DSP & HCP Recognition Week: Thank You For All You Do
The week of September 11-17 is Direct Support Professional (DSP) and Home Care Provider (HCP) Recognition Week. While we believe frontline workers deserve to be celebrated every day of the year, this is the perfect time to shine a light on DSPs/HCPs and the work they do. These workers utilize a multitude of skills, and dedicate countless hours to support those with developmental and other disabilities, those who are aging, and those who have experienced a temporary or permanent injury.
HCPs/DSPs and our area agency share many of the same goals and values. This has allowed many important partnerships to form, and last for many years.
Cariann Duszak is a DSP at Life Visions, one of our longtime partners. “As a DSP, I have learned the importance of our role in these individuals’ lives. Without the service we bring them, many of them would be very limited in their activities. Lots of these individuals live with their older parents who can only do as much as they can,” Cariann said. She added, “My role as a DSP allows me to care for individuals and provide them with safe avenues to express themselves and enjoy their lives. This job gives me the ability to do both…Working for Life Visions, I see how important the relationship between local area agencies like Community Crossroads is to making the individual and their family live enriched and fulfilled lives.”
Some families choose the Family Managed Care option. This approach allows families to have control when it comes to a program’s management, including the service plan’s design and choice of who provides the services. Loretta, George, and Chris Eacker are all Family Managed Employees (FME). “I think this program is about bonding with people when they are in high school, which is where they were when I first met them when I worked at the school, and continuing to support them when they are an adult. We celebrate birthdays and holidays together! They are like grandsons and daughters to me in a way,” Loretta said. She added that supporting the same people for more than four decades has been beneficial for both the people she cares for, and herself. It has allowed the Eacker’s to best understand the people they care for, understand their likes and dislikes, what initiates a behavior for each person, and how to relax feeling secure. It also allows them to have a closer bond with each other and people they meet in the community. Loretta said, “Parents also benefit from this because they don’t have to spend time and effort finding backup caregivers. We believe health, safety, work and play make for a great day!”
[Photo: Loretta and George Eacker]
Jaime McHugh, Family Support Coordinator at our area agency, has a daughter who experiences a disability, has to walk with a cane, and requires someone with her 24/7 for safety. She said being both a parent and a caregiver to her daughter is a balance. “There is a fine line between having a daughter who wants her own life, but also needs so much support,” Jaime said, “Trying to find dependable staff right now is difficult. I need to put on a different hat at various times throughout the day to teach her independence with daily living skills and not let the mother in me come out to always do things for her.”
A Critical Workforce Shortage
The shortage of DSPs/HCPs has been a concern in our country for decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the situation. A Politico article from last month reads, “Most agencies rely on state and federal Medicaid money to pay employees and can’t increase salaries to compete with retail or food-services industries because Medicaid rates are set by the state. Though that’s always been a challenge, it’s exacerbated during periods of high inflation when wages in other sectors and the cost of living increases, making it more tempting for employees to take a new job that pays a couple dollars more an hour.”
In an article published earlier this year, Business NH Magazine states, “People who may otherwise take a DSP position are taking jobs as paraprofessionals in schools that pay more or are attracted to similar positions at nursing homes as some of those employers are offering signing bonuses.” Some signing bonuses are several hundred, or even thousands of dollars.
If frontline workers receive higher pay, more training, and if working in the field is highlighted more prominently, it will likely lead to more people entering and staying with this career path.
What Can Be Done?
Some actions that can be taken to improve the HCP/DSP shortage in our state include: calling and emailing legislators in your state to express the importance of these workers, posting and sharing on social media about the work they do, and advocating for schools to showcase this option as a career path. When speaking with legislators, you can highlight topics such as Medicaid rate increases, investing in our state’s loan repayment program, and making training more available and manageable to complete, while still making sure those looking into the field gain necessary skills.
If you know of legislative candidates who are committed to being a part of the solution to this nationwide problem, be sure to vote for them on November 8th of this year!
In New Hampshire, the wellbeing of those with developmental and other disabilities, acquired brain injuries, and the elderly are very important. They can only live the most inclusive and meaningful lives possible if people who work on the frontline are valued and recognized. To all the DSPs and HCPs out there, we thank you for all that you do each and every day!