Blog Takeover: My Family Hosted a Legislative Home Visit ─ You Should Too.

My name is Lisa Letterman and my son John was in a severe car accident in 2020, which left him paralyzed from the neck down, unable to walk, talk, or breathe on his own. As he was preparing to be discharged from the hospital, I unfortunately was not aware of any other long-term care option other than a nursing facility, so I made the difficult decision to send him to a facility in Virginia. But after a short time, it was clear that John’s health and quality of life were deteriorating, so I started researching other care options until I found home care.

After a long and stressful separation, John was finally able to return home to receive in-home care under North Carolina’s Private Duty Nursing (PDN) services. Since returning home with one-on-one nursing care, his condition has improved immensely. He no longer requires a feeding tube, he is now able to talk on his own and is even slowly making progress in regaining movement. However, there is a new hurdle that we face: trying to find enough nursing coverage for John. There is a critical nursing shortage that leaves families like mine struggling to care for our loved ones on our own, putting us in a constant state of exhaustion and concern when we can’t get coverage. I knew that something must be done to fix this shortage, so I started to advocate.

Our experience with a legislative home visit:

Recently, John and I invited our North Carolina Representative, Dudley Greene into our home (virtually), to show the importance of in-home nursing services and to advocate for better access-to-care. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the virtual visit, but I can tell you it was an incredible experience that I believe other home care families should consider when wanting to advocate and make a difference.

Before the visit, BAYADA client services manager, Rachel Miller, handled the logistics. Once we agreed to opening our home, she handled everything from scheduling, practicing our call, and keeping us updated. When the 30-minute meeting began, it was like Rep. Greene was sitting in our home having a conversation with us. He could see all of John’s machines, medical routine, and he listened to the challenges we face. It was clear by the look on Rep. Greene’s face that he was truly understanding our situation in a way that no letter, email, or phone call could describe. We had his undivided attention for 30 minutes and in that time, we showed him the power of home care. After the visit was over, both John and I were impressed with how easy and rewarding the process was.

Top Left to Right: BAYADA CSM, Rachel Miller; BAYADA Government Affairs Manager, Cai Yoke; BAYADA Director, Kristen Church
Bottom Left to Right: North Carolina State Rep. Dudley Greene, BAYADA client & NC resident, John Letterman during the virtual home visit.

Why I advocate:

I advocate for home care because I can’t image what it would feel like to go through what John, and others like him, have had to experience and not have anyone around to speak up on your behalf.  I have seen John in every stage of his recovery: in the hospital, nursing home and then at home. It is because of PDN that John is thriving and living the quality of life he deserves. I want other families to have access to this same high quality, in-home care, but without better state-funding, that won’t be possible.

John Letterman with BAYADA nurse.

Why YOU should participate in a home visit:

Legislators like Rep. Greene determine the budget and funding for these types of programs, so we must do our part to educate them as best we can. I believe that legislators want to make a difference in their communities and help their constituents, but most are not aware these issues even exist. The more that decision-makers understand of the benefits of in-home care, the more advocates we have supporting our cause. Whether it’s a virtual or in-person home visit, these types of interactions with legislators give them a glimpse inside our challenging environment and help them understand the importance of in-home care ─ something that an email, letter, or phone call could never convey.

Advocacy Matters!

Despite the fact that many people in government and regulatory positions agree that home health care is a cost-effective, patient-preferred solution, it continues to be prioritized below institutional care. Not investing in home care will decrease the supply of qualified workers, increase turnover, and compromise the quality of home care services. 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 visit our website  in order to learn more about the home care advocacy community and find opportunities to get involved.

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.

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.”

Advocacy in Delaware: Super-mom Kateri Morton Advocates on ABC and in Dover

Mom Kateri Morton (right) was featured on ABC-47 with son Joey (left) to advocate for increased funding for DE’s PDN program

Hearts for Home Care super-advocate and super-mom Kateri Morton was recently featured on ABC-47 alongside her 8-year-old son Joey and his long-time nurse Diane to advocate for better state Medicaid reimbursement rates. To date, Delaware has not raised reimbursement rates for the state’s private duty nursing (PDN) program in 16 years. As funding for this important program falls behind rising costs of living and providing healthcare services, it’s families like Kateri’s that ultimately suffer.

“Most of our nurses have either left or stopped working in that area because of their own health factors. Or they had to go to different jobs for employment,” says Kateri. Home care agencies rely on the state’s reimbursement rate to provide nurses’ wages, supplies, training, and benefits. The 16-year stagnation has driven nurses to seek employment in hospitals and other facilities that can afford to pay nurses more in wages. As agencies struggle to recruit and retain enough caregivers, families experience more unfilled nursing shifts, sleepless nights, and struggles maintaining employment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue, as staffing issues have limited nurses’ ability to care for high-risk clients and as precious personal protective equipment (PPE) has raised providers’ everyday costs. Nurse Diane says, “We’re struggling. We can’t retain our nurses, and with COVID going on, more and more families are being touched by home care nursing.”

One of the most compelling aspects of the reimbursement rate issue in Delaware and across the US is that increasing families’ access to home care would save state Medicaid programs significant funding dollars that currently go toward care that residents receive in ERs, hospitals, and other facilities.

The key to getting this issue on the top of legislators’ minds is to increase the number of affected family members who speak out and advocate on behalf of themselves and their children. Kateri’s network of DE moms and other guardians have shared their unique stories and struggles with one another, and with Delaware’s decision-makers. Recently, Kateri secured meetings with Delaware’s Medical Advisory Committee and the Department of Health and Social Services. “Advocating for Joey has empowered me. Without nursing, I can’t provide financially, physically, and emotionally to my fullest,” says Kateri. “As mothers of medically fragile children… when there is an opportunity to show an elected official how important this care is, that story paints a picture that a million facts and statistics cannot.”

Kateri recently created a Facebook group for DE families interested in advocacy. Check out her group and Hearts for Home Care to join others in advocacy opportunities today!

In New Hampshire, Home Care Advocacy Brings Results

BAYADA Home Health Care’s pediatric client G (Gina) with her her nurse Laura.

While much of the home health care community continued to reel from the onslaught of challenges faced from the COVID-19 pandemic, Hearts for Home Care advocate and BAYADA Home Health Care office director Cathy Slack has remained focused on the many positives. Namely, throughout the pandemic, she witnessed many caregivers, office staff, clients, and families advocate for better access to care, and also witnessed the state government’s response to hearing these voices.

One of the major wins that New Hampshire’s home care community saw as a result of their continued advocacy was the development of the Long-Term Care Stabilization Stipend Program (LTCSS), which served to borrow money from the state’s General Fund in order to offer stipends to essential healthcare staff to continue to work throughout the pandemic.

The state’s actions created an incredible domino effect that kept the positive changes coming. In Cathy’s office, coverage hours and the number of employed nurses both increased as RNs and LPNs transferred their passion for caregiving from their usual settings to the home care community. One such example is former full-time school nurse Laura Walker, who came to home care full-time after COVID suddenly halted normal school activity. Her transition was an immense positive for both Laura and her pediatric client, G, and G’s family. Laura’s care enabled them to feel security and peace-of-mind as G’s medical and academic routine suddenly flipped without warning.

“One day my medically fragile, intellectually disabled child went to school every day from 8 am to 3 pm where she was cared for by a nursing team and then came home to nursing services from the time she got off the bus until she went to bed. G’s school transferred to remote learning seamlessly, but how would my daughter respond to this new way of learning?” said G’s mom Michele. “My biggest concerns were: would she remain engaged without the school nurse keeping her safe, and how would she remain healthy at home with this gap in medical services? This is where Laura stepped up and went above and beyond.”

“These nurses put their own safety on the line to not stay home every day but to come out and care for our child. The stipend they earned through the state’s program was well deserved and I am grateful as a parent and a citizen of New Hampshire that the monetary recognition was given,” says Michele.

Michelle’s testimony is one of many that shows how medically-fragile families were given a lifeline through LTCSS during a time of uncertainty. Thank you to the many Hearts for Home Care Advocates, and to the State of New Hampshire, for making this lifeline available to the many residents that need home care to stay safe and healthy at home. To find out more about how Hearts for Home Care operates in New Hampshire or elsewhere, contact us at advocacy@bayada.com.

Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA) Legislative Day Pictures

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

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

CLICK TO SEE PICTURES

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.