Medically Complex and Turning 21: Rhode Island Families Struggle to Access Home Care

Brandon Stone (center, seated) has been able to grow up at home among his parents and siblings due to home care nursing. Turning 21 has threatened his ability to continue with that care.

For most people, turning 21 is a milestone to celebrate. But the State of Rhode Island is putting undue pressure on medically complex Rhode Islanders who are turning 21. For those who receive home care services under Medicaid, such as the Katie Beckett waiver, their medical coverage changes on their 21st birthday, which affects who pays for their services, the types of services available to them, and their state-authorized hours and funding levels. Without proper planning and communication, these changes can result in uncertainly of continuity of care and access to home care services.

For young adults like Zach, Corinna, Brandon, and their families, turning 21 has been a source of significant stress and uncertainty rather than the celebration it deserves to be. Upon “aging out” of Medicaid, they have received word from the state that their care would be changing without much warning. Parents of medically complex individuals tend to be lifelong advocates on behalf of their children, and so all three have been able to retain their services on a month-to-month basis. “This is just a band-aid that covers the issue,” says BAYADA Home Health Care’s Government Affairs Director Ashley Sadlier. “Each month, they don’t know whether that band-aid will stay on or get ripped off. Everyone deserves to stay at home if it’s their wish to do so, and it’s arbitrary that a birthday is basically a penalization in Rhode Island.”

The interesting fact is that the State has already created a policy stating that home care children and their families are to be educated on their options by the age of 17. But Rhode Island has not upheld its end of the bargain: Families find that they receive little to no communication from the State, and that when they reach out to find out their children’s care options, the State is slow to respond and typically unable to provide proactive guidance to help families navigate this change . “Modern medicine and advances in home care have allowed for many children to live past the age of 21. That should be a reason to celebrate, not a reason to cut an individual’s services off suddenly,” says Corinna’s mother Michelle. “Home care saves the state money, and it keeps families together. Why would you put a child in danger when it’s clear that home care has enabled them to live their best life?”

Families, home care providers, and and other organizations across the state are currently working with the State to identify a solution. Without home care, clients stand a greater risk of infection, hospitalization, or even a permanent move to a skilled nursing facility. Parents know that a child doesn’t stop being your child when they reach adulthood, but it’s time that Rhode Island recognize this as well.

South Carolina Families Suffer as Reimbursement Rates Stay Stagnant for Over a Decade

Home care clients like Rashad (right) can stay at home with skilled nursing care, but a lack of state funding is making it more difficult for many South Carolinians
Home care clients like Rashad (right) can stay at home with skilled nursing care, but a lack of state funding is making it more difficult for many South Carolinians

The facts are clear: Home care is less expensive than hospital or other institutional care. Plus, it enables medically complex children and adults to remain at home amongst their loved ones. But because the State of South Carolina has not increased reimbursement rates for skilled nursing home care services since 2008, families are finding it increasingly harder to access the skilled, high quality care that they need to stay as independent as possible in their communities.

State funding for home care has not been increased in more than a decade. At the same time, hospitals and other facilities have been steadily able to increase wages. Even more so, nurses can make more in home care in surrounding states. Now, home care providers find that they can compete for less than a quarter of all the nurses available in South Carolina. When agencies face such recruitment and retention struggles, home care recipients and their families suffer.

When there are less home care nurses available, families find that they experience missed shifts, which can not only create undue stress and chaos as loved ones must miss work, lose out on sleep, and forego other necessary activities—but it also puts the client in danger. For those who need skilled nursing care, missed shifts can mean dangerous consequences, including trips to the ER and unnecessary hospitalizations.

Even more so, many major home care providers have already left South Carolina because of the low funding for home care. Stagnant rates that are more than a decade old make keeping their doors open unsustainable. As more and more agencies leave the state, the harder it is for families to access care. Simply put, if the State does not take action to increase funding for home care, South Carolina’s most medically complex and vulnerable families will have few options for care.

South Carolina’s concerned families are making their voices heard: They are reaching out to their legislators and media to share their message: Increase funding for home health care so that families can access the high quality, reliable care that they need to be where they want to be: At home.

To find out how you can get involved in advocacy, contact us at advocacy@bayada.com today.

Delaware Hearts for Home Care Advocate Shares Heartfelt and Impactful Story with Legislators!

Recently, a Delaware pediatric licensed practical nurse (LPN), Charlene Chappell, signed up for Hearts for Home Care and wanted to get involved. And did she come out in full force!

After sharing powerful and heartfelt testimony in Dover, DE’s Legislative Hall about the impact she makes on families and the challenges low Medicaid rates bring to nurses who want to provide one-on-one care to families at home, Charlene listened to a radio show where host Joel Olsteen spoke about “an itch you just can’t scratch.”

That got Charlene thinking about more advocacy. Charlene said, “I feel that the majority of men and women that serve as elected officials have no clue what’s required of a family when they have a child that has special needs and is differently abled! They don’t understand that nurses need to be attracted to home care so that families can rely on this care to keep their medically-complex children at home.”

That inspired her to write the below story and send it to all Delaware legislators. Read Charlene’s powerful story below!

My Itch!

I have an itch! Mo matter how hard I try to let someone know, I can’t.  I’m 8 years old and I can’t tell Mommy where I itch! I can’t reach my itch! Its 2:30 in the morning and Mommy has fallen asleep in the chair next to my bed because she had to work today and then take my sister to her dance lesson. When she finally arrived home she threw some dirty laundry in the washer, and cooked dinner. After dinner she put the wash in the dryer, and then she loaded the dishwasher. She came in my room to check on me and feed me. Off she went to make sure my sister had done her homework and was in the shower. Oh no, an alarm is going off! Here comes Mommy. I wish I could tell her how much I love her for all she does and about my itch. She looks so tired. It’s almost 8:00 pm. The phone is ringing. Hurry Mommy before they hang up!

I can hear Mommy on the phone. “What! Oh no, please tell me it’s not true. I’m so tired tonight. I don’t know if I can stay up all night with him but I must. I have to make sure he’s ok on his ventilator and his medications are given at the right time, so he doesn’t have a seizure, and that the tube feeding is running properly. He has to be repositioned every two hours so his skin doesn’t break down. I have to check his diaper too. Well… thanks for the phone call.”

Oh no. Mommy just found out my favorite night nurse called out tonight, and the rest of forever. The agency is going to try and find a replacement as soon as possible, but that may take some time. Nurses aren’t as anxious to get into home health care nursing because they can make more money at a hospital. Mommy is going to miss work because she will have to stay up with me as Daddy’s gone from home with his job right now. Mommy may lose her job. I’m so sad my nurse left. She really knew me and she knew when I had an itch. She would gently scratch me all over till she found it, like Mommy does. She understands my cues and my facial expressions as I can’t talk, or walk, or move because of my illness. 

I heard Mommy talking to the lady at the agency about the nursing shortage in home health care. She told Mommy that the money provided for reimbursement by Medicaid, not Medicare, has not increased in 13 years! The last time there was an increase in Medicaid was in 2006! I wasn’t even born then! She also told Mommy that the companies are running out of their own funds to supply the raises the nurses deserve. God bless the nurses that do work in home health care, for a lesser wage then they deserve, and take care of not only me but my mommy and Daddy too. Without them my Mommy and Daddy would not get the proper rest, would have to quit work to care for me. It would not be a good thing for my family. We would all suffer. I don’t want to go anywhere but here in my room. What if we can’t find a new night nurse? Where will I go? I overheard the doctors and nurses at the hospital talking last time I was admitted for a bad seizure and they said that all children do better in the home setting for getting well once they can leave the hospital. They are less likely to get sick again from a disease they acquired while in the hospital, and all of us are more comfortable in our own bed!

I hope my story has helped you to understand why we need to increase the Medicaid budget. Not Medicare, but Medicaid. Mommy told me that some people get confused so that’s why I will say it one more time. Please increase the Medicaid funding for home health care nurses.

Thank you for reading this. Mommy thanks you as well as all the other children and their parents that require specialized home health care nursing.  And yes, Mommy found my itch!

Thank you, Charlene, for sharing your creative and passionate story with Delaware’s legislators. We must all share our voice to make an impact, and your advocacy highlights your deep commitment to your clients’ care.

Hearts for Home Care is seeking to advocate for higher reimbursement rates for skilled nursing services in Delaware so that nurses can be better attracted to home care, and so families that need this care to stay together at home can more easily and reliably access it. For information on how you can get involved, contact us today

New Jersey’s Legislative Goals and How You Can Help Make an Impact

BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office (GAO) is proud to join with fellow advocates like you to continue to advocate for better wages for our caregivers and increased access to home health care for the tens of thousands of New Jersey residents that rely on this care to stay safe and independent at home. Thank you to our many employees, clients, and families who have advocated on behalf of yourselves, your loved ones, your staff, and your clients regarding our two major 2019 issues:

1. Personal Care Assistant (PCA) Program – Increased Reimbursements for Increased HHA Wages

GAO is advocating for HHAs like Indira (right) and clients like Jessie

GAO is working in collaboration with other providers and the New Jersey Home Care and Hospice Association to educate our legislators on the importance of adequate funding for the Personal Care Assistant (PCA) program.This is especially important as the State recently mandated an increased minimum wage. BAYADA supports a wage increase for all of our home health aides (HHAs) for the incredible, lifechanging work they do—but additional advocacy is necessary so state legislators understand the importance of proportional PCA program funding so that providers like BAYADA can comply with the new mandate and stay sustainable.

Click here to check out how HHA Indira helps her client Jessie stay at home, and about CHHA Michele’s special bond with her client Marie. We are hopeful that our advocacy efforts can lead to a fairer wage for aides like Indira and Michele, as well as better recruitment and retention rates across the ACSP practice so that all New Jersey residents who need this important service can access it. To find out how you can get involved, email advocacy@bayada.com today.

2. Private Duty Nursing (PDN) Program—Increased Reimbursements for Increased Nursing Wages

Increased PDN rates are important to ensure clients like Lili (left) can continue to have reliable nurses like Barbara (right)

GAO is working with the New Jersey Home Care and Hospice Association to educate our legislators on the importance of adequate funding for the Private Duty Nursing (PDN) program. Current PDN program funding makes it difficult for providers like BAYADA to recruit and retain the nurses necessary to care for New Jersey’s most medically complex and residents. This difficulty results in significant access to care issues, as only 85% of scheduled hours are currently filled, and vulnerable New Jersians are going without the care they need to stay safe and healthy at home.

We are lucky to have home care supporters in the legislature who understand the struggles our caregivers and skilled nursing clients face—Recently, Bill S1733/A4575, which proposes a $10 per hour increase for RN and LPN home care services, was introduced. In addition to the increase, this bill also seeks to establish a “rate floor” so that managed Medicaid providers reimburse no less than the state fee-for-service rate for in-home skilled nursing services.

But we need your help in getting this bill to the finish line. Soon, this bill will be up for a hearing, and clients’ and employees’ testimony make the most impact in showing legislators the challenges that arise from inadequate funding and the associated access-to-care issues.

Click here to read excerpts from two clients’ testimonies regarding the importance of PDN in their lives. Powerful stories like the ones Dana and Emma share help our advocacy efforts and show legislators the impact of home care in making a real difference in vulnerable New Jersey residents’ lives. To find out how you can get involved, email advocacy@bayada.com today.

Across the Country, Parents and Home Care Supporters Advocate for Better Wages for Caregivers

We know the struggles families can face with home care: The call-outs and missed shifts, the lack of sleep, the caregivers who are like family but can’t afford to make their own ends meet, and the frustration that comes when you or your loved one can’t access the care that is deemed medically necessary. We also know the value and impact that sharing our voices has.

Recently, home care advocates have made the news for their efforts across the country. Specifically, on December 28, the Washington Post covered the impact that providers and parents are having in driving public awareness of the struggles that Marylanders and Virginians are having in accessing the skilled nursing home care their families need.

Washington Post reporter Tara Bahrampour points to low reimbursement rates in both states as the major issue contributing to families’ struggles—

“The reason lies in a stark state-by-state discrepancy in the pay in-home nurses receive through Medicaid. Maryland and Virginia have set reimbursement rates significantly lower than surrounding jurisdictions…As a result, licensed practical nurses [LPNs] are finding more lucrative positions out of state or at hospitals or other care institutions that pay more, leaving many homebound Medicaid patients without services.”

Hearts for Home Care has been leading the charge in Maryland, where a coalition of home care clients, parents, providers, and other advocates are pushing for a 25 percent increase for skilled home nursing services. Advocates say that this increase—half of which would have to come from state coffers—would serve to alleviate families’ inability to access care an average of 17 percent of the time, as reported by the state’s Department of Health. Hearts for Home Care advocate and BAYADA Home Health Care director Shannon Gahs says:

“Maryland is failing its citizens who have significant medical disabilities. Failing to provide care 17 percent of the time not only creates a dangerous situation for the person who relies on that care—it harms his or her family. Parents are calling out of work and losing the sleep they need to stay healthy to support their family. They’re doing everything they can to keep their family members safe, but this is not how it is supposed to be. We have to do better.”

In comparison, neighboring Delaware found that shifts are missed 7 percent of the time. There, the state reimburses providers at a rate approximately 30 percent higher for LPN home care services.

In California, Governor Jerry Brown recently proposed a whopping 50 percent wage increase for home care nurses—a move that advocates have pushed for over the past several years. As with families across the country, Californians who require skilled nursing home care have been struggling to get nursing care for their loved ones. Advocates report that under Medi-Cal—the state’s health care system for low income and disabled Californians—rates have not been addressed in 18 years.

While both the Maryland and California proposals are still pending, home care advocates have been successful in driving public and legislative awareness of low reimbursement rates and the impact on families’ access across the country in recent years. Most recently, the home care industry has seen reimbursement rate increases in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and New Jersey among other states. It starts with educating legislators through advocacy via any number of channels: Traditional and social media, letters, phone calls, meetings, and more.

While advocacy can seem like an intimidating activity to many who do not yet engage in it, it’s important that we share our advocacy wins with the home care and health care community at-large. As illustrated in recent news, when we band together to leverage our voices in unison, big changes can happen. It’s important to take that first step and make your message heard on behalf of the millions of Americans that rely on home care.

To learn more about how you can engage in home care advocacy, visit www.heartsforhomecare.com or email advocacy@bayada.com today.