Guest Opinion: Delawareans deserve GA action now on home caregivers


Born with cerebral palsy, Benjamin Shrader is a self-advocate, activist and public speaker, who serves on the Delaware Division of Developmental Disabilities Services’ Advisory Council and as a director of Redefining Independence and Social Empowerment Delaware. First elected in 2018, Sen. Laura Sturgeon, a Democrat, serves as chair of the Senate Education Committee and is a member of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee. She represents the 4th District, which includes west Talleyville, Greenville, Centreville, Hockessin and parts of Pike Creek.

From Ben:

As director of Redefining Independence and Social Empowerment Delaware (RISE), my ideas can be thought out, my to-do list bulleted, my speeches prepared and my meetings planned. But, if my home health aide is late or fails to show up at all, my whole world is shattered.

My name is Benjamin Shrader, and I have cerebral palsy. RISE is dedicated to creating community spaces for people with disabilities throughout the tri-state area, so they can be their best selves.

To be my best self, I need assistance getting out of bed in the morning, bathing, dressing and having my meals prepared. For me personally, independence means I have the autonomy to make my own decisions, no matter how many people it requires to bring them to fruition. But, in order for that vision to become a reality, the home health aides that make it possible must feel valued — fairly compensated for their extraordinary work.

Unfortunately, this is not currently the case, which contributes to the profound lack of home care workers in the workforce today.

Home is where people who need health care services — like all of us — want to be. Home care allows people to live the highest quality of life possible in the environment they feel most comfortable — at home. But this may not always be a feasible option for everyone because Delaware’s home care workforce shortage is making this care increasingly inaccessible.

Many of you may not realize that, if there is any kind of break in support from our home health aide, not only does that affect us, but it can put extreme stress on our families. And, for so many Delawareans, if they can’t get the services they need and deserve at home, they are forced to make the choice between living in their homes without care or moving into a long-term facility, where they do not necessarily want to be.

From Sen. Sturgeon:

Benjamin Shrader is a constituent of mine, and I want to ensure that he and the hundreds of Delawareans who rely on home health aides not only survive but are cared for properly by essential home health care providers, so they can contribute their unique skills and talents to their families and communities.

When I visited Ben in his home, I saw the bond he had with this home health aide, and I realized how lucky he was to have a compassionate, patient and personable aide. When your job entails lifting an adult out of bed, helping to wash and dress them, and helping to feed them, it takes a very special skill set to make those moments something comfortable and natural, instead of awkward and stressful. And it takes time to build trust between a client and an aide, a bond that is lost and must be rebuilt each time there is turnover.

That is why I believe we must make every effort to ensure these selfless caretakers are able to stay in the profession, and their employers are able to attract new home health aides with the skill sets our neighbors so desperately need.

As a member of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, I am calling on my colleagues to fund and increase Medicaid rates for home care services.

During our February hearings, we heard directly from people who work in home health care, from the families whose loved ones need them and from the people who cannot survive without them. All of them echoed the same sentiment: Delaware’s Medicaid rates for home care services have fallen dangerously behind. Currently, home care workers can earn more money doing similar work in other health care settings or even by working in fast food or retail. Without a meaningful funding increase in the 2024 budget — and years to come — the home care workforce shortage will only worsen and will put our state’s medically fragile populations at higher risk. Unless our Medicaid rates are properly adjusted to meet real-time developments, Delaware’s most vulnerable residents will experience increased and unnecessary hardship.

Professional home caregivers are an integral part of unlocking opportunities for all of our citizens. They deserve to be compensated as such.

We need to take the necessary steps to now prioritize Delawareans with disabilities — children, adults and seniors — who deserve to live in their homes.

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