Caregiver Minimum Wage, Overtime Delayed

Home care workers who were looking to receive minimum wage and overtime protection may have to wait a little longer, as the Obama administration announced Tuesday that  it would delay enforcing the rule for the nation’s two million personal-care aides, home-health aides, and certified nursing assistants.

The rule is effective as of Jan. 1, 2015, but the Labor Department won't enforce it until June 30, 2015. After that and until December 31, 2015, it will be at the discretion of the department to take action against employers who don’t show a good will effort to implement reforms. The rule states that home-care workers would have to receive the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and time and a half when they work more than 40 hours a week.

Some senior home care agencies, along with Medicaid officials among others, have put pressure on the feds to delay minimum wage and overtime pay for home care workers, concerned that higher wages would translate into higher costs for the care recipient. The fear is that if home care costs increase, seniors and the disabled might be forced into institutional (nursing home) care. They also predict that smaller companies will be forced to hire workers part-time rather than full-time because of costs, in effect, causing wage loss among home caregivers.

Nonsense, say home caregiver advocates. Some states such as California and New York have already begun to implement changes, and they have the nation’s two largest Medicaid home programs. Twenty two states extend minimum wage to at least some in-home care workers, and 12 states have a minimum wage that is higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Many home care agencies pay more than minimum wage, as well as overtime to its workers, even if it means seeing a smaller profit margin than their competitors who don’t. Those home care agencies believe that paying a higher wage results in a more professional and better trained workforce.

Home care workers have been excluded from protection since 1974, when the Department of Labor extended minimum-wage, overtime-pay to workers who perform "domestic service." At that time, caregivers for the elderly were, in the eyes of the law, providing “companionship services” and thus exempt from the wage protection — just like babysitters. Of course, as the population has aged, home care workers provide much more than simple companionship. The field has evolved to include other types of duties such as providing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). These duties can include tube feeding, physical therapy, taking the correct medication and getting cleaned and dressed.

Senior caregivers are quite different from childcare workers, but the minimum wage affects both equally. Have you seen this Kristen Bell Mary Poppins parody? She doesn’t get those birds for free!


Caregiverlist believes that home care workers help the elderly age in place, at home, which is where most seniors prefer to age. We think that all senior caregivers deserve to be paid a fair living wage.

Do you have an issue you'd like to see tackled on this blog? Connect with Renata on Google+

October is 'Protecting Older Americans from Fraud' Month

Senior citizens are easy prey for scam artists. From the Spring Break Grandparent Scam to the Medical Alert Scam and a host of others, the elderly are especially vulnerable to fraud schemes.

October is “Protecting Older Americans from Fraud” month, and the Better Business Bureau, in partnership with other agencies, suggest that families discuss with their senior family members how best to prevent their loss of money and security.

The BBB recommends these immediate steps:

  • Help put the senior's phone number on the Do Not Call registry.
  • Advise older Americans to never place outgoing bills in unsecured mailboxes.
  • Urge them to tell suspicious callers that they are going to check with the BBB before agreeing to anything and do so.
  • Tell unwanted solicitors to place the senior on the organization’s own do not call list, not to sell or share the senior’s information, and then hang up.

Senior identity theft, especially medical identity theft targeting the elderly, is nation's fastest-growing crime according to FBI statistics. Seniors living alone at home are not the only victims. Senior identity theft in long-term care, including nursing homes, assisted living, and in-home care are at risk of identity theft because their personal information is readily accessible by numerous individuals.

In addition to the action steps outlined above, the Better Business Bureau suggests you discuss the following common-sense practices with the senior in your life:

Mail

  • Never pay money to win a prize or sweepstakes.
  • Read all pages before considering the offer.
  • Contact the BBB BEFORE responding to a product/service offer or charity appeal.

Telephone

  • Never give out credit card or bank account numbers to unknown callers.
  • Ask for information in writing from charities.
  • Be skeptical of high pressure or emotional requests and hang up.
  • Never wire money to strangers.
  • Report all questionable calls to the BBB BEFORE responding to the offer.

In-Home

  • Never hire someone who just shows up at your door.
  • Get three estimates in writing.
  • Make sure the company is licensed and insured.
  • Contact the BBB BEFORE admitting an unknown person into your home or signing anything.

Email

  • Only give your personal email address to people you trust.
  • Instead of clicking a link in an email, type the address into your browser.
  • Visit the BBB’s website www.bosbbb.org to learn more about email “phishing”.

Caregiverlist previously blogged about senior scams during the holidays and the same advice holds true for all questionable dealings. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a scam or fraud, report it to your local police department and Department on Aging. You may help prevent others from becoming victims as well. And always perform a background check when hiring someone close to home.

Senior-Proofing the Home

Aging in place is an option more in the senior population want to pursue. There’s no place quite so comfortable as one’s own home and community. However, according to AARP, nearly one-third of all Americans over 65 experiences a fall in the home. There are other safety issues that make staying in the home a challenge and the initial accident prevention costs might be off-putting. But in the long run, the costs can be far less to stay home and renovate than to move into Assisted Living.

Senior-proofing the home is much like childproofing the home. Both encourage you to do a room-by-room assessment of potential and hidden hazards. Both take into account the physical limitations their subjects may encounter. And in both instances, safety in independence is key. But do everyone a favor and, for the senior crowd, don’t lock the toilet seat.

Elder home-proofing suggestions abound on the internet, but the most thorough and comprehensive guide to home safety I’ve found comes to us from our friends at AARP. Their AARP Home Fit Guide goes into great depth discussing home livability, home safety and home maintenance to help keep the estimated 83% of seniors who would like to, age at home.

Fall prevention is a huge concern when it comes to seniors living alone. Getting rid of scatter or throw rugs throughout the home, lighting dim passageways, installing shower and toilet grab bars, keeping passageways clear of clutter and wiring, all contribute to fall prevention in the home.  If your home needs renovation, contact your state’s Department on Aging for information on available senior home modification services.

Senior safety is addressed outside the home as well as in. Make sure medication dosages are kept current. Visit the eye doctor to gauge general as well as peripheral vision.

Owning a good Medical Alert System, as we’ve written before, is vital. In addition to providing real help in case of an accident or fall, simply possessing such a device can contribute to peace of mind for older adults who live alone.

Occupational Therapists (OTs) can be brought to the home to conduct a full assessment to help maximize an accessible living environment. Also, look for a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS) through the National Association of Home Builders to help with recommending home modifications to help age in place.

Taking preventative steps such as these, along with the help of a family or professional caregiver, can go a long way to help an independent lifestyle a viable senior option.

Experiencing the Sandwich Generation (Part II)

In this second of two blog posts, contributor Renata JL talks about saving your sanity and creating a balance while living in the Sandwich Generation.

My mother is an eighty-something year old widow who is relatively healthy and vital enough to live on her own. I started my family a little later in life, so my two children are still in elementary school. That means that I am, many times, caught in the middle, caring for both ends of my family’s generational spectrum. Most of the time, I like to think that I handle the pressures of care with efficiency and aplomb. But sometimes, especially during a health crisis, I find myself stretched pretty thin. And I know I’m not alone. Welcome to the world of the Sandwich Generation.

The term “Sandwich Generation” was first coined in by journalist Carol Abaya in 2006 to describe the growing segment of society simultaneously caring for both their children and their aging parents.

In a previous post, I wrote about my aging mother’s unexpected trip to the hospital and my subsequent scrambling to make sure all of my responsibilities would be met. It turns out her hospital stay (with its requisite daily visits) was not the ideal situation, but between Medicare and her insurance, the cost of her care was minimal and she had the around-the-clock attention she required. As her release date approached, we were aware that Medicare would pay for the first 20 days in a Skilled Nursing Facility, so with the help of the Caregiverlist’s Nursing Home Star Ratings system, we were able to find her a quality Nursing Home in her area. When those initial days are complete, the real challenges of being a member of the Sandwich Generation begin.

There is, of course, the financial stress involved with caring for my children and my parent, while planning for my own retirement. In this economy, I fully expect that I will need to help support my children for a longer time. Couple that with spiralling living costs, and I’m not sure how much I will have left over to help cover the costs of caring for mom, whether through the costs associated with Assisted Living or Senior Home Care. While the financial costs and responsibilities are fairly cut-and-dried, the emotional stress is the one that can really take its toll. Resentments can easily build between siblings dividing responsibilities, children losing the attentions of a parent to grandparent, and the senior realizing their diminishing independence. There are things that I plan to do to help prevent, or at least alleviate some of the stress involved with generational caring.

Here are some suggestions I found helpful:

Don’t Go It Alone
According to AARP, 29% of adult Americans spend 20 hours per week on caring for their parent(s). This growing demographic means and increased presence on the internet. Web sites catering to the Sandwich Generation abound. Look to them for ideas and support. Sites like sandwichgeneration.org, and AARP have a wealth of information about resources and support.

Talk About It
Gather family together, including children, parents, spouses. If you have siblings (even those living distantly), request that everyone participate in the plan of action. Communication is key and my help minimize or prevent feelings of resentment. Encourage everyone to voice their concerns and work together to find solutions.

Don’t Forget About You
If you are the primary caregiver for both children and parent(s), it may be difficult to carve out time for yourself, especially if you work outside the home as well. Although it may be difficult, you must treat the care you give yourself with as much gravity as the care you give to others. If you are fatigued, depressed or fall ill, you won’t be able to care for those around you. This one rings especially true because, as you know, we here at Caregiverlist are big advocates of “Caring for the Caregiver”.

The future will be demanding, I’m sure. I feel a little like I felt before giving birth, knowing that I would soon be entrusted to care for another human being and not sure if I was up to the task. That worked out somehow — some days are more demanding than others — but with the help of my family, my community and Caregiverlist’s resources, I hope to rise to the challenge of my new caregiver role with as much grace as I’m able to muster.

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We at Caregiverlist, along with the rest of the world, were deeply saddened by the December 14th, 2012 events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, CT. We offer our sincerest condolences to all those affected — family, friends, neighbors. This tragedy reminds us that, in the midst of all the challenges we face as part of the Sandwich Generation, we are truly lucky to have the ongoing opportunity to care for our loved ones.

Experiencing the Sandwich Generation (Part I)

In this first of two blogs, contributor Renata JL discusses the challenges faced by many like her — members of the Sandwich Generation.

My brother phones with the news that my mother’s been admitted to the hospital. She has the flu and I was going to visit her later in the day, after work, after the kids came home from school. My brother had (luckily) gotten there first. He’d found my mother disoriented and severely dehydrated, broken shards of glass around her bed. He’d cleaned her up enough to get her into the car and to the ER, where they promptly determined she’d need to be a guest of the hospital for at least a few days. The flu can be awful for anyone; at 82 it can be life-threatening.

My first reaction as I grab my coat to race to the hospital is one of gratitude that she’s going to be ok. She is in a safe place, being cared for by professionals. The second feeling is that of guilt. Why had I not gone to check on her earlier? I’d known she was sick. Was helping my son with his spelling words more important than my mother’s well-being? And then I think *expletive*, I’ve got to get someone to pick up the kids from school and do the grocery shopping I’d planned to do later that day. And what am I going to do about work? If I don’t work, I don’t get paid — my job doesn’t offer Paid Family Leave.

And so is the plight of the Sandwich Generation. The term “Sandwich Generation” was first coined in by journalist Carol Abaya in 2006 to describe the growing segment of society simultaneously caring for both their children and their aging parents (or other family members.) The combination of longer life-spans (the Journal of Financial Service Professionals finding shows tht at the beginning of the 20th century between 4% and 7% of people in their sixties had at least one parent still living. Today, that figure is nearly 50%) and later child-bearing has created a demographic whose parents are older while their children are still young. Combined with the phenomenon of smaller families (resulting in fewer siblings to bear the burden of care), those element can create a situation rife with stress, both financial and emotional.

According to AARP, 66 million Americans between the ages of 40-65 find themselves caring for multi-generation family members. The typical Sandwich Generation member is a 48-year-old woman. She maintains a paying job and spends an average of 20 hours a week providing care for a parent(s) and at least one child. And in these economic times, those children can be dependent for a much longer time.

While extended family care is not a new concept, the environment surrounding that care is completely different from historical care, as a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out. We no longer live in small villages, so care is not distributed throughout a community. In many instances, Americans are distance-caring for their parents. While I am fortunate to live in the same city as my mother, I have been living in denial. This latest health episode has shown me that changes need to be made. I’m not comfortable having my mother live alone with the sporadic support from her children. I think my sandwich just squeezed me a bit tighter.

Right now my mother and I both have time to assess our next steps. While she’s still in the hospital, she’s getting the care she needs. I arrange my schedule to see her every day, but my responsibilities are minimal. Her release is imminent, however, and I know I’m going to have to step up my game.

Next: How to best cope with the stress and that come with caring for a multi-generational family, and the resources available for support.

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Attitude of Gratitude: Grateful for Our Caregiver

Thanksgiving kicked off the holiday season and, as we batten down the hatches for yet another whirlwind period of feasting and folly, as part of our mission at Caregiverlist in “Caring for the Caregiver” we’d like to take this opportunity and thank those caring for those who cannot care for themselves. Here are some ways you can show your thanks during this holiday season:

Family Caregiver
The most prevalent of all caregivers, the family caregiver works tirelessly, perhaps at another job as well, to provide loving and caring home care for an elderly family member. Many times, the family caregiver will be overwhelmed, and the sometimes staggering responsibility makes it difficult for them to take time to care for themselves. This season is a good time to relieve some of the pressure and ask what they would like for you to do for them. Don’t just jump in and take over the caregiving — although that might be your first inclination — both the caregiver and the recipient of the care have a special bond and may prefer things handled a certain way. Perhaps the caregiver would appreciate if you could provide a meal or two, or come over to do a load of laundry. You can certainly offer respite time for the family caregiver to take care of personal needs, whether that be holiday shopping or just going out to gaze at the festive lights of the season.

Paid Home Caregiver
The bond between a home caregiver and senior is special because of it’s one-to-one nature. A dedicated in-home caregiver can be more like family to a senior than a paid helper. Give your sincere thanks to this person both verbally and with a thank you note, and maybe include a little holiday bonus cash or gift card. I think any amount would be appreciated. Caregiving is not an especially lucrative profession, many go into it because they enjoy making a difference in a senior’s quality of life.

Care in Assisted Living
The staff at an Assisted Living facility make life so much easier for you and your beloved senior. They might take care of laundry, light housekeeping, transportation, medical reminders and perhaps most importantly, provide access to activities. Many facilities have strict regulations prohibiting employees from accepting individual gifts. You can, however, provide something for the staff in the way of treats (sweet and savory -- think cookies, candy, fruit, bagel platters, coffee and tea for staff lounges ). Check to make sure there is a central area where staff can congregate. And although you must insist that no major individual gifts are given, a senior may say “thanks” with a gift from a candy box in their room or apartment.

Nursing Home Care
Just like an Assisted Living Facility, there are strict rules about giving gifts to Nursing Home employees, so the same rules apply. But because of the nature of round-the-clock and more significant level of care, there may be more staff and more shifts to think about treating. Also, skilled nurses and therapists may have separate breakrooms from those in support. This is where it pays to do a little investigating. Many nursing home facilities may set up a communal holiday fund to distribute equally among staff. Donations are kept anonymous and no one is compelled to contribute. This helps prevent the chance of a resident receiving special treatment due to monetary gifting. Also, if there is a special caregiver or two (or more) that you’d like to acknowledge — in both Nursing Home and Assisted Living facilities, send a note to the facility director or administrator. Many places rely on feedback such as this to administer bonuses, career advancements and special acknowledgements.

None of us are here to go it alone, especially as we grow older. Please join us at Caregiverlist and give special thanks to those who help care for the ones we love.

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Seniors Appear to Follow Generational Voting

Election 2012 looms on the not-so-distant horizon. Political pundits look for data to slice and dice information about possible supporters. Constituents are wooed based on race, sex, religion, economics, as well as a host of other factors. This election season, there’s a new line being drawn in the sand and it marks a generational division.

According to the Pew Research Center’s The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election, this election especially is seeing a difference in the way people vote as informed by their generation.

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1993, and turned 18 somewhere between 1999 and 2011. Shaped by the politics and conditions of the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies, this group, according to the New York times “holds liberal attitudes on most social and governmental issues.” Staunch supporters of Obama in 2008, this time around they appear less politically engaged. This most diverse generation remains upbeat about the future.

Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1980. They turned 18 between 1983 and 1998. Similar in views to their Millennial counterparts, they are mostly liberal, but have soured in their view of big government. This group experienced the Reagan era and voted both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton into office. While giving most of their votes to Obama the first time around, currently their votes as a group are split between Obama and Romney.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964) turned 18 between 1964 and 1982. This largest group of registered voters have expressed their frustration with government as they face an uncertain financial future. Older Boomers tend to vote more Democratic than younger generation members, but this election sees the group vote shift as many must look to delaying their retirement.

The Silent Generation (1925-1945) 67-87– came of age between the late 1940s and early 1960s. This group of over 80% of Americans age 65 and older – has held historically conservative views. Once one of the most Democratic generations, the majority identify as conservatives and tend to vote the Republican Party. They prefer the GOP’s stance on most issues except for Social Security which, not surprisingly, is listed as this group’s main concern. They are vocal group and their vote may sway the entire election.

One group didn’t make it into the PRC’s study are our nation’s Centenarians. The relatively small voting group of those over born before 1925 (72,000 according to the Census Bureau) are, as a group, Obama supporters. Many cast their first votes for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and may have even seen Theodore Roosevelt in the flesh. They saw the advent of women’s right to vote and many (but certainly not all) tend to vote Democratic. President Obama has a great showing among this group. And interestingly, because of aging well, this group is the fastest growing group in the country. Gallup points out that the generational divide exists primarily among non-Hispanic white voters. According to the poll, age makes little difference in voting preferences among nonwhites, more than 70% of whom support Obama regardless of their age category.

How about you? Do you fall in with your generation’s ideals? What social events shape your political views? Perhaps you are the caregiver to a Centenarian. Does their political outlook vary differently from yours? It will be interesting to watch the election results with an eye on the generation gap and how it will figure into the election results.

 

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Hiring a Senior Caregiver for Family Member

Senior care can be very complicated, as it not only involves providing physical and emotional care but also requires family members to confront the realities of aging.  When the tables turn and adults must begin caring for a parent, it reminds all of us that this is part of the cycle of life.  As my uncle often would say, birthdays are good even if they mean you are growing older because the only way not to have them is to die.

Family members who become caregivers know the challenges of working as a senior caregiver at the same time as being a daughter or son or niece or nephew.  This is why many times family members will choose to hire an outside person to be a caregiver.  This is often a need out of necessity, when a senior requires around-the-clock care or develops memory loss.

Professional senior caregivers receive caregiver training to manage to the activities of daily living for a senior and to understand the emotional issues that come along with aging.  Basic caregiver training includes learning first aid skills and how to effectively communicate with a senior.  Many states are beginning to pass legislation to require licensed senior home care agencies to perform training that consistently meets minimum standards.  The state of Illinois began requiring 8 hours of training in 2008. 

Caregiver training modules that meet the minimum caregiver training standards include:

  • Duties of a Caregiver
  • Communicating with Others
  • Observation, Reporting and Recording
  • Providing Personal Care
  • Promoting and Maintaining Good Mobility
  • Elimination and Toileting
  • Infection Control
  • Environmental Hazards and Safety
  • Basic First Aid

The first step when becoming a senior caregiver for a family member is understanding the job duties and the necessary caregiving job skills.  You may take a 10-hour online caregiver course that meets the basic training requirements in states such as Illinois.

View the caregiver job description for professional caregivers as a starting point for becoming a caregiver.  Many times people who have worked as family caregivers will become professional caregivers as part-time caregivers for seniors with memory loss as this can be very fulfilling work.

Caregiverlist provides the daily costs of nursing homes nationwide which also allows family caregivers to understand the costs of senior care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Amy Poehler Champions California Domestic Worker's Rights

Amy Poehler, comedian, actress, writer, producer, mother, and possibly the coolest chick on earth, stars in a recent PSA supporting the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (AB889) which seeks to “end generations of exclusion from basic labor protections”. It includes caregivers, childcare providers and housekeepers, and provides overtime pay, meal & rest breaks and safer conditions for live-in workers. The PSA was created in collaboration with with the National Domestic Workers Alliance.



“Many people ask me how I balance it all and the truth is it wouldn’t be possible for me to do all those things without the help I get in my home every day,” says Poehler. “Every day, so many working women get to do what they do because there are wonderful people in their home, helping them. These workers, who inspire and influence our children, who take care of our loved ones and our homes, have been excluded from basic labor protections for generations. Please help us right that wrong and pass the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights this year. It’s time these workers were treated with dignity and respect.”

As Labor Day draws near, I am reminded of the blog post I wrote last year and Congress is no closer to passing the Direct Care Job Quality Improvement Act. It seems that President Obama’s directives are languishing in the Labor Department. If action on a federal level is proving so difficult, then perhaps action has to be taken on a state-wide basis. Maybe more impassioned pleas like the one from Ms. Poehler can help get the ball rolling.

We at Caregiverlist also believe that the better trained you are, the easier it will be for you to request more equitable treatment. Consider Caregiverlist’s 10-hour online certification training. Upon completion you receive a certificate and your name is added to the database registry of training certified caregivers.

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Nurses' Rally Kicks off NATO Summit Protests

Nurses rallied together on Friday, May 18, in what was called “the first official protest of NATO” in Chicago’s downtown. More than 3,000 nurses, nurses aides and activists assembled to call for their "Robin Hood Tax" — a small sales tax on Wall Street transactions. With up to hundreds of transactions conducted every minute, the nurses said that the $350 billion per year generated by the proposed tax could help alleviate healthcare and education problems in communities.

Members of National Nurses United, organizers of the rally, dressed in nurse scrubs and green Robin Hood caps were joined by members of the Occupy movement in calling for equal taxation. The rally was predominantly peaceful, and the nurses stayed on message throughout the demonstration. Former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello performed during the last 30 minutes.

It was Morello’s performance that threatened the NNU permit request because of the city’s concern that his appearance would push rally attendance at Daley Plaza over its capacity. Negotiations between the Nurses’ Union and the city resulted in a shortened rally — from five hours to two. The nurses made sure to make those two hours count.

“It's time for Wall Street to start paying what all the rest of us pay,” said Karen Higgins, Boston RN and co-president of the NNU. Advocating for the people the families for whom they care, the nurses carried placards calling for “Healthcare for All, Jobs with Dignity, Quality Public Education and A Healthy Environment.”

You can watch a part of the demonstration here:

The solidarity and caring shown by the nursing community was truly inspiring. As the need for caregivers continues to increase, training as a CNA seems to be a great first step to a fulfilling job and career.

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