Better Speech and Hearing Month: Using Communication Devices to Advocate

May is Better Speech and Hearing month and we would like to celebrate how our Hearts for Home Care advocates, Mark Steidl and Ari Anderson have never let their diagnoses stand in the way of making their voices heard. They are an inspiration to so many of their peers and fellow advocates ─ stopping at nothing to help and improve the lives of medically complex individuals who rely on home care to keep them cared for and safe.

Mark Steidl, from Pittsburgh, PA, doesn’t let communication challenges stop him from sharing his story with legislators. Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, he uses a Dynavox communication device to educate lawmakers on the importance of home care and the impact his home health aides and nurses have had on him. 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.

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 Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Kimberly Gardner (left) and CEO David Baiada (right).

Mark and his mother travel to the state capitol in Harrisburg, and to Washington, D.C. at least once a year to take part in Hearts for Home Care lobby days — days in which dozens of advocates gather to make meetings with legislators that will be voting on home care-specific legislation.

In a conversation with Mark about his advocacy work, he said, “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.”

Ari Anderson, from Charlotte NC, truly understands the importance his home care nurses have had on his life, and because of this, dedicates his life to advocating for them and the other individuals who benefit from their care: My nurses have provided me with life-sustaining care,” he says. Most die from [Spinal muscular atrophy] SMA type 1 by age 2.Ari was diagnosed with SMA Type I at 6 months of age. 38 years later, thanks to his dedicated nurses, new technologies, and medical therapies he is living his life healthy and independently at home.

With the help of his communication device, Ari has become a passionate advocate, inspiring all who meet him. His team of highly skilled nurses has also enabled him to graduate from high school, receive his bachelor’s degree, and earn a master’s certificate in technical writing. He now authors a column for SMA News Today and dedicates much of his time to advocating for home care and educating the public on its value. Most recently, using his communication device and eye-gazing technology, Ari brilliantly crafted a video he uses to educate North Carolina legislators about the impact of home nursing.

For Ari, skilled home care nursing has long-been a lifeline that has allowed him to grow up and thrive despite his prognosis. Most importantly, it has enabled him to be where he wants to be: at home.

Both Mark and Ari rely on skilled in-home caregivers to remain safe and cared for surrounded by their families at home. Like Mark says, the American healthcare system has changed and high-quality care at home is becoming the new norm as families and their loved ones choose home care over long-term care and nursing facilities. Lower costs of care and preventable hospitalizations are just two of the many reasons that home nursing care is optimal for the state and its residents.

However, skilled home nursing programs are state funded by Medicaid and the reimbursement rates given to providers are not enough to keep up with the competitive wages hospitals and long-term care facilities are able to offer. Without competitive wages, providers are struggling to attract qualified nurses to the industry, thus leaving medically complex individuals like Mark and Ari at risk without care. Our advocates are urging state legislators to invest in home care and raise reimbursement rates ─ as the future of our healthcare system is in the home.

Mark and Ari are super-advocates who are inspiring those around them to make their voices heard.  For ways you can advocate for yourself, your loved ones, and your community at-large, please email advocacy@bayada.com

Celebrating and Recognizing Individuals with CP, TBI, & MS

March is National Cerebral Palsy (CP), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness month ─ Hearts for Home Care celebrates, educates, and spreads awareness about how home care benefits those diagnosed with these disabilities! To honor our advocates who share their voices on behalf of the many others living with these three diagnoses, Hearts for Home Care is rounding out March with a spotlight on five clients with CP, TBI, or MS.

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month: Client Spotlights

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability in a child. CP is a number of disorders of the developing brain that affects body movement, posture, and muscle coordination ─ 1 in 323 children have CP. However, because of home care, those affected are able to thrive at home independently with the help of their dedicated caregivers.

Haley painting with her long-time nurse, Jen Saulsbury.

Haley Shiber is a 23-year-old artist, storyteller and advocate who lives with a form of Cerebral Palsy. Haley is wheelchair-bound and has used a communication device to speak since she was only a year old. However, her diagnosis has not held back her passion for advocacy! Haley worked with Delaware legislators throughout her young life to ensure that individuals with disabilities are empowered to live full and happy lives. Through Delaware’s Private Duty Nursing (PDN) program, Haley receives life-sustaining care from qualified nurses and home health aides that allow her to pursue her many passions including socializing with family and friends, gardening, reading the classics, riding her adaptive bicycle, and creating art.

Fun fact about Jenna: She loves The Wiggles, all kinds of Disney music, and the mall! She also eats mashed potatoes and gravy just about every day!

Jenna Owen just turned 20 this past Friday, March 26! Happy Birthday Jenna! Jenna was born a twin with her sister Jade at only 28 weeks old, but sadly, Jade passed away in 2018. Jenna was diagnosed with Soto’s Syndrome and CP at a young age, so she is wheelchair-bound and relies on a speaking machine to communicate. She receives vital, in-home care from dedicated and qualified caregivers who allow her the independence and freedom to thrive at home. Jenna’s mother Phyleischa, is an avid supporter and advocate of home care. Most recently, Phyleischa sent a letter to Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis advocating for higher reimbursement rates for home care nurses as staffing shortages have become a serious and ongoing issue.

Davis with his dedicated nurse and the 2017 LPN National Hero, Debbra.

Davis is 27 years old and suffers from CP. He requires high-level of nursing care from a team of caregivers to keep him safe, comfortable, and thriving at-home. Due to Davis’s condition, he receives his medication and nutrition through a feeding tube and his nurses also must monitor his airway and medications. However, because of his dedicated nurses like Debbra, Davis still enjoys life surrounded by family and friends and watching his favorite TV shows! Davis’s dad, John: “I am grateful for the nursing services that BAYADA provides. The level of personal care Davis receives from the nurses is critical to his overall well-being. I can’t thank them enough.”

Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month: Client Spotlight

The CDC estimates over 1.7 million Americans suffer from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) each year. About 80% are released from the hospital and go on to live mostly normal lives. But many suffer challenges for years to come and need care at-home to remain independent.

In June 2016, 22-year-old Matt Mayer suffered a tragic automobile accident, resulting in a Traumatic Brain Injury. After several months in various hospitals and over two years spent in a rehabilitation center, Matt was reunited with his family full-time in 2019. Due to the severity of Matt’s condition, he now requires a trach, feeding tube, and full team of specialized daytime and nighttime nurses in order to safely go about his daily life. As a result of Matt’s accident, he has been nonverbal and without most purposeful functions in each of his limbs for over 4 years.

Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month: Client Spotlight

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body ─ and leads to symptoms such as numbness and tingling, muscle spasms, walking difficulties, and pain. MS is estimated to affect about one million people in the U.S. 

John Williams is 76 years young and a military veteran. He served in Vietnam twice as Airborne in the 82nd Division ─ once from the draft and a second time as a volunteer. After retiring from 22 years of military service, he became a police officer and served his community for another 22 years. John was diagnosed with MS at 60 years of age, has dementia, and is now wheelchair-bound. However, he still living life to the fullest thanks to his compassionate home caregivers who help him live independently in the comfort of his home! John says he would do it all over again for his family and country.

John’s daughter Molly: “For my family, home care is very important. My dad has MS and dementia, but still wants to stay very independent. I live in Maryland and he lives in South Carolina, so home care gives us me the peace of mind that he is taken care of and can continue living his life with freedom. I’m very thankful for BAYADA and for his dedicated caregiver Arshala.”

Hearts for Home Care is a community of advocates that seek to share their voices and experiences to bring greater awareness of home care’s importance and impact on individuals with limitations and disabilities. Caregivers, family members, and individuals who are interested in advocating can contact us at advocacy@bayada.com.

Together, we can leverage our voices to tell state and federal decision-makers, “I care about home care, and you should too.”

Expanding Our Reach Through A NC Home Visit

Submitted by Lee Dobson, Area Director, NC Government Affairs (GAO)

When freshman NC Representative Andy Dulin expressed an interest in home health care, Charlotte Personal Care (CPC) Hearts for Home Care Ambassador and Client Service Manager Shayla Jemmott, and Clinical Manager Deborah Batts jumped into action. They hosted a home visit with CJ, a 24-year old young man with cerebral palsy, and his family. CJ’s mom explained how the three hours per day of certified nursing assistant services allows her to work and gives them a sense of peace knowing CJ is happy and healthy. Rep. Dulin asked great questions and was surprised to learn that the aide rate, at $13.88, is only $0.44 cents higher than back in 2001. He indicated he is willing to help us garner support for the increase.

""
Representative Dulin with CJ