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 Home.
Congratulations 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 the question:
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org for information on what you can do to share your voice and support home health aides.
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.
Submitted by Lee Dobson, Area Director, NC Government Affairs (GAO)
Legislative successes, like the Medicaid rate increase for nursing last year and the home health aide increase this year, don’t magically happen. Legislative successes start with an identified need — low Medicaid rates made it impossible to pay people what they are worth — and end with legislators supporting jobs in the community and keeping families together by investing in home health care. Every step along the way, our Hearts for Home Care ambassadors carried our unified message to decision-makers. Our cumulative actions over the years, including home and district visits, legislative round tables with lawmakers, responding to calls to action, attending lobby days, etc., made all the difference. Individually and collectively our shared voices got results. Join us to be a Heart for Home Care ambassador.
Submitted by Tara Montague, Manager, Client and Family Advocacy, NJ (GAO)
Perth Amboy (PER) Client Service Manager Julia Nelson and I had the pleasure of meeting with PER client Joseph P. and his mother Bernadette at their home in Manasquan. We were joined by Assemblyman Edward Thomson and Director of Constituent Services Kerry Textor. As a client in the Personal Care Assistant (PCA) Program, Joe told the Assemblyman how much he loved his home health aide Alice. Bernadette shared that she is an 86 year old mother caring for her 57 year old son who has multiple sclerosis. PCA services are vital to her ability to keep Joe at home as he wishes. Unfortunately, they are not always able to get someone to cover the hours authorized due to the difficulty of recruiting aides in the Monmouth County area. The Assemblyman, who is new to the office, offered to look into what additional services or supports they may be entitled to in order for Joe to remain with his family.
Submitted by Louise Lindenmeier, Director, NJ Government Affairs (GAO)
Governor Chris Christie, signed into law A320/S1080, which sets the Medicaid managed care rate at no lower than the state’s fee for service rate for personal care services. The Governor had conditionally vetoed the original bill in July, adding stipulations in regards to funding, wage mandates, and an effective date. With the new stipulations as law, the Government Affairs Office (GAO) will be working with our lobbyist and bill sponsors to introduce a new bill to restructure the governor’s changes with new language, which we believe will be better for the industry and our home health aides.
Submitted by Louise Lindenmeier, Director, NJ Government Affairs, (GAO)
NJ GAO held its first Advocacy Week, May 1 – 5, as Ambassadors met with 25 legislators. Throughout New Jersey, 67 office employees, two home health aides, and two clients spoke with legislators about the difficulties of attracting and retaining nurses, covering hours for private duty nursing, and the need for higher reimbursement for the Personal Care Assistant program under managed Medicaid. The aides told the legislators how much they love their work but can’t make enough to support their families. The clients spoke about how important their aides are by providing care, and, if not for the aides, they would be in long-term care.
As part of the advocacy week, office staff participated by sending out 408 emails to state legislators regarding the importance of home care. The message asked the legislators to support a reimbursement floor rate in managed Medicaid. Everyone who met with legislators expressed how much they enjoyed the experience and how good it felt to advocate for our clients and families.