A Place At Home – South Portland Advocates for Inclusion in Healthcare

Jerome Philips, owner of A Place At Home – South Portland, is passionate about keeping seniors in their homes longer, with a better quality of life. That mission means providing his clients with safe and effective care and ensuring that his caregivers have a safe and inclusive environment with which to provide that service.

Over the years, Portland has struggled with racial and cultural disparity within its local healthcare system, making providing safe and quality care difficult. In the past, clients and other customers have had the option to say they don’t want care provided by someone with an accent or from a particular ethnic background. And healthcare agencies have had the option of accommodating those requests.

Cooperating with racially driven requests poses several issues. Inclusion, for one.

The first and most obvious issue is that of racism and discrimination in general. Allowing individuals to turn away caregivers because of their ethnic background perpetuates a cycle of unfounded inequity. It also impacts the quality of care that’s available in general. Caregivers are highly qualified and trained to do their job well, regardless of their background. And, from an employment perspective, it’s a problem.

“It’s a huge issue because it’s preventing those employment opportunities for entire communities.” Jerome shares that as soon as they opened their doors, they wrote policies against discrimination for his employees and clients. Even with those policies in place, it’s been necessary to express to some of his clients that they won’t make accommodations for them that are based on racial discrimination. And for families that are blatantly racist or hostile toward individuals? Jerome discontinues services.

“We do terminate services because we won’t make those accommodations. It’s not fair to our caregivers, and our caregivers know that we have their back, that we support them, and we’re willing to make difficult decisions so that they have a safe working environment.”

Thankfully, more often than not, once a hesitant family accepts a caregiver, they end up becoming attached. In Jerome’s experience, the situation goes from something the client may have found uncomfortable initially to a situation where they’ve formed a bond with that person and find comfort in the quality of care they’re being given. In addition, they find the caregivers are highly trained, efficient, and able to help in an invaluable way.

Jerome’s stance on these issues goes beyond how he operates A Place At Home. He’s committed to seeing a change from a higher level. He’s partnered with the Oregon Healthcare Association (OHCA). Together, they’ve advocated for their caregivers. They’ve had discussions with legislators at a state level expressing their concerns. “We’re talking to them and giving them very real stories because they really don’t understand what it’s like for our employees.”

OHCA has been a strong partnership, especially when it comes to fighting against racism and discrimination.

They’ve been long-time champions of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) in long-term care for clients and employees. They push for person-centered care that is personalized and culturally appropriate. They also push for nondiscrimination policies when it comes to hiring and employment practices. The state has a culturally robust population that includes members of nine native tribes and those who identify as Native Alaskans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, Asians, Africans, African Americans, Latin, Hispanic, and Black. The state’s population also includes asylum-seekers, refugees, and DREAMers, to name a few. To push DEI interests, the state has issued new guidelines.

These guidelines require agencies to understand the effect that accommodating racially-driven demands has on the greater community.

Operating under the old paradigm undermines the quality of care available. However, the new guidelines offer hope if other agencies get on board. Jerome believes they will, even if that means they’ll have to decline care to those clients who won’t comply. Most clients, he believes, will realize that they can’t determine their caregivers’ race. So they’re going to have to become comfortable with the idea of inclusion. And he believes that agencies changing their practices when it comes to accommodating discriminating requests will positively change the experience of home care for all parties involved.

“If the whole industry enforces these guidelines, change will come.”

Over the last year, the pandemic has brought the concept of care in the home into even greater focus. As a result, several hospital systems are testing models of delivering care to patients in their homes. The idea is that treating people in familiar surroundings will produce better outcomes from a quality of life perspective. We need a skilled, effective, compassionate, and diverse workforce to provide quality care. Inclusion policies are key. Jerome and A Place At Home – South Portland are here for it.

A Place At Home has a mission to provide compassionate care to seniors where and when they need us. If you are passionate about making a difference in the lives of others, we want to speak with you. Reach out to us today to start making an impact.