their lives in the future.

Reports, studies, and articles have made information about the home care industry and the widening labor gap more available. Mercer Health Provider Advisory recently created an interactive map that visually depicts the deficit of home health aides and other healthcare workers in specific states and across the US through 2024. Articles have come out in the Washington PostBoston Globe,  Baltimore Sun, and in local news outlets in South Carolina and Rhode Island, among other states.

And the other good news is evident to many: Home care is simply the right choice. Many legislators are aware of home care’s cost-saving potential, especially as home care keeps people out of costlier institutional settings and prevents ER stays and hospital admissions. And while they may understand the advantages that home care offers families in general, not all legislators realize the impact home care has on the families that they directly represent as public officials.

Public awareness isn’t enough. Action is necessary. Studies, reports, articles, and direct lobbying efforts from home care providers and state and federal associations and partnerships have raised the public’s and legislators’ awareness of home care as a service. However, lawmakers’ awareness of home care issues have not yet spurred them into taking action to address stagnating reimbursement rates and providers’ inability to compete for a fair share of the labor market. We must leverage our collective voices by truly showing legislators what home care is, how it impacts us, and what happens if families can’t access care. Legislators must change laws and policies to reprioritize home health care for their constituents.

What can you do? Join the movement. As individuals, we are responsible for telling our elected officials what is important to us and what those we elect to office should prioritize and champion. Advocating for home care is easy: Call your state and federal representatives and senators to request a meeting to discuss home care, or even simply send a letter, an email, or even a Facebook message or Tweet to let them know about what home care means to you. The Hearts for Home Care platform was specifically created to help members of the home care community learn about opportunities to get involved in home care advocacy. There are plenty of ways big and small to get involved, the most important thing is that we share our voices with one unified message: Home care is important to me, and it should be important to you too.

To learn more about Hearts for Home Care and to register, please visit our website, follow our Facebook and Twitter, or email us at advocacy@bayada.com today.

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.

Advocate Spotlight: Christine Detweiler is a Voice for Her Pediatric Client Gideon

From home visit to house bill: Christine’s advocacy efforts lead to a bill introduction!

Pictured: Christine Detweiler (left) poses with fellow home care advocates and state Representative Craig Staats during The Pennsylvania Home Care Association’s Advocacy Day
Pictured: Christine Detweiler (left) poses with fellow home care advocates and state Representative Craig Staats during The Pennsylvania Home Care Association’s Advocacy Day

Pennsylvania Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Christine Detweiler has always been a diligent advocate, but recently, her efforts have proven that home care employees can truly go beyond the call of duty for clients and staff by serving as their voices in our state capitals.

“Home care is important to so many Pennsylvanians, and many aren’t as readily able to meet with legislators to share their stories,” said Christine. “I see advocacy as an extension of why I do what I do as a home care employee: We need to make sure we get out there to be a voice for those who don’t have one!”

Christine has been progressively adding more interactions to her advocacy portfolio—Over the past year-and-a-half she focused on meeting legislators in their district offices, and in the past few months she has hosted multiple home visits. Home visits are the most impactful way to demonstrate the importance of home care to legislators because it gives them a chance to see firsthand how clients receive services. To say Christine’s home visit resonated with Pennsylvania state Representative Marguerite Quinn is an understatement.

A few months ago, Christine led the representative on a home visit with five-year old client Gideon M. who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). His mother shared their heartwarming story and opened up about their family’s challenges and Gideon’s ever-growing needs. Her story impacted the representative so deeply that shortly after the visit, Rep. Quinn emailed Christine to further assess the family’s needs and determine how she could help them obtain a transportation cart that would make Gideon’s care easier. The outreach didn’t stop there.

Rep. Quinn recently reported to Christine that she has arranged for a builder to come into the family’s home to build custom doors to create a private area for Gideon downstairs. She also reported that she contacted a rotary to find out if the family can be provided with a generator so that they do not need to constantly worry about their home’s power going out. It is truly remarkable how Christine’s efforts have impacted her client and his care.

In addition to her efforts for Gideon’s family, Rep. Quinn recently introduced a bill that would add SMA screening to the newborn screening list to help diagnose this disease before a child is even born. As of today, the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Bill (HB 2484) has been introduced and placed in the Health Committee for consideration. Representative Quinn reached out to her House colleagues and asked for co-sponsors for the important resolution and to bring awareness to this condition and to assist families across Pennsylvania with early intervention. We are looking forward to this bill passing through committee once legislators are back in Harrisburg.

The Hearts for Home Care Team can’t be prouder of the impact that Christine has made! Her passion and tenacity has reached the hearts of many legislators, and she is truly making a name for herself in Harrisburg as a tireless advocate!

To learn more about how your office can host a home visit, or ways you can get involved with advocacy on behalf of all home care staff and clients, email advocacy@bayada.com today.

Rep. Marguerite Quinn’s home visit with a five-year old client with SMA led her to introduce a bill about newborn screening for the disease!
Rep. Marguerite Quinn’s home visit with a five-year old client with SMA led her to introduce a bill about newborn screening for the disease!

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.

Advocate Spotlight: Mark Steidl acts as a voice for those without one–through his Dynavox communication device

Relying on a communication device to speak does not stop Mark from being a fierce advocate for disability rights and for the many individuals across the US that, like him, rely on in-home caregivers.

Pictured: Disability rights advocate Mark Steidl (center) joins the Pennsylvania Homecare Association's Advocacy Day in Harrisburg to tell legislators about what home care means to him. He is pictured here with BAYADA Home Health Care Associate Kimberly Gardner (left) and CEO David Baiada (right).
Pictured: Disability rights advocate Mark Steidl (center) joins the Pennsylvania Homecare Association’s Advocacy Day in Harrisburg to tell legislators about what home care means to him. He is pictured here with BAYADA Home Health Care Associate Kimberly Gardner (left) and CEO David Baiada (right).

 

On May 22, Mark Steidl and his mother Tina joined hundreds of Hearts for Home Care advocates in Harrisburg, PA to express to legislators the importance of home care and of its impact on the thousands of Pennsylvanians that are able to remain safely at home with their families due to in-home services.

Harrisburg isn’t Mark’s first time joining with others to advocate for better policies. In addition to his participation in the Pennsylvania Homecare Association’s (PHA) Advocacy Day, Mark currently actively advocates on behalf of the National Council on Independent Living and the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s “21 and Able project.

Not only is Mark an advocate, but his goal is to complete his Associate’s Degree in Social Work coursework, go on to obtain his bachelor’s degree, and eventually serve in a case management position so that he can continue to help others with disabilities. Mark, who is 23 and diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, uses a Dynavox to communicate. Mark operates the device by using the switches that are affixed to his wheelchair at either side of his head. The Dynavox allows Mark to type out what he wants to say, and then the device’s speakers enable Mark to communicate out loud.

During their time in the state capitol, Mark and his mother met with Senator Jay Costa, Representative Paul Costa, and Representative Ed Gainey, who represents Mark’s district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. To prepare for the day, Mark used his Dynavox to create a message that he would share with each legislator. Mark found it important to not only advocate for himself, but for his caregivers. In addition to advocating for three key issues that PHA outlined as legislative priorities for the home care industry in Pennsylvania, Mark’s speech included the following:

At home and in the community, I have personal care assistants who help me with various physical things. These assistants are very important to me, as they are to any person who needs one-on-one help, whether people with disability or older people. These aides enable us to live at home and avoid having to go to nursing homes.

“I am advocating today on behalf of home care providers who make it possible for us to have high-quality homecare services… When I think of my priorities as an individual with a disability, my first priority is my health and how it affects my life. But helping people maintain good health should also a priority for society.

I am pleased to be here today because you make decisions that affect people with disabilities and older adults. You have the power to create positive change and to enable people to live good lives!”

When Hearts for Home Care asked Mark to tell us why he advocates, Mark used his Dynavox to tell us:

“I consider myself an advocate for myself and for other people with disabilities. My disability is visible, and many people are likely to underestimate me and not see the person that I am. I have to challenge society’s perception each and every day.

I have to tell people when I first meet them why I use a wheelchair and communication device to talk. I have to explain cerebral palsy. People often wonder how I do school work without the use of my hands, so I have to explain that also.

All of us with disabilities have abilities and accomplishments, but we have to advocate for ourselves in order to create our place in the world.

The efforts of many dynamic leaders, innovators and activists affect our lives every day. The things I do every day would have been impossible 30 or 40 years ago. Before the changes in education laws that occurred in the 1970s, I would have been considered too disabled to attend public school, let alone Community College of Allegheny County. Thirty years ago – before the advent of electronic communication devices, I would not have been able to communicate with you. If I had been born in 1965 instead of 1995, my parents might have been told to send me to an institution instead of raising me at home with all the support I need. Times have really changed. Advocacy and new ways of thinking have created those changes.

But much more needs to be done and much more can be done. We have to keep advocating for the changes and the opportunities we want.”

Mark is an inspiration to many of his peers, and to many who understand the importance of sharing their voice on behalf of others. For ways you can advocate for yourself, your loved ones, and your community at-large, please email advocacy@bayada.com