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.”

We Need In-Home Nurses to Get Our Babies Home!

Two Pennsylvania mothers share how more needs to be done to ensure all medically-complex families can stay together at home

Leena Stull is safe, healthy, and happy at home after spending her first 9 months in CHOP’s NICU

Parents of medically-fragile children face so many challenges throughout their lives, and 15-month-old Leena Stull’s parents fear for the future: As medical technologies enable hundreds of thousands of individuals live better, longer, healthier lives, they also create new challenges that the healthcare world must address. As the mother of a baby that has graduated from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) NICU with home care nursing, Alexis Stull is advocating for Leena—and for the many children like her that have yet to be born.

Leena was diagnosed with IUGR in the womb and was delivered at just 27 weeks, weighing less than two pounds. She was diagnosed with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, meaning that her lungs are not fully developed and that she will need special medical care and equipment for the foreseeable future. She was immediately put on oxygen and ventilator support and placed in York Hospital’s NICU for more than 3 months, awaiting transfer to CHOP. Once a bed opened for Leena in CHOP’s NICU, Leena was there for 9 weeks until she and her parents were able to get to the Progressive Care Unit (PCU), where they were to be intensively trained on how to care for Leena medically for the remaining 3 months of her stay. “Because they know it would be difficult for us to find enough in-home nurses, they trained us to stay up for 24 hours straight,” says Alexis.

“Because they know it would be difficult for us to find enough in-home nurses, they trained us to stay up for 24 hours straight,” says Alexis.

Alexis and husband Daryl were completely trained by mid-June, but were unable to take Leena home until proper nursing coverage was secured for her in her hometown of Chambersburg in Mid-August. It took nine weeks and three home health care agencies, plus CHOP’s case management team, to finally find a nurse that could care for Leena in her own home.

Now home for six months, Leena is thriving alongside her caring parents and their two dogs, Gabby and Meeko. But finding enough in-home nurses to cover the shifts that Leena needs remains a challenge. “Leena is authorized for 112 hours of skilled in-home care per week, and we can’t access even close to that much.” Currently, the Stulls are functioning with one available night nurse, and many of their nursing shifts aren’t covered. “We have four nurses and no back-ups if there is a call-out. On nights when [night nurse] Jess isn’t here, I will stay up to monitor Leena until 3am, when I will switch with Daryl and sleep until 5:30 before it’s time for me to wake up for work,” explains Alexis. “The lack of nurses puts Leena in danger, and it also affects our ability to provide for Leena as fully-functioning parents.” 

“The lack of nurses puts Leena in danger, and it also affects our ability to provide for Leena as fully-functioning parents.” 

Part of the reason there aren’t enough nurses to be in home care is because of the lower wages in home care, and the nature of the job. PA hospitals can offer higher wages for RNs and LPNs, which creates a recruitment and retention gap for providers like BAYADA that can only compete for a small portion of the nursing workforce. Additionally, medically-complex clients like Leena—who has a trach, vent, and feeding tube—require special skills and one-on-one care. Typically, such skills can allow a nurse to make more in wages at a skilled nursing facility. However, home care providers are limited by the state’s Medicaid funding formula, which does not reimburse additional funds for highly-trained nurses that can take on more difficult, higher acuity cases.”

Gemma pictured here leaving Geisinger Hospital and coming home with mom & dad. Her shirt reads, “Peace out NICU, I am moving in with my parents.”
Continue reading “We Need In-Home Nurses to Get Our Babies Home!”

Patient Recognition Week: February 1-7

In honor of Patient Recognition Week, Hearts for Home Care sends a warm and heartfelt thank you to the many patients and families that advocate every day!

Hearts for Home Care cannot be effective in changing states’ policies and program funding mechanisms without your stories. When those who are affected by home care—clients, their families, and their caregivers—share unique and personal stories, it creates real change. These stories illustrate to legislators how impactful home care is to their constituents, and why it is important that they create new laws and amend existing ones to maximize access to care for residents who need it most.

Advocating for yourself or for a loved one is rewarding. Sharing your voice can mean the difference between a legislator being unaware of home care’s impact, to their proactive support of home care. In honor of Patient Recognition Week, below are several real life examples of clients in advocacy action. Home care patients and families make all the difference. Thank you for all you do!

Delaware mom Kateri Morton has advocated for her son Joey in many ways, from being featured on local news station WMDT (47 ABC) to share how low state Medicaid rates have affected her ability to get all of Joey’s skilled nursing hours covered—to organizing a group of active moms to testify at upcoming state hearings on the issue! Not only have legislators heard her voice loud and clear, but now other DE moms have heard her and thereby gained the confidence needed to share their stories too.

Kateri’s advocacy on behalf of her son Joey has enabled state decision makers to hear about the importance of in-home nursing through many mediums—including print and broadcast media.

Durham, North Carolina’s Mr. Mendenhall is a 90-year-old armed service Veteran with Dementia. Due to his diagnosis and the accompanying physical limitations, he needs constant supervision and support—including assistance with everyday activities, such as dressing, eating, bathing, toileting, and moving around. Mr. Mendenhall lives at home with his wife, Margarite, of more than 50 years. She does her best to take care of her husband, despite her own medical challenges and limitations. While they both are frail, they are happy to be at home and together. They are able to stay at home through the home health aide services that he receives from his home health aide, Kashina, who comes in two hours per day to care for Mr. Mendenhall. Her caregiving services enables Mr. Mendenhall to remain as mobile as possible, as well as remain in his community.

Mr. Mendenhall (left) meets NC Rep. Hawkins while his wife looks on. They want to do what they can in order to show state and federal lawmakers how important home care is.

While you’d think that their advocacy work is limited, the couple recently participated in a home visit in which NC Rep. Zack Hawkins. This enabled Rep. Hawkins to see firsthand how home health aides help keep constituents costly and potentially infectious facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes. After Rep. Hawkins’s visit, he helped the family connect with the VA to address challenges they were facing. Rep. Hawkins said, “As a lawmaker, it is important we support seniors. To ensure they can live a full life at home. Care at home is an important option, less expensive, and where people want to be.”

LaToya Martin is a super-mom who fearlessly advocates for her son Massiah. When she wrote an opinion piece for the Delaware Post, her powerful message led to many state legislators learning about how home care affects real people across the state. That message resonated not only with lawmakers, but also with moms and home care advocates from all parts of the US. Scary Mommy—one of the largest online resources for moms—even reshared her piece to the hundreds of thousands of readers that regularly access their site!

Mark Steidl is a disability rights advocate from PA to DC and beyond!

Mark Steidl of Pittsburgh, PA doesn’t let communication challenges stop him from sharing his voice. Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, he uses a Dynavox to communicate the importance of home care and the impact of his home health aides with his legislators! Mark and his mother travel to the state capitol in Harrisburg, and to Washington, D.C. at least once a year to take part in Hearts for Home Care lobby days—days in which dozens of advocates gather to make meetings with legislators that will be voting on home care-specific legislation.

In a conversation with Mark about his advocacy work, he said, “If I had been born in 1965 instead of 1995, my parents might have been told to send me to an institution instead of raising me at home with all the support I need. Times have really changed. Advocacy and new ways of thinking have created those changes. But much more needs to be done and much more can be done. We have to keep advocating for the changes and the opportunities we want.”

NJ mom Dana Insley testifies at a public hearing in Trenton.
Dana (second from right) is pictured with her family, including daughter Abi (second from left in white & pink)

New Jersey mom Dana Insley steps up to the plate for any opportunity to advocate on behalf of her beloved daughter, Abi. After 2+ years of fighting, Dana and her husband adopted Abi, who needs skilled home nursing to be able to live a safe, healthy life alongside her siblings and loved ones at home. When she isn’t taking care of her family, Dana thinks of many ways to advocate. She has testified at many state hearings for increased home care funding, regularly writes opinion pieces to share with news sources and legislators, and always makes time to share her family’s home care experience with the public. Abi didn’t only get a second chance at life, but she also got a mom whose voice advocates on behalf of all New Jersey children and families with special needs.

This is a mere glimpse into the wide world of patient advocacy. Thank you to the many, many home care clients and families that take the time to advocate in a variety of ways. From a brief video meeting with a legislator, to a home visit with your medically-fragile loved one, to writing to your local paper, sharing your story helps lawmakers see the importance of in-home care, and empowers you to act as a voice for the many who are unable to advocate for themselves. We recognize you and appreciate you. To get involved in advocacy in your community, contact advocacy@bayada.com today!

Michelle Lino-Corona: New Jersey Paraplegic’s Life Put on Hold When In-Home Nursing is not Available

NJ Blog Takeover: Michelle, who is the sister of TBI Victim Brandy Lino-Corona, writes about her sister’s life after becoming severely disabled – and how working with nurses through NJ’s Private Duty Nursing (PDN) program has helped her family define their new normal.

Brandy’s family and caregivers surround her bed in her Absecon, NJ home

For the victims of traumatic brain injuries, access to reliable home health care can be the deciding factor that keeps people either permanently institutionalized, or at home with their loving families. My 17-year-old sister, Brandy, suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from a severe car accident in September of 2018. Since then, the state of New Jersey has authorized 16 hours of specialized nursing care per day for Brandy. This care allows her to stay safe at home, and allows my father, mother, and I to lead proactive, fulfilling lives outside the home. However, Brandy rarely receives all of her authorized hours due to New Jersey’s inequitable Medicaid reimbursement rates for their state-funded Private Duty Nursing (PDN) program.

The severity of Brandy’s injuries left her incapable of moving, eating and even breathing on her own. Nurses that work with her need to be up-to-date on life-saving techniques such as tracheostomy care, respiratory treatments, suctioning, monitoring vital signs, feeding tube care and feedings and administering meditations. Additionally, Brandy must be readjusted every two hours in order to combat her risk of skin breakdown and bedsores. This regularly poses as an obstacle when nurses miss their scheduled shifts as this task requires two people due to her size.

Like so many medically-complicated residents of New Jersey, my sister is at risk of institutionalization and/or hospitalization without the proper nursing care she requires. With potential caregivers persuaded by competitive wages and less physically and mentally taxing employment, eligible patients’ access to qualified healthcare professionals diminishes. New Jersey’s legislators need to consider the plight of their most vulnerable constituents and make the decision to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates. An increase in New Jersey’s Medicaid reimbursement rates would provide a second lease on life for Brandy and those like her, as well as instill a sense of hope for their families whose only desire is to be able to continue to care for their loved one in their own home.

-Michelle Lino, Absecon

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 advocacy@bayada.com

South Carolina Families Struggle Due to Lack of In-Home Nurses

William Walker is pictured with his parents Christina and Aaron. The Walkers are looking for an in-home nurse so that they can finally bring William home.

Just like many new parents across South Carolina and the US, Christina and Aaron Walker are excited to bring their newborn baby boy–William–home from the hospital. But unlike most other new parents, they can’t. That’s because William was born a little more than three months early, with medical complications.

But it’s not the complications themselves that have restricted William to the NICU–but rather, the lack of in-home nurses in the state. Baby William is medically cleared to go home, but the hospital cannot discharge him until an in-home nurse is available to care for him at the Walkers’ Bradley residence.

“The State hasn’t increased funding for the Private Duty Nursing (PDN) program in more than a decade. As a result, agencies that hire and provide in-home nurses to families like the Walkers can’t recruit and retain enough nurses to keep up with the demand,” says BAYADA Government Affairs Director for South Carolina Melissa Allman.

In the past decade, costs of living have gone up tremendously, and so home care agencies are struggling to pay nurses fair wages and stay sustainable as the funding has stagnated. PDN program funding must cover nurses’ wages–plus training, benefits, supervision, and supplies. Rates are so low, that many agencies have even left the state entirely.

Moreover, nurses are attracted to institutions and other settings–such as nursing homes, hospitals, and doctors’ offices–where they can earn more in wages. “The backwards part is that the state can save money and keep families together by keeping medically-complex residents at home and out of institutions. It’s a win-win,” says Melissa.

Christina and Aaron are celebrating every milestone that William reaches in the hospital. At five months, they are more than ready to take their baby boy home. Children deserve to grow up at home among their peers and loved ones. But if the state does not address PDN program funding in a way that ensures agencies can stay sustainable and raise nurses’ wages, then there will be more cases like William’s, where parents must continue to visit the NICU or another facility to see their son or daughter.

Read more about William’s journey here. If you know of a qualified nurse that is interested in caring for William, contact BAYADA Home Health Care at 864-448-5000. If you would like to learn about ways in which you can advocate for better nursing wages in South Carolina or elsewhere, contact Hearts for Home Care at advocacy@bayada.com

Why Home Care Matters – Meet Lacy!

Lacy and her primary caregiver–her grandmother–rely on in-home nurses to keep Lacy safe and comfortable at home
Lacy is a three-year-old diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP) and chronic respiratory failure living with a tracheostomy and feeding tube. Lacy and her family rely on skilled nurses to provide continuous hands-on care so that she can avoid hospitalization and stay where she belongs – at home.  

“I don’t know what I’d do without my nurses,” says Lacy’s grandmother – her primary caregiver following the murder of her daughter when Lacy was in utero, “They’re my lifeline.”

Although Lacy receives services under the NC’s Private Duty Nursing (PDN) program, she doesn’t get all the coverage for which she qualifies and needs because nurses are difficult to recruit and retain.  Open shifts are common in PDN due to Medicaid’s low reimbursement rate. Lacy’s grandmother had to quit her job in order to take care of her, and nursing coverage is only enough so that she can get sleep and perhaps run an errand.

Hearts for Home Care advocates are serving as a voice for home care clients like Lacy, and for family members who are impacted by the lack of nurses like her grandmother. To encourage state and federal legislators to support higher wages for in-home caregivers and increase vulnerable residents’ access to services, you can make a difference! Learn about ways you can participate in advocacy through our website, or by emailing advocacy@bayada.com today!

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.