Front-line heroes share their stories about overcoming the challenges posed by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has created huge challenges to healthcare systems across the globe, including here in Massachusetts. As part of National Home Care and Hospice Month, we collected first-hand stories from our members about the front-line challenges they faced, and how they overcame them.
For the 14th episode of Talking Home Care, we’ve collected these stories into a single podcast. They are introduced by Alliance Executive Director Pat Kelleher and are read by drama students at Winthrop Middle School.
You may listen to the podcast by clicking any of the platform images above, clicking “play,” or downloading it directly (Length: 41 minutes; Size: 29 MB).
Dr. Ashish Jha of Brown University sees a difficult winter ahead in terms of battling COVID-19, but reasons to hope in the spring.
In mid-November, I had the pleasure of listening to a virtual presentation from Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, as part of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans Health Policy Speaker Series. At the time, people were finalizing their Thanksgiving plans while the Coronavirus Pandemic began its fall resurgence.
Dr. Jha expressed deep concern about our present situation. “The virus is in a very bad place,” he said at the beginning of his remarks. In his assessment, there is no doubt that there is more virus in the community today than during the springtime peak, and the current count of 200,000 new cases each day is unacceptable. However, he believes there is a path forward that will bring us to something like pre-pandemic normalcy in the near future, especially with the promise of effective vaccines. As such, he said, our priority must be to save lives during the winter months.
Jha put a great deal of focus on what he called “priorities,” noting that COVID-19 does not care about our priorities are. In other words, he said, that while he was personally emphatic to our individual needs, the virus does not care that I prioritize seeing some family, but not others. The virus will spread wherever and whenever it sees fit.
Jha also discussed priorities in the context of the public policy response to the pandemic. He believes maintaining fully operating schools and hospitals should be our sole societal priorities. Yet, he said, just days before his talk, New York City shut down in-person learning, while continuing to allow people still to dine together indoors. This is, he called “upside-down.“
Jha was, however, not naïve to the fact that shifting our priorities to focus on schools and hospitals is expensive. It means large-scale federal support for restaurants and their workers to survive the winter months. He recognized this decision is “politically challenging,” as broad economic shutdowns have been unpopular and politicized. But, in his opinion, it is the best way for us to save lives as we await distribution of vaccines.
The more hopeful part of Jha’s presentation centered around the rapid development of vaccines. At the beginning of the pandemic, he admits he hoped for a 50-60% effective vaccine. Now that early data shows two vaccine candidates with 90%+ efficacy, he is extremely hopeful. He also noted that scientific integrity was not compromised through this process, it was just expedited by conducting the typical steps all at once (e.g., simultaneous human and animal studies).
While he said that we must not lose sight of the short-term task at hand (containing the virus during the winter), Jha is hopeful that we could achieve 30% immunity by the end of January, at which point virus-spread tends to naturally slow. By April or May, he hopes anybody who wants to be vaccinated will be. This may sound ambitious, he noted, and distribution nuances as well as vaccine education, will surely slow any rollout; but he saw it as feasible.
In the meantime, he said we must continue to wear masks, get tested, and only see people from our own household.
Since the onset of the pandemic and the declarations of federal and state emergencies, the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts shifted much of its attention and resources to COVID-19-related membership support. To that end, the Alliance:
Was the first state to create guidelines for members—both medical and non-medical—admitting COVID-positive patients. This guidance was adopted by many other states and shared by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC)
Offered regular calls for CEOs of certified and private care agencies to share and learn from each other, as well as calls for clinical directors, HR mangers, and hospice directors
Published more than 50 COVID Updates, a new publication exclusively for our members
Advocated for, and secured, multiple Medicaid waivers, including full payment for remote visits, waiver of certain in-home assessment requirements, and allowance of a remote audio-visual face-to-face (F2F)
Worked with MassHealth on guidance to keep telehealth waivers permanent
Hosted more than a dozen webinars on topics such as: accessing the PPP program, documenting telehealth visits for payment, unemployment and COVID, the CARES ACT, and Medicare stimulus funding
Advocated with the state for COVID support funding, resulting in Massachusetts being among the most generous states in passing federal Medicaid money to agencies in the form of 10% rate increases for home health, 20% rate increases for continuous skilled nursing, and 10% provider payment relief for providers in the State Home Care Program
Answered hundreds of member regulatory questions related to the pandemic
Developed and hosted a COVID-19 Resource page that includes Allied member COVID resource services, generating more than 1,500 page views between March and August
Secured Board of Registration in Nursing clarification, assuring that the federal change related to NPs and home health services will remain operative in Massachusetts after the State of Emergency
Worked with MassHealth on the new agency-directed PCA model program
Coordinated strategy with the Home Care Aide Council on expanded services and increased funding in the EOEA home care program
Worked with the Massachusetts Medical Society to educate physicians about audio-visual F2F assessment requirements
Worked with assisted living facilities and other acute and post-acute providers to educate them on the federal temporary changes to the Medicare homebound requirement
Worked with the Betsy Lehman Center on an infection control training and toolbox for use in homemaker and aide training
Other 2019-2020 Work
Among the member supportive services over the past twelve months, the Alliance and Foundation have:
Moved the entire Spring Conference and Trade Show to a virtual platform available to members on demand
Offered members a one-time 15% dues discount
Worked with state legislators and other stakeholders to advance an effective non-medical home care licensure bill; Legislation is unlikely to be signed into
law prior to the end of the 2020 Legislative Session
Produced a series of videos for our website and for members’ use on working with Private Care home care agencies
By default, the page shows clearly-laid-out information about all of our Allied and Individual members. But by expanding either the Clinical & Caregiving or Business & Administration menus, you can filter the results by service type.
The page is intuitive, fast, and runs on all devices.
The Alliance and our EnoughPayToStay partners celebrate some of the best front-line workers in the home care industry.
More than 60,000 home care aides are employed across the Commonwealth to meet the needs of vulnerable older adults during the Coronavirus pandemic. Yesterday, we were proud to recognize some of these front-line heroes on Home Care Aide Recognition Day. These workers are helping people stay out of hospitals and nursing homes during the pandemic.
These critical caregivers not only care for their clients, but also help the rest of the healthcare industry during the pandemic by helping people stay out of hospitals and nursing homes. Most of these nominees have never missed a shift and many picked-up extra shifts when their colleagues were sick or caring for their own loved ones.
The Home Care Aide Recognition Day is a joint effort through the Enough Pay to Stay Coalition, which is comprised of the Home Care Aide Council, The Home Care Alliance, and Mass Home Care. Please join us in recognizing the contributions of these essential front-line workers.
Congratulations to India Bulgar and Courtney Wilder of Southcoast VNA.
Congratulations to Ramona Jones Weeks & Tiara Sicard of Always Here Home Care.
Congratulations to Dicia Gonzalez and Catherine Haynes of Alternative Home Health Care, LLC.
Congratulations to Zoraida Velazquez and Angelica Figueroa of Apex Homecare.
Congratulations to Michael Walzone, Natisha Burton, Titi Mitchell, and Lurine Handley of Bayada Home Health Care.
Congratulations to Brenda Evans and Janyce Edwards of VNA of Cape Cod.
Congratulations to Sarka Bobb, Amanda Jannsen, Susan Miller and Teresa O’Brien of Care Central VNA & Hospice.
Congratulations to Isabel Vasquez and Maria Lopez of Comfort Home Care.
Congratulations to Alexis Deschenes and Kristen Soares of Community Nurse Home Care.
Congratulations to Jeanne Da Silva and Lynn Clarkin of Community VNA.
Congratulations to Kyle Oldham and Joanna Reid-Ellington of Connected Home Care.
Congratulations to Elizabeth Boateng, Sylvanne Vertisca, Teddy Kirabo, and Annah Kangethe of Deaconess Abundant Life.
Congratulations to Elizabeth Opiro of Elara Caring.
Congratulations to Adjoa Asafu-Adjaye and Randy Kolodziej of Elderwood Home Care!
Congratulations to Lidiya Nazarenko and Irina Tsybulskaya of Family Care Extended!
Congratulations to Marriannys Zabala, Janepher Laurent, and Madeline Cardenales of Home Health Foundation.
Congratulations to Sandra Brown and Marie Alexe Jean of HouseWorks.
Congratulations to Deborah Hague and Colleen Bellew of Mainstay.
Congratulations to Dora Williams and Jennifer Lau of Partners Healthcare at Home.
Congratulations to Edna Ofori-Mitchel and Nontuthuzelo Pepi Masilela of Traditions Home Health Services.
Congratulations to Francisca Depina and Maritza Del Rosario of Upham’s Corner Health Center.
Congratulations to Jennifer O Djan and Theresa Alejandro of Visiting Angels of Chelsea.
Congratulations to Audrey Kaddu and Marthe Komenzimana of Visiting Angels of Chelmsford.
Congratulations to Stella Spencer and Sallay Mboyawa of Visiting Angels of Newton/Canton.
Congratulations to Alex Casimir and Marion Kettell of VNA Care.
Three more agencies earn accreditation from the Alliance, bringing the total of accredited agencies to 59.
Congratulations to Acti-Kare (Middleboro), Kind Senior Care (North Andover), and Northeast Clinical Services (Danvers) for achieving Home Care Alliance Accreditation!
There are currently 59 agencies that have earned accreditation by demonstrating their compliance with each of the 15 standards of our Accreditation Program.
Since Massachusetts does not license private pay home care agencies, the Alliance created a Home Care Agency Accreditation Program in 2010 to establish operational and quality standards equivalent to licensure in most other states.
The program includes fifteen standards relating to: Client rights, privacy, and complaint procedures; Protections against abuse; Fair employment practices; Caregiver background screening; Competency, training and supervision; Insurance coverage; and Compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws. Accreditation is only awarded to agencies that meet or exceed all fifteen standards.
The Accreditation Program allows agencies to demonstrate that they meet high standards of quality. It shows clients and families that they are protected because the agency directly employs its workers and carries workers’ compensation, liability insurance, and an employee dishonesty bond. Accreditation demonstrates that an agency’s caregivers receive background checks, screening, and proper training for their jobs. Accreditation also provides a competitive edge in the marketplace, contributes to securing new business, and enhances staff recruitment by showing a commitment to fair labor standards.
Accredited agencies can use the Alliance’s Accreditation Logo to show their commitment to quality on their websites, brochures, and stationery. The Alliance lists all accredited agencies on its website, gives them special designation in its print directories and in the online Find an Agency function.
NAHC’s Bill Dombi replies to reports that patients across the country are being told they no longer qualify for certain Medicare services or that services have been cut or discontinued.
Kaiser Health News and other health care media outlets are reporting that patients across the country are being told they no longer qualify for certain Medicare home health services or that services have to be cut back or discontinued due to changes in Medicare scope of benefits. On a call with state home care association executives this week, Bill Dombi, President of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice confirmed that they are hearing of such cases from patient advocacy groups, such as the Center for Medicare Advocacy. If such behavior gives the industry “a reputation for putting bottom line ahead of patient care, it’s going to be bad long term for the home care industry,” said Dombi.
In terms of any shortcoming with the PDGM model, he said, we want to be able to lay these at the feet of the model’s crafters at CMS, not having them come back at us for over adjusting behaviors even beyond what was built into the model. He further suggested that until proven otherwise it might be case of managers and field staff inaccurately translating direction from management as to what has changed. He suggested CMS might need to do some more education around what has changed (payment) and what has not (coverage).
NAHC will present a series of six new webinars – free to members and non-members – on PDGM in Real Time featuring an open forum in which attendees can share and gain insights with Home Care & Hospice Financial Managers Association (HHFMA) experts about what is working and not working in the early weeks of PDGM.
These webinars are designed to enable home health agencies to achieve “high performer” status through continuous operational improvements in financial, clinical, business analytics, and administrative operations as PDGM unfolds.
The schedule for the “Wednesday webinars at 1 PM ET” is as follows:
February 12 at 1:00 PM ET Info Tech/EMR readiness
February 19 at 1:00 PM ET PDGM coding
February 26 at 1:00 PM ET PDGM cash flow & LUPAs
March 4 at 1:00 PM ET Therapy in PDGM
March 11 at 1:00 PM ET Clinical management of patient episode
The Alliance’s Home Care Speakers Bureau can bring presentations on careers and other subjects to nursing schools, job fairs, or student assemblies.
Health care is moving out of the institutional setting and into people’s homes. Nursing and other allied health professional positions are following a similar path as the percentage of nurses moving into work a in hospital setting continues to decrease annually. Yet, newly graduated nurses often leave school not having been exposed to the nursing opportunities and high degree of complexity and independence in home health care practice.
Our Home, Not Alone campaign seeks to drive interest in, and confidence about, making a nursing career in home care or hospice.
Last month, the Alliance recognized six outstanding individuals as our 2019 Home Care Stars. These are their stories.
Last month, the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts gathered the industry at Granite Links in Quincy to honor six amazing individuals who represent the best of home care.
Since 1989, this fantastic event has celebrated the hard work of individuals and organizations who exemplify home care’s best values. More importantly, awardees are nominated by their colleagues and supervisors; winners are then selected by the Alliance’s Membership Committee.
Here’s a look at this year’s awardees, with excerpts from their nominations:
Me McBride, South Shore VNA, Aide of the Year
Imagine being the family member of a once-strong, determined man whose mind has been crippled by Alzheimer’s. You pray for help, and your prayers are answered in the form of an “earthly angel” named Me McBride.
She enters your home and takes charge with compassion and experience but — most of all — with respect for your loved one. For Me, the patient always comes first.
Vinette Tyme, HouseWorks, Aide of the Year
Vinette is a passionate home health aide, often described by colleagues and clients alike as “a dream” to work with, due to her dedication and exceptional skillset. She has an innate ability to anticipate clients’ needs and form personalized and effective strategies that work for them.
No task is too big or too small for her.
Gerry Sanderson, RN CDP, NVNA and Hospice, Clinician of the Year
Gerry has cared for hundreds of patients and families in the South Shore and her devotion to her patients is second to none.
Her approachable and positive demeanor is reflected in the way her patients interact with her, creating a safe and nurturing environment for all involved.
Nicole Geddes, LPN, Aberdeen Home Care, Clinician of the Year
Nicole delivers care, no matter what. If there is a need, she is there. She’s a roll-up-your-sleeves nurse, willing to jump-in and help an aide when needed or to manage a crisis in the middle of the night, on a weekend, or on Christmas Day.
She knows what to do and does it with tremendous skill.
Robin Pelletier, RN BSN, Southcoast VNA, Manager of the Year
Robin has successfully led Southcoast VNA’s Supportive Care Center since October 2016, where she guides an interdisciplinary team of 75 people. Her greatest accomplishment has been the extraordinary growth and quality of hospice services, doubling Southcoast’s average daily census and average length of stay.
Sandy Hurley, Commonwealth Clinical Services, Home Care Champion
Sandy embodies everything we value about nursing in the community. She is best known for “doing what needs to be done” from home visits, to setting up clinics, to teaching high school students about healthcare, to playing the piano at just about any function.
This year, Sandy extended her professional talents and skills to the mountains of the Dominican Republic, helping provide over 100 patients a day with health assessments, medications, and critical supplies.
As 2019 comes to a close and the industry prepares for a historic year of changes, the Star Awards allows us to pause and remember the dedicated workforce that makes home care such a success.
Congratulations and thank you to the 2019 Star Award Winners.