“Without integration, we will not receive the respect that we need to have to represent [the] consumers, from anyone else on the care team. [Integration] is so important. Once you understand how the system works, your integration into the system becomes a much smoother process to help the consumer. We are literally becoming the lynchpin in the whole medical process and making it easier for the doctors and nurses to do their jobs.”
–Percy Tolton, Jr., In-Home Supportive Services Provider
Home care workers can also respond to, and report back on, enquiries made by other care team members. This type of increased interaction and communication with the clinical care team helps build a dynamic of respect across all disciplines of caregivers responsible for providing care for a consumer. Breaking down barriers between professions and roles allows for increased respect for, and actual understanding of, the role a home care worker plays. This kind of team-based inclusion and cooperation can have a major impact in bringing about deeper health care system change. Clinical members of the ICT are highly educated and empowered in their roles as health providers. Often, a home care worker may initially be timid about raising his or her voice to share observations out of fear of being dismissed for a variety of reasons including educational level, level of English proficiency and perceptions of power directed toward the clinical staff. Once a home care worker is formally seated on an ICT and the clinical staff is oriented to and helped to understand the vital role of that provider, his or her contributions and the observations about the consumer can be heard in more meaningful manner.
When given the opportunity to bridge their quality in-home care provision with the health care delivery system, home care workers are able to be even more valuable and effective members of consumers’ care teams. Meaningful collaboration between the consumer, the home care worker, any additional unpaid family caregivers and the rest of the care team can have demonstrable effects on the health care system and – most importantly – provide the right care, at the right time, in the right setting.
Corinne Eldridge is Executive Director of the California Long-Term Care Education Center, a non-profit educational institution dedicated to providing educational opportunities as tools of empowerment for long-term care workers to build better lives, provide quality care, and meet and invest in the critical needs of the long-term care workforce. Serving as Project Director for CLTCEC’s most notable pilot project, Care Team Integration of the Home-Based Workforce, which was funded by an $11.8 million Health Care Innovation Award from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Innovation, she led the successful completion of the 3-year project to train over 6,000 home care workers and In-Home Supportive Services consumers pairs in a program taught in six languages across three California counties. Corinne continues to develop and execute training program partnerships with a spectrum of educational institutions, joint labor and management training and trust fund for nursing home workers, and long-term care stakeholders.