Advocacy became part of the culture at BAYADA Home Health Care a little over 10 years ago out of a need for a collective voice to speak on behalf of our clients, families, and field staff who are impacted every day by home care. As Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro, likes to say, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And that’s what we did. We banded together a voluntary group of advocates within the company with the single purpose of acting as a voice for those in the home care community that may not have had the opportunity otherwise ─ they are our Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors.
Our ambassadors serve as the liaison between the Hearts for Home Care advocacy team and their co-workers and home care community. Their primary responsibility is to develop and foster relationships with their direct-constituent legislators to spread awareness and advocate for better wages for field staff, more approved hours for clients, and the overall governmental investment in the home care industry. Year after year, our ambassadors go above and beyond to ensure legislators are aware of the crucial importance of home care for so many families across the country.
A few weeks ago, Hearts for Home Care presented the 2019 National Ambassador of the Year award to Shelby Myers for her role as a dedicated, passionate, and influential ambassador. As an ambassador in New Jersey, Shelby’s advocacy efforts were abundant ─ She developed her own platform to share client and employee stories through a podcast, Clayton’s Voice, she arranged home visits in which she invited legislators into the home of a client to showcase the everyday process of care, she arranged legislative roundtables with office staff and key decision makers, and she also met with many legislators individually advocating on her own. For these reasons and many more, Shelby was the clear choice as the 2019 honoree.
“This award is truly a culmination of efforts by so many individuals. Although I humbly accept it, by no means am I the primary recipient – that honor should be given to the families I was privileged to represent. Their powerful and sometimes heartbreaking stories, were the driving force behind legislation in New Jersey. I have no doubt that their voices were echoed in the ears of our lawmakers as they were voting on important home care legislation. Our role as ambassadors is essential to the well-being of our clients, families, and the compassionate field staff that takes care of them. Hearts for Home Care offers something that many of them have lost – hope. H4HC shifts the impossibility of their situation to a probability of hopeful change. Not only can we evoke change legislatively, but we empower families by showing how even the smallest of voices can create the largest of changes ─ I truly held this privilege in the highest regard. As Emerson so eloquently expressed in his description of success, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” I feel enormously blessed and grateful for every family I met, every story I heard, and every hand I held this past year. Additionally, I want to thank all of the BAYADA employees who gave me the opportunity to meet their clients and families, to the Hearts for Home Care team for the advocacy experiences you foster to elicit change, and to all of my mentors – thank you for changing my life.”
On March 6, 24 energetic BAYADA employees and one BAYADA Assistive Care State Programs (ACSP) client gathered in South Carolina’s state capitol for a day of meaningful and heartfelt advocacy. The South Carolina Home Care and Hospice Association (SCHCHA) hosted its second annual Legislative Advocacy Day, and this year, a record-breaking total of nearly 60 advocates attended!
BAYADA’s advocates joined other attendees and walked the halls with a clear message: Investing in our Nursing Medicaid Waiver programs will save the state money and keep our medically fragile children, disabled adults, and seniors home with their loved ones and out of higher cost facilities. We care about home care, and so should you!
With their passionate message in hand, advocates spoke with over 50 legislators about the importance of home care. This year we were able to speak to all key lawmakers in both the House and Senate to ensure our message was heard by as many ears–and the right ears–as possible.
“Advocacy can’t be effective with only one person working towards a goal–one voice can only go so far! That’s why I am so proud to work in South Carolina, where so many of our office employees, field employees, and clients recognize the importance of sharing their voices too. The more impassioned people we have involved, the more of a difference we can make on behalf of all South Carolinians that rely on home care,” said GAO director Melissa Allman.
BAYADA employees were excited and inspired by the impact they made that day. Thank you to the many participants for the difference you make on behalf of all South Carolinians that rely on home care to stay independent in their communities!
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 email@example.com to find out how you can get involved in advocacy today!
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
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
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
Lili and Emma Welcome Advocacy into Their Home
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Together, we can
share our voices to make 2019 the best year for home care yet.
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!
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.
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
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
By: Melissa Allman, GAO Director for South Carolina and Georgia
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!
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
Christine’s advocacy efforts led to the ultimate win: a new law that will benefit families!
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!
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 Post, Boston 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.
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:
Like and follow them on social media (the links are right on the page!)
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.