Hearts for Home Care has had a busy year, working to secure public and legislative awareness to home care challenges across the industry. Over the first half of 2021, the duo of Alisa Fox and Marissa Fogal has worked in conjunction with BAYADA’s Government Affairs office to urge legislators to recognize and address home care industry challenges through user-generated traditional media and social media coverage. Over the past three months, the Public Affairs team launched three state-wide media campaigns in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina focusing on the lack of state funding for both Private Duty Nursing (PDN) and Personal Care Assistant (PCA) programs, securing media coverage in major outlets like The Inquirer, NJ.com, and Spectrum News—all of which have garnered a total of 43,452,500 views.
Through their dedicated Hearts for Home Care social media efforts—which were formally added in September of last year—the Public Affairs team has been able to increase their audience reach to an additional 114,400 people over the three state-wide media campaigns, and these efforts only continue to grow.
BAYADA’s Public Affairs team, in conjunction with the Government Affairs office, continues to advocate for medically fragile individuals and bring legislative action to the issues these populations face. To stay informed on important home care industry news and media updates, please follow Hearts for Home Care Advocacy on Facebook and Twitter!
Two Pennsylvania mothers share how more needs to be done to ensure all medically-complex families can stay together at home
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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 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.”
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 writesopinion 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 firstname.lastname@example.org today!
Delaware’s capital—Dover—has its fair share of advocates: Nearly every day, residents and special interest groups from around the state gather in Legislative Hall to share their messages with decision makers. Recently, LaToya Martin—mother of 7-year-old Massiah Jones—made her challenges with the state’s availability of in-home nursing clear to not only local lawmakers, but with many people across the nation.
“For LaToya, advocacy is part of her everyday life.”
For LaToya, advocacy is part of her everyday life. Massiah is medically-fragile and suffers from a rare seizure disorder as a result of complications from Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). LaToya regularly serves as Massiah’s advocate in calls and appointments with doctors offices, insurance, and with the state of Delaware. Due to her dedication to her son’s health and his ability to live his best possible life, Massiah has been able to grow up and thrive safely at home with her, and with the help of in-home private duty nursing (PDN).
Challenges accessing nursing care
Recently, Massiah unfairly lost many of his authorized PDN hours due to the COVID virus’s effect on his ability to go to school. Always going any length to be Massiah’s voice—and the voice of many other medically-complex families around Delaware and the US—LaToya shared her powerful and unique story, citing her challenges with accessing nursing care and the inability of home health care providers to recruit and retain enough nurses due to the state’s low Medicaid reimbursement rates for Delaware’s PDN program. Her topmost priority is to show Dover’s decisionmakers why there needs to be a change in order to ensure the health and safety of Delaware’s most vulnerable children, and to empower other mothers and caregivers to unify their voices to do the same.
Hundreds of thousands of mothers, fathers, guardians, and other caregivers have a story to tell, but understandably, find it difficult to find the time and opportunity to share their voices. At Hearts for Home Care, we help those that care about home care by enabling you to get involved at the capacity in which you’re able to do so. Email us at email@example.com or follow us on Facebook.com/Hearts4HomeCare in order to learn more about the home care advocacy community and find opportunities to get involved.
Mom Kateri Morton (right) was featured on ABC-47 with son Joey (left) to advocate for increased funding for DE’s PDN program
Hearts for Home Care super-advocate and super-mom Kateri Morton was recently featured on ABC-47 alongside her 8-year-old son Joey and his long-time nurse Diane to advocate for better state Medicaid reimbursement rates. To date, Delaware has not raised reimbursement rates for the state’s private duty nursing (PDN) program in 16 years. As funding for this important program falls behind rising costs of living and providing healthcare services, it’s families like Kateri’s that ultimately suffer.
“Most of our nurses have either left or stopped working in that area because of their own health factors. Or they had to go to different jobs for employment,” says Kateri. Home care agencies rely on the state’s reimbursement rate to provide nurses’ wages, supplies, training, and benefits. The 16-year stagnation has driven nurses to seek employment in hospitals and other facilities that can afford to pay nurses more in wages. As agencies struggle to recruit and retain enough caregivers, families experience more unfilled nursing shifts, sleepless nights, and struggles maintaining employment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue, as staffing issues have limited nurses’ ability to care for high-risk clients and as precious personal protective equipment (PPE) has raised providers’ everyday costs. Nurse Diane says, “We’re struggling. We can’t retain our nurses, and with COVID going on, more and more families are being touched by home care nursing.”
The key to getting this issue on the top of legislators’ minds is to increase the number of affected family members who speak out and advocate on behalf of themselves and their children. Kateri’s network of DE moms and other guardians have shared their unique stories and struggles with one another, and with Delaware’s decision-makers. Recently, Kateri secured meetings with Delaware’s Medical Advisory Committee and the Department of Health and Social Services. “Advocating for Joey has empowered me. Without nursing, I can’t provide financially, physically, and emotionally to my fullest,” says Kateri. “As mothers of medically fragile children… when there is an opportunity to show an elected official how important this care is, that story paints a picture that a million facts and statistics cannot.”
Kateri recently created a Facebook group for DE families interested in advocacy. Check out her group and Hearts for Home Care to join others in advocacy opportunities today!
While much of the home health care community continued to reel from the onslaught of challenges faced from the COVID-19 pandemic, Hearts for Home Care advocate and BAYADA Home Health Care office director Cathy Slack has remained focused on the many positives. Namely, throughout the pandemic, she witnessed many caregivers, office staff, clients, and families advocate for better access to care, and also witnessed the state government’s response to hearing these voices.
One of the major wins that New Hampshire’s home care community saw as a result of their continued advocacy was the development of the Long-Term Care Stabilization Stipend Program (LTCSS), which served to borrow money from the state’s General Fund in order to offer stipends to essential healthcare staff to continue to work throughout the pandemic.
The state’s actions created an incredible domino effect that kept the positive changes coming. In Cathy’s office, coverage hours and the number of employed nurses both increased as RNs and LPNs transferred their passion for caregiving from their usual settings to the home care community. One such example is former full-time school nurse Laura Walker, who came to home care full-time after COVID suddenly halted normal school activity. Her transition was an immense positive for both Laura and her pediatric client, G, and G’s family. Laura’s care enabled them to feel security and peace-of-mind as G’s medical and academic routine suddenly flipped without warning.
“One day my medically fragile, intellectually disabled child went to school every day from 8 am to 3 pm where she was cared for by a nursing team and then came home to nursing services from the time she got off the bus until she went to bed. G’s school transferred to remote learning seamlessly, but how would my daughter respond to this new way of learning?” said G’s mom Michele. “My biggest concerns were: would she remain engaged without the school nurse keeping her safe, and how would she remain healthy at home with this gap in medical services? This is where Laura stepped up and went above and beyond.”
“These nurses put their own safety on the line to not stay home every day but to come out and care for our child. The stipend they earned through the state’s program was well deserved and I am grateful as a parent and a citizen of New Hampshire that the monetary recognition was given,” says Michele.
Michelle’s testimony is one of many that shows how medically-fragile families were given a lifeline through LTCSS during a time of uncertainty. Thank you to the many Hearts for Home Care Advocates, and to the State of New Hampshire, for making this lifeline available to the many residents that need home care to stay safe and healthy at home. To find out more about how Hearts for Home Care operates in New Hampshire or elsewhere, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advocacy became part of the culture at BAYADA Home Health Care a little over 10 years ago out of a need for a collective voice to speak on behalf of our clients, families, and field staff who are impacted every day by home care. As Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro, likes to say, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And that’s what we did. We banded together a voluntary group of advocates within the company with the single purpose of acting as a voice for those in the home care community that may not have had the opportunity otherwise ─ they are our Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors.
Our ambassadors serve as the liaison between the Hearts for Home Care advocacy team and their co-workers and home care community. Their primary responsibility is to develop and foster relationships with their direct-constituent legislators to spread awareness and advocate for better wages for field staff, more approved hours for clients, and the overall governmental investment in the home care industry. Year after year, our ambassadors go above and beyond to ensure legislators are aware of the crucial importance of home care for so many families across the country.
A few weeks ago, Hearts for Home Care presented the 2019 National Ambassador of the Year award to Shelby Myers for her role as a dedicated, passionate, and influential ambassador. As an ambassador in New Jersey, Shelby’s advocacy efforts were abundant ─ She developed her own platform to share client and employee stories through a podcast, Clayton’s Voice, she arranged home visits in which she invited legislators into the home of a client to showcase the everyday process of care, she arranged legislative roundtables with office staff and key decision makers, and she also met with many legislators individually advocating on her own. For these reasons and many more, Shelby was the clear choice as the 2019 honoree.
“This award is truly a culmination of efforts by so many individuals. Although I humbly accept it, by no means am I the primary recipient – that honor should be given to the families I was privileged to represent. Their powerful and sometimes heartbreaking stories, were the driving force behind legislation in New Jersey. I have no doubt that their voices were echoed in the ears of our lawmakers as they were voting on important home care legislation. Our role as ambassadors is essential to the well-being of our clients, families, and the compassionate field staff that takes care of them. Hearts for Home Care offers something that many of them have lost – hope. H4HC shifts the impossibility of their situation to a probability of hopeful change. Not only can we evoke change legislatively, but we empower families by showing how even the smallest of voices can create the largest of changes ─ I truly held this privilege in the highest regard. As Emerson so eloquently expressed in his description of success, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” I feel enormously blessed and grateful for every family I met, every story I heard, and every hand I held this past year. Additionally, I want to thank all of the BAYADA employees who gave me the opportunity to meet their clients and families, to the Hearts for Home Care team for the advocacy experiences you foster to elicit change, and to all of my mentors – thank you for changing my life.”
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
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!
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!
By: Melissa Allman, GAO Director for South Carolina and Georgia
What a difference a year makes. This time last year I was just transitioning out of my role as Division Director for the Palmetto Division and into my new role directing our advocacy activities in South Carolina and Georgia. I didn’t know I was in for so much! As I reflect back on 2018, my thoughts go immediately to two things: First, the successes that we were able to generate for our staff and clients and secondly, the many BAYADA leadership, staff, and clients that shared their voices and helped us win!
This year not only were we able to achieve an 8.2% rate increase for all personal care Medicaid waiver services in South Carolina, but we made so much headway engaging our office staff, field staff, and clients. As one person running around in the state house, I can only do so much. It is your stories and your voices that truly have made our first full-time year in South Carolina a remarkably successful year.
Aside from our rate increase, South Carolina advocates hosted five home visits with state lawmakers, hosted two legislative roundtables, and Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope attended a Hero Ceremony for his constituent—a home health aide from RHS. In addition, we attended several events to support our champions. Then-CLP Director, Haley Keisler was named South Carolina Home Care and Hospice Association’s (SCHCHA) 2018 Professional of the Year, and ROC client Mitchell H.’s mom and caregiver, Tammy Roberts, was recognized as the SCHCHA 2018 Caregiver of the Year.
Additionally, we were able to engage a record 25 Hearts for Home Care ambassadors and advocates to attend Lobby Day, where we connected BAYADA staff to lawmakers to share why our families deserve to be able to stay together through home care.
As I reflect back on the past year, my heart is full of gratitude for all of Georgia’s leadership, Ambassadors, and advocates. Your support and advocacy made all the difference! Not only were we able to generate a rate increase for private duty nursing (PDN) services under the Georgia Pediatric Program (GAPP) waiver, but we’ve made our voices heard and our industry and company better known in the state capitol. We are truly set up for a stellar 2019!
So far in 2019 we have already began meeting with Georgia’s House and Senate leadership and the Georgia Department of Community Health (GCH). We are seeking to further increase the RN and LPN rates under the GAPP program and gain enhancements for PDN waivers for the adult population under the New Options Waiver (NOW), Comprehensive Supports Waiver (COMP) and Independent Care Waiver (ICWP) programs. We will be seeking even further involvement from our GA advocates, and I am excited to see what we can accomplish together!
It was a
true honor to work along side of you all, and I’m looking forward to working
with you as we continue to raise awareness for our state’s most vulnerable
children and adults. Thank you to the many advocates that made 2018 a success,
and that will help pave the way for more successes in South Carolina in 2019
Angela Ortiz is a fierce advocate for her medically complex daughter, Ayla, and for other medically complex children and adults across Massachusetts.
Earlier this month, Angela delivered her keynote address at the 40th Annual Legislative Reception held by the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council and The Arc of Massachusetts.
Angela’s inspiring speech, delivered in front of over 200 people, including several state legislators and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, was met with uproarious applause and overwhelmingly positive feedback.
Angela stated, “One mother shared with me that she used to have that fight and fire within her when her daughter was younger, but that her flames had since burned out. She shared that my speech really spoke to her and reminded her of how important it is to find it again. I hope that sharing my story and my journey will inspire others to take action… No matter how slow-seeming your journey may be, it’s important we remember why we advocate: To give a voice to those without one.”
Angela is the founder of the Massachusetts Pediatric Home Nursing Care Campaign that was launched in April 2016 to address the longstanding crisis families have been in struggling to find and retain Continued Skilled Nursing to properly care for their loved ones with complex medical needs at home.
Below is the full transcript of her keynote address.
Next month will mark two years since I entered the State House with a group of parents from the Mass Families Organizing for Change Leadership Series. I was a mother desperate to improve the quality of life for my daughter, Ayla, who was just two at the time, and very sick.
I was drowning in my own worries and fears that came with her complex medical needs, but more so in the inability to access vital home care services she was approved to receive yet didn’t come.
Imagine being thrown into the deepest of seas and when you call out for help there aren’t enough life vests to go around or enough lifeboats to bring you and your family to safety.
I felt so powerless…until…I entered this building. It’s the day I became an advocate!
I was equipped with a vision for my daughter and new tools and the confidence to be a part of some kind of change to address a burning need that affects her life and so many other medically fragile children and adults in the Commonwealth.
That day ignited a flame so deep within me…and I’ve been “FIRED UP” ever since.
I’ll never forget a moment I shared with Ayla shortly after her heart surgery. I put my index finger in the palm of her tiny hand, we locked eyes seeing past all the tubing and drains, and she wrapped her fingers around it and squeezed with such intensity. Wow! At just 3 days old…my fragile and recovering newborn showed her FIRE and fighting spirit…that energy moved me. It strengthened me. It gave me hope that things would work out and be okay.
You see, we all have it in us…this FIRE!
And today, I want to remind you of that and call attention to it in hopes that each of you will set out to find what it is that sparks or rekindles the flame within you. Because when it happens, it’s an unstoppable force, you feel you can move through anything, no hurdle is too high no matter what your life circumstances are in that moment. You find a way! It’s so deeply rooted in love, you can’t help but burst into action and be a part of something bigger than yourself and your own lived experience.
There is no greater time to awaken your inner fire and unleash that advocate in you than when your life or the life of a loved one depends on it. And that time is now!
I’m counting on all your flames, and more importantly, the disability community is counting on them because it’s in our collective energy, strength, and spirit where I believe the resolve lies as we blaze through every obstacle that aims to unravel and weaken the civil rights of people with disabilities that so many before us have fought so long and hard for.
Yes, we face an uncertain future, but the one thing we have control over is our own certainty of being there, in some way, to do something; to take a stand; to have a voice; to be ready to take action to defend the current laws and protections in place while we also continue to advocate and lay the groundwork for new laws and protections that keep us moving forward.
Each one of you has a place and purpose on this advocacy journey! Whether you are just stepping on it for the first time or you’ve been paving the way for years, as Ayla’s favorite song demands…“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine”. DO JUST THAT…let your light shine, let it shine, let it shine.
You will be a moving force…we will be a moving force… and the future will be bright.
For information about how you can begin your journey into home care advocacy, contact email@example.com.
Additionally, follow our Facebook and Twitter to keep up with regular updates about how you can get involved.