By Lucy Andrews
Just imagine the state of civil rights if Rosa Parks had not gotten on that bus. Just imagine what would have happened to justice if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had not started marching in Selma. Just imagine the human rights abuses that might have happened if Nelson Mandela had given up during his long years in jail. Just imagine the future of home care — and the fate of millions of patients — if our voices are not heard. Grassroots activism has been around for as long as humankind and here we are in 2014, again at the precipice of big changes in our field.
The employment mandate and the end of the companionship exemption are making it harder for us to provide high-quality care. It’s our reason for being in business and it also serves justice by giving patients the freedom to age in their own homes. For their sake and for our own, we need to make a grassroots effort now more than ever. We need your voice more than ever before.
You have to realize that your voice does have an impact. If you always keep this one belief in mind and let it guide you, it will make a difference indeed. And here are a few other tips that will lead to successful grassroots efforts:
Know your purpose and embrace your passion:
What is your why? For most of us that why relates back to why we are in this business. It might be your own experience caring for a loved one or a child. It might be your commitment to your chosen profession. It always includes the clients we care for every day. They’re the people who need us the most.
Know your issue:
Be well informed on the issues you are lobbying about. Read up on them and formulate your opinion. Look at both sides of a problem so you can understand the opposing voice. Well versed is well armed.
Know your audience:
Who are you bringing your issue to? Is it your elected officials, your community, your clients, or your staff? Each of these different audiences has a different perspective, so get to know them on their own home ground. Get out of your agency and your office. It’s important for you to meet each of them where they are, not just where you are.
It's about the relationship:
When you ask someone for something, it helps if you can make a connection. Look for a link that creates common ground with your audience members. It may be a connection in your community. It may be a personal connection. Perhaps you see a picture of a dog in their office and you volunteer at an animal shelter. Right there is a connection and a starting point for a bond. Get to know your elected officials. Asking becomes easier when you’re asking someone who is a friend.
No one likes a fair weather friend, and all relationships need ongoing attention. Grassroots activism is about establishing relationships and keeping them. Doing so allows us to humanize issues, make them real, and present them in ways others can relate to. Remember how important it is to stay engaged and follow up. Keep the key issue in the front of your mind, and don’t lose your sense of passion. It will help you face obstacles, not get discouraged, and keep moving forward.
Most of all, always know your individual voice does make a difference, especially if it fuels a greater cause. Never let yourself feel that you are just one person and have no power to produce change. Use these tips to make your way and never look back. Instead look ahead and speak out for your beliefs. If we all do that, just imagine what it will mean for our patients and for our field.
Lucy Andrews is Vice Chairman for the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) and founder and CEO of At Your Service Home Care, Santa Rosa, CA.