A half-dozen Maine home care workers have seats on a newly formed council that will advise the state on ways to address the growing caregiver crisis. The 16-member council, which is expected to meet for the first time next month, includes workers from various long-term care settings, including home care, skilled nursing and assisted living.
Maine Long-term Care Ombudsman Brenda Gallant, who is leading the council, told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse the direct care workers will have a strong, collective and sustained voice in strengthening the direct care workforce.
“If you think about it, everyone should have a seat at the table and a voice,” Gallant said. “So this is an opportunity for these staff to get together, to have support and information.”
Call for wages, universal training
The Maine Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, which conducted a series of focus groups with nearly 60 direct care workers from across the state late last year, recommended the council. In a report, direct care workers called for better wages, adequate staffing, proactive communication from providers and consistent standards. The workers specifically called for universal training and certification that would allow them to move from one care setting to another. That idea is similar to the standardized certification proposed last week by the Home Care Association of America.
Gallant said the Maine Legislature, along with the state Department of Health and Human Services, are both focused on caregiver recruitment and retention policies. She envisions a free flow of ideas between the advisory council and state policymakers to attract more caregivers to a state that has the nation’s oldest population.
“What I am hoping is that there will be a sharing of ideas and getting feedback,” Gallant explained.
Not the first
Maine isn’t the first state to establish a workgroup to tackle the caregiver crisis. In a report, PHI National found more than a dozen states have established advisory panels that have consistently recommended better caregiver training, compensation, career tracks and enhanced data collection.
PHI Data and Policy Analyst Stephen McCall told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse in an email that some groups have been more successful than others. He credits groups in Arizona and Washington with spearheading reforms in personal care training. He said groups in Wisconsin and Rhode Island influenced American Rescue Plan Act funding for direct care in their states.
“Even when states do not adopt work group recommendations, bringing together stakeholders with disparate perspectives to discuss their differences and agree to recommendations is powerful in and of itself,” McCall said. “These groups can also raise the profile of direct care workforce issues and provide advocates with a stronger justification for their asks.”