Pennsylvania Home Care Recipients Advocate for Better Access to Home Care

 Pennsylvania ranks seventh in the nation for the percent of its population that is 65 years of age or older1. As Baby Boomers continue to age and the population of older adults needing long-term care increases, the need for caregivers will continue to increase as well. Since COVID shined a light on major drawbacks of congregate living facilities like nursing homes and institutions, it is not just the elderly population that are choosing to be cared for at home. This is great news for the hundreds of thousands of individuals and families who prefer to age at home rather than in a facility. However, it also poses a major problem: there aren’t enough caregivers to take care of the current Pennsylvania population at home let alone the 29% growth that will occur by 2028, leaving a shortage of 73,000 home health aides2. This is due in large part to low state funding for Medicaid programs like Pennsylvania’s Personal Assistance Services (PAS) that cares for medically fragile individuals.

Stephen Hoppy from Luzerne County, PA with his home health aides

This is where our advocates come in. Home care recipients across the Commonwealth have banded together to help alleviate this growing caregiver shortage. Advocates like Stephen Hoppy from Luzerne County, PA are speaking out and helping raise awareness of the inadequate state funding. Stephen is approved for 20 hours per day of care from the PAS program, but since he cannot find enough caregivers to cover all those hours, he has been paying $500 per week out of his own pocket to help secure that coverage. Recently, Stephen was interviewed by FOX56 News about how the caregiver shortage has affected him.

“I am advocating because our healthcare system is compromised. There are plenty of people worse off than me that can’t get home care, which is unacceptable. These home health aides are medical professionals, and they need to be paid for their expertise and knowledge,” says Stephen.

COVID has only exacerbated this issue, with a mass exodus of health care workers no longer willing to risk their lives for a career that yields an average of only $12.40/hour. BAYADA Home Health Care has had to deny 40% of PAS cases in 2020 and 2021 because there were not enough caregivers to staff the cases. Teri Henning, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA), says she’s hearing similar numbers from PAS providers across the board. “They simply cannot compete for the workforce,” she says. “Home health aides can earn more money doing similar work in other state home care programs, or in nursing homes, or even doing less physically- and emotionally-demanding work at Amazon, Target, or in fast food.”

“BAYADA Home Health Care has had to deny 40% of PAS cases in 2020 and 2021 because there were not enough caregivers to staff the cases.”

Pittsburgh resident, Maria Kolat with son Matthew

Home care advocate and mother, Maria, from Pittsburgh has also joined Hearts for Home Care’s advocacy efforts after experiencing these issues firsthand with her 22-year-old son, Matthew, who is developmentally disabled and requires non-stop supervision. Since COVID, their lives have dramatically changed—his schooling, his ability to receive psychological and medical care and—very significantly—his family’s ability to access the home health aide (HHA) care that Matthew needs and is qualified to receive. Maria and Matthew were featured on Pittsburgh’s local KDKA 2CBS station advocating on behalf of home health aides.

“Aides are leaving the caregiving field to work at big retail like Walmart and Amazon—or in fast food,” says Maria. “They can make $15 an hour or more there. When we see a revolving door of aides, Matthew can’t get the one-on-one care he needs, which puts him at risk.”

Home care advocates like Stephen and Maria give life to our advocacy efforts ─ their real-life experiences aren’t just numbers and statistics, but genuine struggles that thousands of Pennsylvanians endure every single day. They help tell the story so that legislators and influencers can fully grasp how their decisions are affecting their constituents and communities.

Home care advocates like Stephen and Maria give life to our advocacy efforts.

At the end of the day, when aides are not being drawn into working in home care, it’s Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents like Matthew and Stephen who suffer. PHA, home care providers, and advocates are asking the State to increase funding for the PAS program. Additional funding would put home care agencies in a better position to recruit and retain more HHAs, and thus ensure that PAS beneficiaries can continue to access the care they need to stay safe and healthy at home.

  1. https://www.leadingagepa.org/Portals/0/154869%20Long%20Term%20Care%20Statistics%20Book%20revised%20final.pdf page 14.
  2. https://mercer.healthcare-workforce.us/ +math

Advocacy Matters!

At Hearts for Home Care, we help those that care about home care by enabling you to get involved at the capacity in which you’re able to do so. Email us at advocacy@bayada.com or follow us on Facebook.com/Hearts4HomeCare in order to learn more about the home care advocacy community and find opportunities to get involved.

Advocacy and Autism Awareness Month Collide

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, Hearts for Home Care is celebrating those living with Autism Spectrum Disorder and raising awareness on the issues they face every day.

26-year-old Grant Williams with father Bob.

Grant Williams is an active and intellectually curious 26-year-old living with autism, cerebral palsy, and was born with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). However, none of those diagnoses slow him down! “Grant isn’t a geriatric—he is energetic and needs to be able to go outside and engage in his environment daily. But he can’t do it alone—his cognitive and communication skills, plus his balance and coordination, prevent him from being fully independent,” Grant’s father, Bob Williams says. That’s where Grant’s home health aides come to his assistance.

Grant is part of the New Jersey Personal Care Assistant (PCA) program – a state-funded program that allows qualifying adults and seniors who may otherwise be relegated to full-time facility care (i.e. nursing home), to remain in their communities as independently as possible with assistance from home health aides (HHAs). This program assists individuals living with physical and developmental disabilities with daily activities like dressing, bathing, walking, and tasks that would otherwise be too difficult or too dangerous for the individual to perform alone. The PCA program has been a lifeline for the William’s family for the past five years and since COVID-19 hit and shut down Grant’s full-day program, care at home became even more vital to their family.

Grant with HHA Grace.

Bob also has his own permanent disability, and Grant’s HHA care was especially critical after Bob’s invasive back surgery all but incapacitated him in December. “Grant is a big guy — he’s about 5’11 and 175 pounds, so I can’t manage him with my own health issues, plus his,” says Bob. However, finding a home health aide for those who are qualified for the PCA program and authorized by their doctors for home health aide care still isn’t easy. Grant has had many aides leave for other industries and settings. Bob has seen a revolving door of aides and understands why it is so difficult for them to stay in the industry, even if they love what they do: “Aides who love their work tend to leave the industry to receive a higher education degree, or to find work in other settings like hospitals or nursing homes. At the end of the day, they can’t make fair wages in the home care field,” says Bob.

Bob has been an avid advocate for Grant throughout his life, ensuring he has the best care and opportunities possible. However, this past year Bob has jumped through hoops to ensure the safety of his son and those taking care of him. When his treasured aide Grace was having difficulty getting to and from Grant’s parents’ homes from her hometown of Camden due to public transportation issues stemming from COVID, Bob took it upon himself to drive Grace to and from her shifts. Now, Grace, like many of Grant’s former aides, has been reassigned to a new client closer to her home.

“It’s a revolving door of aides—and Grant’s ability to continue to learn and habilitate is affected. The workforce is thinning out—and COVID is making it more difficult for people to enter the home healthcare industry because of the dangers of the virus and the unsustainability of low wages in the field.”

Grant and Bob were recently featured in a Scripps Network piece highlighting these exact issues that have plagued state-funded home health programs for years and have only been exacerbated due to COVID-19.

Scripps Network piece shedding light on the demand for home health aides across the country ─ featuring Bob and Grant Williams.

Bob continues to go above and beyond to advocate for his son in hopes that New Jersey’s governor and legislature will consider expanding access to home health care and services designed specifically for autistic and other developmentally delayed individuals. The state’s PCA program and many other home and community-based services (HCBS) are fully funded by the state. And—as the state population continues to age and as more individuals and the government see the health, safety, and cost-savings benefits of home care—it is important for state governments to ensure that the workforce is sufficient to allow residents and their families the care they need to stay safe in their homes, and as independent as possible within their communities.

Advocacy Matters!

At Hearts for Home Care, we help those that care about home care by enabling you to get involved at the capacity in which you’re able to do so. Email us at advocacy@bayada.com or follow us on Facebook.com/Hearts4HomeCare in order to learn more about the home care advocacy community and find opportunities to get involved.