Through interviews and original photography, PHI is working with direct care workers nationwide to document their stories and share their ideas for transforming jobs in long-term care. This interview is with Marisol Rivera, a Care Coordinator at Cooperative Home Care Associates in Bronx, New York. She has been a direct care worker for 22 years.
ON ADVANCING TO NEW ROLES IN HOME CARE
“I trained to become a Care Connections Senior Aide over three months, which was wonderful. This role built on what I had been doing every day for years. In the beginning, I was nervous because aides saw me as a supervisor. I would assure them, ‘I am a home health aide just like you, but because I’ve been in the field so long, I’m here to give you support.’ As time went on, I felt more comfortable. Now as Care Coordinator, I help triage clients and assist workers over the phone. It’s all about delivering better services to clients and keeping them home in the community where they want to stay.”
ON WHY ADDITIONAL SUPPORT HELPS WORKERS DELIVER QUALITY CARE
“I know from my years as a home health aide how difficult that job can be, and I don’t think that’s something anyone who hasn’t been in the field can fully understand. For example, a lot of workers get their initial training in how to use one type of Hoyer lift, but when they get to the home and see a lift they haven’t worked with, they worry they might be judged if they call for assistance. But the moment aides heard I was there to provide support and additional training, I could see their tension fade. I’d always speak calmly and tell them, ‘It’s okay. We’ll do this together.’ I know how overwhelmed workers can feel when they’re on their own, but when they know they have someone to support them, it helps them to do their job and follow up on client issues. I think every agency should have these roles. They will prevent a lot of hospitalizations.”
IF SHE COULD CHANGE ANYTHING ABOUT THE FIELD
“I think the role of the home health aide should be considered just as important as any other health care role. When an aide reports something, it should be listened to and not disregarded because of her title. Sometimes the aide knows more about the client’s health than a physician or family member. We know that we are not a doctor or a nurse, but the home care role can be just as important in supporting the client. One of the main challenges in a client’s home is that family members can misunderstand the home health aide’s role. Some people think we are a maid or that we have to care for everyone in the home. During my visits as a Senior Aide, I’d show the client and family the plan of care and what responsibilities it specified. This would help reduce complaints and keep aides with clients longer. Yes, an aide may help clean the client’s environment and help them with toileting, but they’re also there taking care of your loved one in ways that relieve some caregiving stress otherwise placed on the family.”
“I think the role of the home health aide should be considered just as important as any other health care role.”
WHAT HER CAREER PATH HAS MEANT TO HER
“Working in these advanced roles has given me a lot of confidence in what I do. I feel good about being able to help more clients, more workers, and more family members. I continue to learn, which is also good for me. And I am proud of the example I have set for my daughters. When home health aides ask me how I got this role, I tell them my story and to look for openings. I tell them, ‘You’re qualified, so apply for it!’”
The Direct Care Worker Story Project aims to enhance the visibility of this workforce, amplify its voices, and draw on workers’ unique wisdom to inform policy and practice. The Project seeks to address the lack of representation of direct care workers in public narratives and ensure images used to depict long-term care work are grounded in workers’ and clients’ real experiences. If you’re interested in sharing your story as a direct care worker, please email us at info@PHInational.org.