Home care industry groups, providers, and advocates across the country recognize the importance that the COVID-19 vaccine has on the home care community. The vaccine will help protect frontline caregivers, their vulnerable clients, and their loved ones from contracting the dangerous virus. But studies show that, currently, caregivers feel that they do not have enough information to make an informed decision about getting vaccinated.
Great news! The Partnership for Medicaid Home-based Care (PMHC)—a Washington, DC-based home care advocacy group—recently launched their “Be Wise, Immunize” website, designed to educate caregivers and the home care community at-large about the vaccine, address questions that have frequently been raised about the vaccine, and help guide individuals who are interested in learning more about the vaccine and signing up to receive their shot.
We need your help to keep our communities safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have received the vaccine and are willing to provide a photo and/or a testimonial about your experience, please contact us today. We would love to feature you to help encourage other caregivers to Be Wise and Immunize!
Whether you are a professional or family caregiver, home care recipient, or otherwise, you know why home care is safer, more patient-preferred, and less costly than institutional care. Home care provides vulnerable seniors and adults with disabilities with one-on-one care that enables them to stay safe and independent in their own communities. While its benefits—and the inherent drawbacks of institutional care—are evident to us, home care is still not widely recognized as a long-term solution. This is because nursing home care is still often seen as the “default” option for those that need consistent care, particularly under Medicaid.
But tables are beginning to turn: As the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the dangers of nursing home care. With recent reports citing that a staggering 40% of COVID-related deaths have occurred in nursing homes, people are more widely recognizing home care as the long-term care setting of the future.
Home care saves state Medicaid programs money and helps vulnerable Americans stay out of costlier and more infectious settings like hospitals and rehab facilities. It enables more than 8.3 million Americans to remain healthy at home, thanks to the 3.2 million compassionate and dedicated frontline direct care workers, including home health aides and personal care assistants, that keep these at-risk populations safe, independent, and out of riskier institutional settings.
In a post-COVID world, home will become recognized much more widely as the care setting of the future. With the US’s aging population growing quickly, and with families’ recently-discovered reservations about placing their loved ones in a long-term care facility, it is important that governments across the country take steps to make sure that the home care industry grows proportionately along with the demand for it. This includes: Increasing state and federal Medicaid rates for home care services so that providers can raise wages and allow more caregivers to be recruited to the home care workforce; Rethinking outdated laws and regulations that allow vulnerable populations to more readily access nursing home care; and instituting built-in protections for Medicaid-based agencies, such as relief funding for extraneous costs that occur during an emergency like COVID-19.
A “Home First” mentality would allow for individuals to stay safe at home and away from group settings that encourage virus spread. Now more than ever, the potential dangers of institutional care are becoming a frightening reality and we as a nation need to consider the future of healthcare as our population continues to age, and as more medically-fragile and disabled individuals are able to live independently. By updating laws to prioritize home care, we have the opportunity to create a meaningful, cost-effective and common-sense change to healthcare for the post-COVID future.
NJ Blog Takeover: Paraplegic Keith Braswell writes about his life with a severe disability – and how working with his aide through NJ’s Personal Care Assistant (PCA) program has helped him to live life on his own terms.
My name is Keith Braswell and a car accident in 2008 forced my entire way of life to change. I was left paraplegic and since then, I have been able to remain a vital, active member of my community thanks to the help of my home health aide, Quisela. As a 46-year-old adult, it can be tough for me to rely on someone else for everything from getting out of bed, bathing, eating laundry etc., but Quisela does everything she can to make sure that I feel safe and comfortable.
While Quisela is very reliable, filling all of my state-approved 40 hours of care without a day off, her choice to stay working as a home health aide is becoming more unrealistic by the day. This is because New Jersey’s Medicaid reimbursement rates under the Personal Care Assistant (PCA) program—the one that I and thousands of others like me rely on—don’t allow for aides to make a fairwage for the compassionate work they do. For example, in Newton, aides make minimum wage to slightly above minimum wage, and can often secure jobs with less required training, stress, and physical requirements at places like Walmart, Home Depot or Dollar General—all of which are located within the municipality or along route 206. This is especially true since NJ raised minimum wage in the beginning of year, while the Medicaid reimbursement rate remained stagnant.
I am beyond appreciative of how important Quisela’s vigilant and caring work is to my life, and I frequently go out of my way to make sure she is paid as much as possible, like booking my recent surgery around her vacation time to make sure that she wouldn’t lose any hourly pay. If I were to ever lose my aide, I would likely be forced into an institution which means losing what remains of my independence along with the quality of one-on-one care that I receive at home.
I humbly ask that the state legislature consider an increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates, so that individuals like myself can continue to choose to live independently at home. Many choices were taken away from me because of my injury, and losing this choice as well would be heartbreaking for myself and for thousands like myself across the state of New Jersey.
-Keith Braswell, Newton
About the NJ Blog Takeover: For the next few weeks, Hearts for Home Care will be featuring posts authored by NJ families affected by the state’s shortage of in-home nurses and home health aides to showcase the need for increased funding for New Jersey’s Private Duty Nursing (PDN) and Personal Care Assistant (PCA) programs. For more information on how you can get involved and let your elected officials know why increased in-home nursing availability is important to you, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When BAYADA Home Health Care client Jim Davies received a notice in the mail last year that his insurance would be transitioning to another agency, he tried not to panic. After all, the letter stated there would be no change, he would still receive coverage for his home health care nursing and personal care home health aide services.
However, Jim was not convinced. The 66-year-old, who
suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of a diving accident 20 years ago, is
nearly paralyzed from the neck down. He relies on his nurses for his complex
medical needs, which include wound care, range of motion exercises, mechanical
transfers to and from bed, medication administration, catheter care, and care
to prevent a serious complication called autonomic dysreflexia, which can lead
to seizures, stroke, or even death.
As a former sheriff and local fire commissioner, Jim is used
to working collaboratively with others to make things happen. That’s why he
immediately called a case manager at the insurance company, who reiterated what
was explained in the letter, his home health care coverage would not change.
to the end of the year when Jim received another letter, this time from the new
insurance company. Despite written and verbal assurance that his coverage would
not change, the new company denied his home health care services, insisting Jim
was stable enough and no longer needed nursing care.
Jim reached out to his BAYADA Mercer County Adults (MCA) office Director Meghan Hansen and Clinical Manager Sharon Wheelock who appealed the decision on his behalf, to no avail. That’s when they turned to BAYADA Government Affairs Area Director Louise Lindenmeier, who suggested Jim reach out to New Jersey Assemblyman Daniel Benson, a member of the state Health and Senior Services Committee.
home visit leads to positive change
called Assemblyman Benson’s office, I wasn’t sure what the response was going
to be, but I was pleasantly surprised,” says Jim. “The assemblyman made me feel
that as his constituent, my problem was a major concern, and he owned it.”
Benson visited Jim and his wife of 40 years Rosemary at their home to witness,
first-hand, the critical role home care nurses play in Jim’s health and
well-being. During the visit, Assemblyman Benson also learned about the
catastrophic medical consequences of stopping Jim’s nursing care and BAYADA’s
unsuccessful efforts to appeal the denial from the insurance company.
Following the visit with Jim, Assemblyman Benson jumped into action. He joined BAYADA Managed Care (MCO) Director Pamela Soni, BAYADA Area Director for Pediatrics Managed Care (MCP) Stephanie Perna, and Louise for a meeting with the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance to discuss Jim’s case. In addition, he personally contacted the insurance company to negotiate the contract, resulting in a reversal of the denial. Thanks to his efforts, the issue was resolved within two weeks.
really important to educate politicians on how insurance changes can impact
their constituents,” says Jim, who encourages others in similar situations to
reach out to legislators who may be more than willing to help. “Assemblyman
Benson should be recognized for his prompt and professional response to my
Benson considered it a privilege to play a role in helping Jim. “It was my
honor to work with Mr. Davies to ensure that he received the care he needs and
deserves,” he says. “As legislators, it is our sworn duty to represent our
constituents, and that means lending our assistance whenever possible, whether
by simply cutting through red tape or elevating a situation to a higher level
so that it is promptly addressed. I would encourage those in need to reach out
to their elected representatives to learn what they can do for them.”
Want to Help Make a Difference: Register
for Hearts for Home Care
Whether you can give a minute, an hour, or a day, there are many ways to get involved in advocacy. It can be as simple as sending a pre-written email to your local legislators, hosting a legislator in your home, or attending an event at a legislator’s office or your state capitol.To learn more, consider becoming a “Heart for Home Care” advocate. It only takes five minutes to register at heartsforhomecare.com. You’ll receive email updates about current issues and opportunities to make your voice heart.
The looming home health care crisis has recently been making headlines. From Home Health Care News to the New York Times, industry leaders, home health aides, clients, and family caregivers have been sharing the same message: As Medicaid rates continue to stagnate, home health aides and nurses can’t make a fair wage. As a result, the industry is facing a worker shortage and clients’ access to care is being significantly threatened across the country. Below, please find links to recent media coverage on the issue, all of which present compelling data that point to an impending home health care crisis for the most vulnerable and medically fragile populations.
This year, BAYADA proudly nominated 41 home health aides for
the Pennsylvania Homecare Association’s
(PHA) annual Direct Care Worker (DCW) of the Year Award. This prestigious
award, cosponsored by the Department of Aging, is meant to recognize the state’s
hardworking home health aides and reward an aide that has gone above and beyond
his or her duties.
On March 27, BAYADA’s nominees joined more than 200 other DCWs
from 50 counties across the state in Harrisburg, where nominees and guests
enjoyed a variety of activities and informational sessions during the Direct Care Worker Forum. PHA hosted a
DCW advocacy station that enabled aides to share their voice with legislators.
Guests also enjoyed recipe samples and learned about new activities to try with
clients. The highlight of the opening events was a Dementia Live simulation,
which gave attendees a walk in the lives of clients suffering from Dementia.
Guests were then invited to sit down for the official Awards
program. Each year, PHA recognizes all nominees for the outstanding work they do keeping thousands of older Pennsylvanians and
those with disabilities at home and in their communities. After all
nominations are received, PHA’s selection committee reviews each nominee and
picks one overall winner. As the ceremony began, PHA CEO Vicki Hoak welcomed the attendees with a thank you message from the
nominators for all the wonderful work they’ve done over the past year. Lisa Story, Founder and Executive
Director from the nonprofit Hope Grows spoke on the importance
of caregivers’ self-care. Finally, Acting Secretary
of Aging Robert Torres announced the winner of the year, El Hassania El Bedraoui from Jevs Care at
to all the direct care workers who were nominated for this year’s award. BAYADA
is proud to be involved with a program that demonstrates the state’s commitment
to elevating the direct care worker profession and spotlighting the value of
serving as a professional caregiver. Thank
you to all our home health aides—your compassion and hard work truly exemplify The BAYADA Way.
As home care clients, employees, caregivers, and family members,
we know one thing for a fact: Home health aides do incredible, compassionate
work that enable hundreds of thousands of residents across the country to stay
at home and out of costlier, more infectious settings like nursing homes and hospitals.
And we certainly know another fact: The
work that aides do is invaluable, and it’s time that they begin to receive a
fair wage for the hard work they do.
Low aide wages have recently made national headlines and the message is clear: We will need more and more home health aides as America’s population continues to age. But home health care providers are having trouble recruiting and retaining the quality, reliable workforce needed to keep up with the growing demand.
Recently, Hearts for Home Care advocate and BAYADA Home Health
Care’s chief government affairs officer, Dave Totaro, submitted his opinion
on the matter to STAT News, a media company focused on finding and telling
compelling stories about health, medicine, and scientific discovery. He posed
“To say that home health aides’ work is demanding is an understatement. They make it possible for 14 million Americans to stay in their homes and out of expensive and impersonal institutional settings like hospitals and nursing homes. Performing this necessary and in-demand work takes a physical and emotional toll, yet these individuals do it with compassion day in and day out.
So why do we treat home health aides as low-wage, low-value workers?”
The problem lies primarily in states’ low Medicaid funding for
home care programs. Though states typically pay an hourly rate for providers
who deliver home health aide services, these rates have largely been low for
many years, or raised periodically, but at a rate too low to keep up with real
costs of living and providing services. Because these rates must cover wages,
training, benefits, new hire costs such as background checks and TB shots, and
supplies, it is nearly impossible for
home health care companies to take such a low rate and provide aides with a wage
high enough to compete with industries like fast food and retail.
News coverage of the issue has been effective in bringing greater public
awareness to the issue, especially as nearly all individuals will be touched by
home care at least once in their lives, whether it be for themselves, a parent,
friend, or other loved one. Now is the time to take awareness and turn it into
action. Call your state legislator and let them know what home care means to
you. Contact email@example.com for
information on what you can do to share your voice and support home health
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.
Each year the PA Department of Aging and the Pennsylvania Homecare Association select one home health aide to be named Pennsylvania’s Direct Care Worker of the Year.
Last year BAYADA nominated 14 Home Health Aides (HHAs) and one of our nominees, Anne Pannone, was selected at PA’s Direct Care Worker of the Year. Since her selection, Anne was awarded a cash prize of $1,000 and has been invited to several statewide events to discuss the meaning of being a HHA and the value it provides to the state.
To help ease our service offices’ workloads, GAO is working with EMP to submit this year’s HHA nominations using information provided through our Hero program. To date, over 15 home health aides have been nominated to be this year’s Direct Care Worker of the Year.
All nominees will be invited to the 2018 Direct Care Worker Forum, which includes a luncheon and half-day training program on March 28. A stipend will be given to all HHAs attending the Forum.
Submitted by Louise Lindenmeier, Director, NJ Government Affairs (GAO)
Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro, State Assistive Care Practice Leader Eric Thul, and Director, Strategy & Value-Based Partnerships Matt Lippitt met with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to discuss the recently signed law which sets a floor for minimum reimbursement under managed Medicaid for Personal Care Assistant Care. Our team explained the challenges under managed Medicaid, how reimbursement is used to support personal care services, and the wage needs of the home health aides. The meeting was very informative for both the Governor and us, and served as an excellent start towards addressing the unintended consequences of the Governor’s conditional veto.