Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 11:52 AM on Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Consumer Direct offers health-care option



Photo by Michael Armstrong

Geri Glasgow stands on the balcony above the Consumer Direct office in the Hillas Building on Pioneer Avenue.

Life throws challenges at families and loved ones. Through age, accident, disease and developmental disability, it sometimes happens that a parent, spouse, child or sibling needs extra care. Without it, the only option might be an assisted living home or long-term care facility.

"A lot of times they may not need that level of care," said Geri Glasgow, the Homer coordinator with Consumer Direct, of assisted living homes. "(Personal care) enables them to stay in their homes longer because it gives them the help they need."

For people who qualify for Alaska Medicaid assistance, through the state Senior and Disability Services Personal Care Assistant Program, families can get the help they need to keep loved ones at home.

Enter Consumer Direct, a personal care assistant program that recently opened with an office in Homer. The state personal care assistant program provides services either through agency-directed or consumer-directed programs, said Lisa Brown, Personal Care Assistant Unit manager for the Alaska Medicaid Senior and Disability Services.

In the agency-directed model, organizations like the Alzheimer's Disease Resource Agency of Alaska supervise personal care assistants, or PCAs. Under a consumer-based PCA program like Consumer Direct, people manage their own care. JobReady in Homer also provides both agency-directed and consumer-directed personal care assistants.

Consumer Direct has offices in seven states, including Alaska, Wisconsin, Texas, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho and Arizona.

Working directly with clients or their families, coordinators like Glasgow in local offices help them select, hire and fire and supervise their own personal care assistants. Family members also can be employed as PCAs, with the exception of someone caring for a spouse or minor child.

"A lot of times somebody wants to stay home and take care of their parent, but they can't. They have to work," Glasgow said.

PCAs offer these services:

• Medication reminders;

• Bathing and hygiene;

• Dressing and grooming;

• Eating;

• Moving around; and

• Other activities of daily living.

People also can get PCAs who offer chore and respite services such as lighthousekeeping, sidewalk shoveling, shopping and doing laundry. Brown compared the services of a PCA to those of a home health aide who might provide similar services to someone returning home after being in the hospital.

Glasgow is the person who links together consumers and caregivers, coordinates care, helps with the Medicaid paperwork, assists with state assessments of clients and even helps certified PCAs looking for work to link up with clients.

For caretakers to qualify under Alaska Medicaid rules, they have to know First Aid and CPR, be fingerprinted and go through a criminal background check. Consumer Direct tracks PCA timesheets and does the employment paperwork.

Consumer Direct also supports private pay programs through insurance or direct pay. If families want to pay for a PCA themselves and hire someone they know, "That's where we step in with the private pay program," said Jim Trombley, Consumer Direct regional program coordinator for the area from Cordova to Kodiak. "We're the employer of record."

A lot of Glasgow's work involves doing annual assessments of client needs, checking on PCAs and making quarterly calls.

"It's a lot of compliance stuff," Glasgow said. "The consumers call. They have different needs — maybe need a different PCA."

The personal care assistant program came out of changes made in federal Medicaid rules in 1997 that separated personal care assistance from home health care assistance. The new law recognized that people with disabilities often could be better cared for in their homes and communities.

The Affordable Care Act creates a new program, Community First Choice, that expands the personal care assistant program, such as providing assistance for people making the transition from nursing homes to their own homes.

Glasgow praised both the state and her employer for its work.

"It's a great program," she said of the Consumer-Directed PCA Program. "They've done a great job of streamlining it to an extent. They're really great people at Senior Disability Services to work with."

As for Consumer Direct, "So far I've been really pleased with this company," Glasgow said. "If a PCA has an issue, the company goes the extra mile. They're really looking out for people."

Glasgow has been with Consumer Direct almost two years, previously working out of her home and now in her office in the Hillas Building on Pioneer Avenue. The owner of the Beehive RV Park north of Homer — the motorhome campground with the Airstream trailer painted yellow and black — Glasgow also ran Johnson's Assisted Living for five years.

"That's why I got back into this," she said of working with Consumer Direct. "I really missed that sector of the population a lot. I liked working with people, that idea of getting people help. I just missed it."

Since starting for Consumer Direct, Glasgow has grown her client list from 10 to 35 people — and worked her way into a full-time job. "She's been a real driving force in increasing the business down there," Trombley said. "We're real happy with her."

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.