Ms. Vereen recently chaired a meeting of home health care workers. Later she was interviewed by Harry Wiland.
Good evening ladies. I'm glad that you joined me here this evening at our policy action group. I just want to ask you a question and the question is just about, How do you think that we can improve the quality of your work and the work that you provide to your patients?
Julia: One of the things that can be improved is better wages and health benefits. I believe that if we had better wages and health benefits to take care of our families we would have less on our minds to worry about while taking care of the clients.
Paula: What do you think the government can do?
Julia: I believe the government can provide more, can be a little bit easier on the Medicaid reimbursement rates. Right now as far as the home health aids are concerned the reimbursement rates are very low. A lot of the home health agencies are not represented by the union so it's very hard for us to get better reimbursement rates. The government concentrates more on nursing aid facilities and hospitals because they have representation. So it's really difficult for us to get the proper representation as far as the government is concerned. So maybe they can look more into the home health aid agencies in the city.
Linda: I think they could make it easier for the patients to get the supplies they might need such as wheel chairs, walkers, you know canes because sometimes it's a bit hard for them to be able to pay the money out of pocket to get the supplies that they need before Medicaid or whatever insurance they have can give them back the money. You know, it's very difficult sometimes to pay money out of your pocket to get your supplies and it's very needed because patients are living in buildings that don't have elevators most of the time and you know, it's hard to get up and down the stairs without a cane or something to help them.
Paula: What are some of the special issues dealing with the elderly being that a large population that you take care of are elderly people?
Anna: We are sometimes the only people they see for months at a time. We're the only outside communication these people have. And, we do a very good job and the wages are very low and they really do need us. And we need them. It's a beautiful thing to have people to need you and you need them and we as home health aids, we do our best for these people and we should be recognized for our good works - we should be appreciated. They should give us a little more wages so that we would be able to function more on our jobs.
Are things getting better or worse?
Anna: We are like on a standstill. We need to move up more. It's just that it's time for us to get what's due to us.
Paula: What is the home health aid's relationship with the families? How does it actually work all together?
Gail: Well, if the family is involved in the caretaking it works well but a lot of times the families are glad to see us so they can go. That's the bottom line. They're out. And they don't really care. I just appreciate my clients telling me that, "I don't know what I would have done if you weren't here." I mean just for somebody to appreciate you. And then there's a lot of them that will abuse you and because they are independent and they don't want to accept that they're sick so sometimes they strike out at us because they have nobody else. And then eventually we get to know one another and things seem to work well.
Paula: What does caregiving mean to you in your own words?
Linda: I think that it's reliable, dependable, being there for the patient, hard working, understanding. That's what I think caregiving is -- supportive, being very supportive and being able to take care of the patient. Because they need us, they really depend on us. A lot of them don't have families. A lot of them live alone and they are unable to go out and shop and you know it's really ... it's very important to them to have someone that's there to support them.
Roberta: And also there's a lot of them out there that can't even feed themselves or clothe themselves, so they really depend on us ... they need us coming in because this is their livelihood just as well. As for us going out there...even for the ones that are wheelchair-bound or quadriplegic, para ... somebody has to feed and cook for them and they look for this, you know they wait for that next day to come and for you to be there for them.
Anna: Being dedicated, you have to be dedicated. Sometimes we are their hands, their eyes, their nose. We do everything for some of these patients and we show that love and that caring and the patient responds sometimes so what we give to them we get back. And it's a good feeling to see your patient improve as you take care of this patient.
What does the phrase, & Thou Shalt Honor mean?
Sharon: I think the phrase Thou Shalt Honor, it's not a one-sided thing. It's like a sharing matter, like you give and I give and it's how you perceive it. There are different phrases to it and there are different perceptions to it but I think the most thing about it is you appreciate the person, the person appreciates you. You are like a highlight or a front-line person to each other and I think that's what it's all about.
Julia: Well, you figure with everything that's been going on since September 11th that the need for home health aids would be greater because a lot of people were lost, a lot of children were orphaned, and so you would think that the government would try and concentrate more on that because there's probably a greater need since September 11th. So, I think, I know we have a war going on right now but I think that they really need to look into the home health aid situation. I feel that they would probably save money with taking care of the elderly or disabled in the home than with putting them in a nursing home. So, I think that someone really needs to look into the matter.
Paula: As advocates...and you ladies are all advocates in your own way, what do you think you can do as an individual to get the message out about how important our work is?
Anna: We have to let our politicians know that we exist. We have to make a noise with our votes, let them know that we have a voice and that they have to give us something in order to get something from us. We just have to keep speaking and talking til somebody listen to us. That's the main thing - we are talking, but it just seem that we are not getting through to the right people, so until we continue to speak and let them know that we're functioning but we are not satisfied with what we are getting - we should be getting more, I repeat that again, because we do a very important job.
Our job, a lot of people depend on us. Sooner or later someone in everybody's family will need a home help aid so they should think about us a little more. Even the politicians, all the way up to Washington, D.C., they should remember us because we are at the bottom but we do very important jobs. So that's about it.
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