North Carolina State Representative Zack Hawkins Experiences a Day in the Life of a Durham Veteran Receiving Support at Home

NC state representative Zack Hawkins (left) meets home care client Mr. Mendenhall (seated) and his wife

State Representative Zack Hawkins, an active supporter of home health care, recently visited with a Durham family who rely on services to stay safe at home.

Representative Hawkins visited with a constituent, Mr. Aubrey Mendenhall, an armed service Veteran with a wonderful sense of humor. As a young US Sargent in Germany, he saw the prettiest lady working at the base general PX store…and spent the next thirty days asking her out. Margarete finally agreed and they’ve been together for more than 65 years.

Some five years ago, Mr. Mendenhall was diagnosed with Dementia – a condition characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. His dementia makes it difficult for him to manage without constant supervision and puts him at a high risk of falling. A certified nursing assistant (CNA) comes to help him bathe, toilet, and dress. “The aide’s goal is to help Mr. Mendenhall stay as independent as possible. Make sure he doesn’t fall or get an infection that can put him in the hospital,” said BAYADA Home Health Care Clinical Manager Megan Russell, RN.  

The Department of Veterans Affairs covers 11 hours of aide services per week. Outside those 11 hours, Margarete is his constant companion and support. She uses the 1 ½ – 2 hour breaks she receives each day to perform other necessary tasks such as running to the grocery store, to a doctor’s appointment, or to simply have an uninterrupted cup of tea. It is her only break from caregiving. At 90 years old, dealing with her own health issues, and after five years of serving as Mr. Mendenhall’s primary caregiver, Margarete finds herself exhausted!

With tears in her eyes, their only daughter, Kathy, commented that she is considering quitting her job as a nurse and move in with her parents so that she can better manage their care. While carrying for a loved one with a chronic illness can be profoundly meaningful, it can also be overwhelming as the physical, emotional, financial tolls compound on the family caregivers.  

“Having personally been touched with seeing my mother and aunt provide care to my grandmother, I understand how important it is to be able to take care of one’s family,” said Representative Hawkins. “And as a lawmaker, we need to support seniors and their families. 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.” 

According to AARP’s online article, Caregiver Burnout, “over time, that physical and psychological wear and tear can lead to caregiver burnout – a condition of feeling exhausted, listless and unable to cope.”  Russell has reached out to the VA case manager to explore respite care which would allow for the family some much needed breaks. The Mendenhalls want to stay together, however, they need some additional support to effectively care for themselves while maintaining their responsibility to their loved one.

“In-home care programs provide one-on-one care by licensed nurses or certified nursing assistants under the care of a physician,” said BAYADA Area Director Lee Dobson.  “They allow families to stay together and be safe at home. It really gives the state more for less and is clearly part of the health care budget solution.”

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.

Home Health Care in the News

The New York Times recently published an article that highlights caregivers’ and home health care clients’ challenges

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.

Home Health Care News, September 5: “Home Health Care Training Programs Popping Up As Caregiver Crisis Worsens”

New York Times, September 2: “On the Job, 24 Hours a Day, 27 Days a Month”

Thrive Global, August 30: “The Future of Healthcare: “First and foremost, reprioritize long-term care into the home setting” with David Totaro of BAYADA Home Health Care”

Vox, August 21:https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/8/21/20694768/home-health-aides-elder-careHome health aides care for the elderly. Who will care for them?”

Everyday Health, July 27: “Demand on the Rise for Home Healthcare”

Home Health Care News, June 20: “Bayada Hits 1M Clients Served. Here’s Why Hitting 2M Will be More Difficult”

GAO Jetsetters: Making the Rounds in Washington, D.C., Arizona, and Colorado

Left: GAO Ambassadors Anthony D’Alonzo and David Mead, and GAO Grassroots Senior Manager Mike Sokoloski in front of the US Capitol
Right Top: Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) poses with GAO Senior Associate Lindsey Wright and Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro
Right Bottom: Advocates, including GAO Director Shannon Gahs (second from right), join in NAHC’s March on Washington

BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office (GAO) staff members often say, “Advocacy never sleeps.” For the GAO federal affairs team—Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro and Senior Associate Lindsey Wright—we can also say “Advocacy never stays put.” Over the past quarter, GAO has traveled to Washington, D.C. several times, as well as to Massachusetts, Florida, Indiana, Arizona, and Colorado—among other places.

Most often, GAO travels specifically to meet with legislators in D.C. and around the country to educate them about home care and the benefit it has in keeping millions of America’s seniors and individuals with disabilities independent and in their communities. Most recently, the federal affairs team has also taken to visiting BAYADA’s Home Health service offices to get employees involved in advocacy.

In late February, Dave and Lindsey traveled to D.C.’s Capitol Hill to meet with 11 key congressional members and their staff. On April 2, they traveled back to the Capitol along with two Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors—Anthony D’Alonzo (MHH) and David Mead (NLP)—and other GAO staff—to participate in the National Association for Home Care and Hospice’s (NAHC) annual March on Washington. This year, marchers were asked to educate legislators on two important bills: The Patient Driven Groupings Model bill, which if passed will eliminate reimbursement cuts based on behavioral assumptions, and the Home Health Improvement Planning Act, which if passed will allow non-physician practitioners to sign off on care plans. The visits were successful and resulted in additional cosponsors for both bills.  

GAO’s Dave Totaro and Lindsey Wright visited four Home Health service offices in Arizona and Colorado. Clockwise from top left: GAO and HH office staff in the SVV, FCV, GLF/VGL, and DNF/DNV offices.

The two-person federal affairs team can only make so much headway alone. GAO relies on advocates like you to make sure that all legislators hear our messages loud and clear. Dave and Lindsey have begun traveling to Home Health service offices around the country to tell employees what they can do to get themselves and their clients involved in advocacy, and the importance of doing so.

“As much as I travel to spread our message to our country’s decision makers, it’s important that I also use my time to get our staff involved. Home Health employees and clients are affected by what our legislators and regulators in D.C. make decisions on every day. The more our people mobilize and advocate, the more those decision makers will see how their choices affect real people’s lives,” said Dave Totaro.

During their trip to four Home Health service offices across Arizona and Colorado, Dave and Lindsey focused on Medicare policies, current bills, and how employees can get involved to make a difference. They also listened to each office’s unique challenges in delivering care to clients, and how policy changes could alleviate some of those issues. Thank you to the many BAYADA service offices that welcomed GAO with open arms and open minds, as well as to the employees who signed up to become Ambassadors. To learn about ways you, your staff, and your clients can advocate, contact Lindsey Wright at lwright@bayada.com. We look forward to working with you!