MSU Grant Focus on Caregivers 

MSU logo represents MSU grant focus on caregivers


For the past six months Executive Director, John Stauffer, has been serving as a contributor to an MSU Grant Focus on Caregivers, an important alliance for Helping Hands Respite Care. Called the IMPART Alliance, the group was formed to provide critical and anecdotal information for a $500,000 MSU Research Grant process targeting “personal care attendants, or PCAs,” in our vernacular – caregivers. The grant came from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund in the category of Special Projects and Emerging Ideas Grants. Written by MSU professor Clare Luz in the Department of Family Medicine, the grant outlines a program called Integrated Model for Personal Assistant Research Training (IMPART).Clare Luz, author of MSU Grant Focus on Caregivers

Focus of  MSU Grant About Funding for Training and Service

Major topics being explored through this grant include:
– Creative Ways to Finance PCA Training and Workforce Development
– Exploring Diverse Sources of Funds to Pay for Training and Service for PCAs


Background for this initiative began 6 to 7 years ago with a federal grant that was offered in several states to focus on standardized training for PCAs. The acronym for the program was BTBQ which stood for Better Training, Better Quality. Contrary to most of the participating states in this program, in Michigan the BTBQ training never made it to the implementation phase before the funding ran out.
In Michigan, the reason for the evaporation of funding is because unlike the other participating states, Michigan is a state which does not license many of the care facilities/organizations and as such has no uniform training standards across the state.

In this generation of focus on the training, the IMPART alliance proposes going back to the other states to gather lessons learned from their implementation strategies to inform the research goals going forward in Michigan.

Across the country there is a consensus that there is no way forward in an environment where PCAs being paid at minimum wage creates an effective response for the ever-growing need for Personal Care Attendants. As the Executive Director of a program widely recognized as providing top-shelf training, John Stauffer’s role in the committee is to be a strong voice for the methods of training which are relevant to the target audience and appropriately reflects the reality of training for a new generation of caregivers which includes more and more college-age caregivers.

Legislators Recognize Value of Respite with Action – Consult with IMPART Committee of MSU Grant Focus on Caregivers

The IMPART alliance includes a sub-committee, which John Stauffer also serves on, which is focused on future implementation and needed wage increases across the board. And, currently this sub-committee includes several members who were responsible for input on some new state legislation targeted at immediately raising wages for PCA’s. The conversation began with legislators and lobbyists proposing a $2 an hour wage increase for these care attendants. The proposal was ultimately reduced to $.50 an hour, for budget reasons, and specifically targeted to those providing care for Michigan Community Mental Health (CMH) programs supporting respite care for families with members needing care due to cognitive/physical disabilities.

State Legislation Passed Will Positively Impact Some PCA/Caregivers

The $.50 increase for PCA’s caring for individuals supported by CMH went into effect October 1st. At Helping Hands Respite Care approximately 45% of those we care for draw some funds from CMH. Because Helping Hands Respite Care has a broad mission of caring for individuals from the very young to the oldest, the remainder of our programs may draw funds from Tri-County Office on Aging for our senior programs, the Veteran’s Administration and their benefits for respite care for spouses of those who have been in-service to our nation, and finally families privately paying or using long-term care insurance policies. “The diversity of our service and programs means that there will be some caregivers/PCA’s who will not see an increase in their pay,” commented Stauffer.

Minimum Wage Increase Coming January 2018

“However, there has been preparation for addressing a broader increase across more of our care staff with the coming of a $.35 increase in minimum wage in Michigan beginning January 1st. Current care staff should watch for a letter which outlines how these two increases – the CMH wage increase and the minimum wage increase will be reflected in their paychecks. It should be noted that the language of the CMH wage increase provides the $.50 per hour increase to go both to the direct care agency and the care providers. At Helping Hands Respite Care we prioritize the well-being of the families we serve by making sure that all of the increased funds go directly to caregivers,” concluded Stauffer.


Kathryn Green Named as Child In-Home Supervisor

Kethryn Green, new Child In-Home supervisor at Helping Hands Respite Care

Reviewing the reasons why Kathryn Green is a great candidate for a supervisor’s position, it became clear she was the best choice for Child In-Home Supervisor. In her 2+ years at Helping Hands Respite Care there has been no employee who has racked up more positive attention,  been named Employee of the Month numerous times, and rapidly advanced from caregiver, to team leader, to assistant supervisor, and now supervisor.

“When you see great talent found in Kathryn Green it is an easy choice to take advantage of the energy, willingness to learn and to grow,” shared Executive Director John Stauffer.

“I am committed to supporting our Child In-Home families in the best way possible while also helping our caregivers remain up to speed and accountable to their important responsibilities,” said Kathryn.

What happened to Nicole?

Some may be asking what happened to our previous Child In-Home Supervisor, Nicole Holbrook. The reason for her departure was precipitated by an escalating family situation. Like many families that we help, Nicole was called to provide regular care for an aging family member.

While her title and responsibilities to the organization may have changed, we are pleased to have Nicole available to our families specifically for the purposes of availing themselves of family counseling services.

Why We Made the Switch to Clear Care

Caregiver has more time to care when she uses the Clear Care system for reporting

If you are a client/family, caregiver, or contracting agency, most of you may already be feeling the effects of our switch over from the VINCENT scheduling system to Clear Care Online. For us the decision to switch over was easy, based on the research done before hand. We were propelled by the fact that as an early adopter of the VINCENT system we experienced some disappointment in getting changes made to the system to accommodate our needs or simply to fix glitches. After a month and a half of preparation, and with the help of the Clear Care transition team and a dedicated transition counselor we went LIVE on May 1st and began the change-over transition.

Even with all our hopes for the better solution for the families we serve and the care givers who help us keep our promises – there is never a great time to make a transition. We are so proud of our Office Administrator Janette Lauzon, and our Scheduler Rhonda Mliakoff. Together these two have done a fabulous job of coordinating this transition. Not going to lie, there were frustrations along the way, but we have never had the kind of daily and intensive support from a vendor like we have had from Clear Care.Clear Care logo

What the Clear Care Benefits are to the Families We Serve

The Family Room Forum – Each family has their own “room” to communicate with us and the caregivers scheduled to provide care. The Family Room provides a place for communicating back and forth. Family members can request some additional tasks, offer reminders on one-time events which the caregiver may need to be aware of; and likewise, the caregivers can share comments on things that happened during their shift that may help the family. Once you get into the swing of using the Family Room Forum we predict an even better experience for both the families and the caregivers.

Schedule View – The families can see the schedule online, either from your desktop computer or your smart phone. The schedule is a living document and shows the shifts with times and who is covering that shift. The whole month view of the calendar gives you a comprehensive look at a color-coded plan which lets you know which shifts are scheduled, shifts that are still open, those in process and those completed. Notes can be appended to the schedule such as when a caregiver did not show or the family had to call off a shift – this is making the billing process so much easier!

Care Notes – The Clear Care system will hold the details of the Person-Centered-Plans (PCP) including a list of all the required Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and show those needed for a particular shift. When a caregiver checks in via their phone, they will see what is on the schedule for that shift, and when they clock out they will only be able to do so after answering the questions related to the ADL tasks. A simple “YES” if a task was completed, a “NO” with an explanation why. The system will also capture mileage related to any activity where the caregiver took the client out into the community as well as any comments or concerns for the family. This instant capture of care notes creates a foundation for a paperless system and makes for a much better snapshot of what happened on each shift, and that information is always available to the families. The supervisors will also have access. As our caregivers get used to checking in and clocking out, and reporting, we are convinced that the level of care will get even better.

What Clear Care Means to the Administration of Services

As you can imagine the job of administering, scheduling and managing up to 75 caregivers to deliver over 5000 hours of care each month (and growing) to 100 or more families through the six programs offered by Helping Hands Respite Care…it can get complicated. Clear Care is beginning to uncomplicate these processes for us in some meaningful ways.

The paperless care notes system provides far more accurate documentation of what happens on every shift and provides alerts for action items. Already we are finding the system to be intuitive, user-friendly, and much faster.

The information that comes out of the system and immediately interfaces with our billing system provides for a more accurate monthly invoice which reflects the many variables involved such as acuity level, role of caregiver, and variable pay structure of the caregiver in a group setting such as the Respite House, and the specific requirements of the various contract sources. This also translates to a more streamlined payroll process. For example, within our Adult Day Services program those members who attend and receive support from the Veteran’s Administration (VA) must receive a particular rate prescribed by the VA. In the past, reviewing the daily care notes for a particular pay period to determine which caregiver served which member to satisfy the contract would take up to an hour. Now it takes 10 minutes!

We are only just now beginning to realize the benefits of simplifying the scheduling process with Clear Care. It is not uncommon to have to accommodate a last minute change in a schedule due to illness. On Thursday at 5pm a caregiver called in to let us know that she would be unable to fill an overnight/awake shift at the Respite House beginning at 6pm on Friday. By going into the Clear Care system after clicking on the shift that needed to be covered, in just a few minutes we clicked a few buttons to reflect the criteria we needed in a caregiver for this shift, including finding all those that could possibly work that time frame without going into overtime. We found eight potential workers which met our criteria. Their names were clicked and a text message was sent to all asking if they wanted the shift. Within 5 minutes, the shift was filled!

As you can tell, excitement is rising for us as we continue the transition begun on May 1st. On June 1 we will be doing our first billing process and with any luck it will yield the same kind of benefits we have realized on the scheduling and payroll side of the equation.

Bottom line, it looks like we have a winner. We know it may take time for everyone to get up to speed on using this new system …which means the information and accuracy is only going to improve. If you are having challenges with the system, please do not hesitate to reach out to us so we can help you with your learning curve. This is a system that supports us all in ways that help us continue to keep the families that we serve in a position to receive the full benefits of respite, while their loved one gets the best care possible.

Milestones for In-Home Supervisor

Child In-Home Supervisor Tarra Boris marking new milestones.

Tarra Boris our in -home children’s program supervisor is marking some new milestones. She recently graduated from Michigan State University. Over the past year and a half Tarra has divided her time at Helping Hands in service to the organization and in pursuit of her Masters of Social Work via an internship “I am still in process towards earning the distinction of having the MSW letters added to my title,” shared Boris. “Hopefully, I will be able to work in the necessary hours and the exam in the near future.”

Facing another life milestone,Tarra is expecting the pending arrival of her baby and is busy preparing a transition team (Dawn Todd and Leah Gavin) to carry on her work during her maternity leave. Tarra shared that her baby is a girl and will be named Arabella.

Tarra is also working on a Play Therapy Certification which she expects will be very useful in her work with families with children, in-home care, participants in the Breaking Barriers Today program, and of course the Respite House.

When asked what we would need to fully outfit the Respite House with toys, tools, or materials with state of the art resources for children attending the program, she was quick to list the following: more sifting toys, a wide range of sensory input toys, weighted blankets and vests, swings, bean bag chairs, and colorful art or murals. “There are some really great advances being made in research on play therapy designed to de-escalate behaviors, especially with those children on the autism spectrum. It would be wonderful to have more of the tools and resources appropriate for occupational or play therapy at the Respite House.”

BBT Program Needs Referrals

Photo demonstrates the program needs referrals to maintain a care ratio as designed.

Wonder why the BBT program needs referrals? While we are pleased to see the increase in participants in the Breaking Barriers Today program, you should know that when this new program was started in 2015 it was designed to be a blended program to serve individuals with varying levels of capability and function. We are challenged with the reality that our numbers of participants with higher ability levels is not keeping pace with our goals.

This is something that we hope our families may be able to help with by passing the word within your circles about the great opportunities that this program offers, particularly for our higher functioning participants.

Here is a list of benefits:
1. Straight up value based on cost and programming.

2. Higher functioning participants get a boost in self-esteem by
taking the opportunity to be a teacher and role model for others.

3. The Gier Community Center and all of its programming capacity
provides rich opportunities for community immersion for BBT program
attendees. One of the key opportunities that this program offers is the
chance to interact and play with other kids attending the community center.

4. For those who have aged-out of regular school, the BBT offers quality time
through active programming such as arts and crafts, games, and physical activity.

5. The relationship with the City of Lansing through the Gier Community Center also affords us the ability to have BBT participants attend special outings at no additional costs, plus free transportation.

6. The BBT program has also attracted volunteers from the Occupational Therapy
Program at Baker College, Recreational Therapist from Grand Valley State, as well as staff caregivers from MSU – students enrolled in relevant areas of study like Nursing, Kinesiology, Social Work, and Psychology.

If we are able to make headway with increasing the number of participants in a way that supports our blended program goals, we will be able to continue to offer programming pricing based on our original plan. Our goal is to see good progress by adding at least four new participants by the end of the summer. If not, we will be forced to redesign the program and pricing.

The Breaking Barriers Today program was designed to support families with after-school and all day needs for care of loved ones with physical and/or cognitive impairments with diagnosis such as autism spectrum disorders, downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis.

You can help with our  need for program referrals by sharing leads of families you know who might have care needs that the Breaking Barriers Today program can meet. Please send that information directly to BBT Program Supervisor, Kathryn Green at 517 – 372-6671 ext 106.

Breaking Barriers Today – Summer Plans

We are gearing up for a busy summer filled with activities at BBT. We have a great team of helping interns and volunteers ready to help a teen or young adult get the most out of summer packed with new activities and special field trips. Learn More or email BBT Supervisor – Kathryn Green.

Because the Breaking Barriers Today program is located at the Gier Community Center we have the ability to take advantage of not only a tremendous facility which gives us lots of room to get active, but also to participate in programs and outings planned by the City Parks and Recreation Director. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to merge our program participants into programs which may include neuro-typical children. Ask your case manager how your child can participate and whether the care plan could be expanded to include time at the Breaking Barriers Today program.

So often we see teens or young adults with a disability languishing in front of a television or feeling a growing sense of isolation. What a difference we can make in their day by having the access and resources to clear a path for them to experience exciting new things.

We have a team of soon-to-graduate Occupational Therapists from Baker Community College who have pledge a significant amount of time to the Breaking Barriers program this summer. More volunteers are also committing time to make participating in a special outing or event a reality.

If you know someone that is searching for something meaningful to do this summer, we would be pleased to have them participate as a volunteer at Breaking Barriers Today. The application process is straightforward and easy to complete. Download a volunteer packet today!

Spring Is Almost Here at BBT

Program Move - BBT will be at the Beekman Center instead of the Gier Community Center

Participant and Care Provider enjoying early spring at BBT


This past week has been awesome at Breaking Barriers Today (BBT) because the weather has been so nice and we’ve been able to really appreciate it. Everyone has been able to go outside and enjoy the sunshine with their friends and care providers. We are all ready for spring to arrive because we can have even more time outdoors!

This past month we have had plenty of staff and volunteers making it easier for us to utilize all of the space available to us a whole lot more. This has been a real benefit for everyone because we are able to do so many different activities. We have themed lesson plans for every week which has been fun because we get to plan a lot of games and art projects around the theme. The lesson plans keep us on schedule so things run smoother and all of the participants can get the most out of their day.

Spring activities at BBT includes the After School Mileage ClubA new exciting thing that happened this past month was being able to join the Gier After-School Program for their Mileage Club. This is so significant because our participants get to spend time with all of the kids that come to Gier after school. For the Mileage Club we help set up the cones in the gym and then we turn on some music and all walk (and roll) together. Everyone seems to really enjoy it!

Our Numbers Are Growing this Spring

BBT is continuing to grow in numbers of participants, and we expect our volunteer count to grow as well. Recently some students from the MSU Fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, have shown interest in coming to help out at BBT. They have 70 brothers in their fraternity, and would have some of these brothers volunteering and spending time with us at Breaking Barriers Today. Pi Kappa Phi is a fraternity that has a close relationship with Helping Hands Respite Care and volunteering is just another way to bring them closer.

We are also starting to work on summer planning so we can have BBT and the Gier Summer Kids Camp enmeshed as much as possible. This summer is going to be a lot of fun and full of special activities so we will keep you updated on the planning once it gets farther along. Also, just a reminder to our families that Spring Break is coming quick, April 4th – 8th, so please keep us posted on your needs so we can schedule staff appropriately.

Breaking Barriers Today (BBT) – Achieving Milestones

BBT participant Jimmy enjoying a book.

What a wonderful start we have had for 2016! Over the past few months we have been working on more goals for our clients and watching as they are achieving milestones. Now we are looking into creating job task schedules based on ability level to help your loved one continue to work on independent living skills; and getting ready for more community inclusion time as spring arrives. Our goal is to help them engage in activities for learning, socialization, and work on stimulation so they can grow as individuals.

Everyday each of your loved ones surprise us with their ability to learn and grow. Though there were many, there are a few specific achievements that were reached this month that we’d love to share with you:

Jimmy has been reading a lot of books this month. He enjoys looking at the pictures and flipping through the pages, and, when he’s done he puts the book right back where he got it.

Lucy has been starting to do hand over hand feeding. She has been guiding the care providers hand to her mouth to eat, which is awesome.

Bethany and care provider Ally did some beautiful hand over hand drawing this past week. Bethany loved it and smiled the whole time.

These are just some of the milestones we have witnessed this month and as we move forward day by day, month by month, we expect to continue to see more.

All of us at BBT want to give a shout out to Sarah who is having a birthday this month and has been a long term participant of the After School Program and BBT. Thank you Sarah for being part of the group and we hope you have a wonderful birthday! Our care providers deserve a shout out for the awesome work and the flexibility they’ve had as we continue to improve our BBT Program.

A huge thank you goes to the parents who have filled out the survey regarding BBT, your voice is important. Thank you for trusting us with your loved one and being willing to share your thoughts with us.

Welcome to Michael and Mariah as they join the BBT family next week! Here we grow.

For more information about The Breaking Barriers Today Program, please contact the program supervisor, Elizabeth Krumm,

Holiday Break Highlights at Breaking Barriers Today

What Do You Do on Holiday Break, When You Need A Break Too?

Our numbers increased over the holiday break and it was great to see the kind of fun and interaction that is possible when we have a great combination of participants, care providers, and volunteers. The Breaking Barriers Today program is continuing to grow and we are very excited about the possibilities of having even more volunteers in the mix. It was also nice to know that the families of these very special participants had an opportunity to attend to their holiday preparations confident that their loved one was in good hands …helping hands.

Holiday Break Highlights: Playing Games

Holiday Break - Playing Games
Sharon our new volunteer has been extremely helpful during our holiday/winter break time! She was helping the crew prepare to play Sorry and Xzavier was in the background playing some beats! They all were having a lot of fun!

Holiday Break - Playing a game of Sorry





Anita, Tony, & Sharon playing Sorry. Anita was helping with shuffling the cards and placing them onto the board. This was actually the first time seeing Anita be willing to sit for a period of time to play a board game.



Holiday Break - Parachute Play

Everyone playing Parachute popcorn and loving the bright colors/breeze from the parachute. Clients had a great time, however what isn’t shown here is that Anita would want to run around in the gym and Jimmy loved his walker so much, he would be a little speedster!


Holiday Break - Jimmy the speedster in his walker

Jimmy has been very much a speedster in his new walker! Loves every minute in it!


BBTPosingPic#12 [1195]






Blaine hanging out in the gym and decided to pose for a picture with Daniell. Blaine is one of the newer participants.

Holiday Break - Jonathan tackling some blocksStephanie observing Jonathon figure out how to put blocks together. He was very determined!

Holiday Break - Artistic block building








Ruth was very focused on building herself a kingdom made of Legos. She’s very artistic, even with arts and crafts!


Holiday Break Highlights: Making Music

BBTXzavier piano5 [1205]Xavier loved the keyboard and the music that it was playing. Xavier playing some beats with Stephanie the care provider!


BBTRuthPiano#11 [1193]





Ruth was a participant during summer program! She came back for a few days during break. The keyboard has been a highlight itself. Ruth loved playing different tunes on it. She loved it!

Holiday Break Highlights: Taking a Relaxation Break


BBTRelaxing6 [1206]
Jonathon just relaxing at the moment with his sensory board! Sometimes it’s just good to relax from school on winter break!

Holiday Break Highlights: Lunchtime

BBT Lunch9 [1209]A few participants were watching a movie with Sharon the volunteer. They are taking a liking to having a new friend to hang out with and Sharon enjoyed making new friends too!

Sierra was preparing lunch with Anita helping & Ally was hanging out with Lucy, Tony, & Xzavier while Jon, he was in charge of watching everyone lol! Lucy is one of the recent addition to the BBT Program!

Need for Volunteers at BBT

Here at Breaking Barriers Today we are focusing on the importance of volunteers. Currently,we are working on a new goal to build a volunteer base. We are receiving inquiries from participants who will be starting either in December or January. We are proud to report that since we opened BBT, the enrollment numbers have tripled. Granted, some of these participants do not attend regularly yet, and some only during breaks.


Why Volunteers Needed

As a participating family you may be wondering what more volunteers will mean to you and your loved one? It means that the participants will have more individualized attention, even though the ratio could be 2:1 or 3:1. With volunteers on board we can create a balance of care providers and volunteers so the volunteers can step in where needed to engage with participants while the care provider performs critical care activities of setting up goal-related activities for individual participants.
Since moving to the Gier Community Center and changing our scope of services, it has opened some doors for new programming.  This means we will need more hands on a regular basis. Additionally, we are hoping to get some volunteers on board during our Winter Break time when our numbers will go up.


If you, or someone you know, are interested in volunteering, please contact us at Helping Hands Respite Care. We would be happy to answer questions and get you signed up. It is with pride that I watch this program continue to grow and evolve. It is a privilege to get to know our new participants and their families.Until next time, please enjoy this Holiday season, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!