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.