The big question: can home care workers work during a state lockdown?
The answer may vary from state to state; as of this writing, in both New York and California the answer is yes.
While home care workers in New York are still viewed generally as essential employees, there’s some uncertainty. The status of home care workers as essential health personnel hasn’t been defined in state law, Febraio explains, so while home care workers are going about their business, that could change in future policy updates.
California’s stance is more definite: Thanks to constant efforts to educate local leaders, California’s governor as declared private duty an essential service.
Educating: Home Care is Healthcare
This fight hasn’t been easy; according to Andrews, it’s taken considerable work to inform local and state governments as well as the public about the vital role of home care in healthcare.
“One of the most important things you can do is make sure that local and state governments understand that we are essential healthcare providers,” she says. “That’s what we’ve seen here and in other states that are on lockdown; it’s critical that they understand that we are critical workers who are doing essential care.”
“Our staff are there to make sure that those activities of daily living continue. But if those things aren’t happening, where are those people going to go? They’re going to get sick, they’re going to fall, and they’re ultimately going to clog the healthcare system. And the last place you want a non-symptomatic elderly person to be right now is in the hospital.
“We have passionately identified ourselves as healthcare providers in any statement or communication that goes out.”
These efforts take many forms; in addition to lobbying local and state officials, agencies in California have taken extensive steps to ensure that their workers are easily identifiable while they’re working.
“Across the state, all our agencies make sure their staff have name tags that identify them as workers,” says Andrews. “Make sure their office staff can take a call if caregiver is stopped and asked why they’re out.”
“You also want to have some kind of ID showing what work you do. We put it in writing; I have a document that has the company name with the owner’s name and phone number, and a statement that they’re doing essential healthcare work. It needs to be clear to everyone why [your employees are] out and about.”