A swing and a miss: Home health care advocates say their work with Pa. seniors, the disabled is overlooked
- The governor committed to reviewing data that will help to attract and retain aides for people with intellectual disabilities and autism
- Advocacy group Bayada Hearts for Home Care is calling for more to be done for people who serve those with physical disabilities and seniors
- The average hourly pay for a home health aide in PA is $13.53/hour
ALLENTOWN, Pa - It was a dream years in the making. Danny Collins, of Allentown, had been to many Lehigh Valley IronPigs games, but this August night was special. Collins threw out the first pitch of the game.
“Danny is an avid sports lover, so he has season tickets to the IronPigs but has never been down on the field before so it was quite a kick,” said Collins’ niece, Tiffany Werner. “The idea of being on the jumbo TV, he just loved that. He had a great time and his family loved watching it too.”
Throwing that ball would be an honor for any Lehigh Valley baseball fan, but what made that moment extra special was who joined him on the mound — his home health aides, Marion and Miracle of Bayada Home Health Care.
Collins has cerebral palsy, which is explained as a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. Collins' aides helped him on the field just as they help him in his daily life.
The home health care workers go to his Allentown residence every morning, assisting with activities such as showering, shaving and completing household items including vacuuming and light cleaning.
"It allows him the independence to get up and get ready for the rest of the day,” explained Werner. "He's able to take care of himself in the sense that he can go to the bathroom and we make his lunches so that he can heat up his lunch and dinner and take his medications. So the morning routine is what he needs help with and that allows him to be independent for the rest of the day."
Many of these employees, like those at Bayada, make it possible for people with intellectual and physical disabilities as well as seniors to stay in their homes, advocates say.
“A vast majority of Pennsylvanians want to stay in their homes and want to stay in their communities and that's what home care offers, but on top of that it's also the most cost-effective setting,” said Laura Ness, who is with the advocacy group Bayada Hearts for Home Care.
Ness said a recent announcement from Pennsylvania’s governor will help to attract and retain aides for people with intellectual disabilities and autism.
Gov. Josh Shapiro committed to reviewing the fee schedule for people providing services to those individuals. The Department of Human Services is updating data used to set rates for home and community-based services for Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities and autism.
Ness said that’s a start, but those caring for two other groups of people are being left out of the review process. She said rate increases are needed for those with physical disabilities and seniors receiving home care as well.
“A very similar service line that's still in the direct care worker, kind of, the definition is individuals that are physically disabled and our seniors and that unfortunately, was left out of the governor's commitment to evaluate these rates,” she said adding that people like Collins fall into the other category.
“Thousands of other Pennsylvanians either go without care because agencies like Bayada, are unable to recruit and retain the workers needed or they aren't having the full care that they need,” she explained.
Ness said they’ve had a couple of small increases over that last decade, but they pale in comparison to what the current rates are under the Office of Developmental Programs. The average hourly pay for a home health aide in Pennsylvania is $13.53 an hour, according to statistics.
“When you're only able to pay an aide between $11 and $12 an hour, oftentimes, that's just not enough for a direct care worker to be able to stay in this industry long term.”Laura Ness, Bayada Hearts for Home Care
She went on to say without adequate wages, it’s harder to fill hours on weekends and in the evenings. “When you're only able to pay an aide between $11 and $12 an hour, oftentimes, that's just not enough for a direct care worker to be able to stay in this industry long term.”
"I just think I just think it's a very undervalued profession,” said Collins’ niece.
Werner, who has a husband and children of her own, said her life would be substantially harder if she had to take care of her great-uncle without help from the home health aides.
"Having someone come into the house just to help take care of things that they may not be able to do on a day-to-day basis allows them to have some sense of independence still,” Werner concluded. “So, there's absolutely a need for people that are maybe older or have some special circumstances or needs in order to have home health care come in and allow them that help."
Bayada Hearts for Home Care has been working with other industries as supporters to increase home care rates by 10%. The campaign was unsuccessful in doing so for this year’s budget but will continue to push for it in the 2024-2025 budget.