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Meet Cindy Purcell: new member of the Mass. PCA Workforce Council

 
CindyPurcell.PCAworkforce council

Profile of Cindy Purcell

The PCA Workforce Council, which uses citizen engagement to strengthen the PCA (personal care attendant) program in Massachusetts, recently appointed Cindy Purcell of Rutland, MA, to a three year term. As a consumer in the MassHealth PCA program, as well as a new member of the PCA Workforce Council, Cindy hopes to use her position on the Council to further improve the job outlook for PCAs.  Personal care attendants make it possible for individuals with disabilities and elders to remain living at home. Cindy has used PCAs for the last 34 years.

The PCA Workforce Council, which consists of nine members, is an innovative governmental body, charged with insuring the quality of long-term, in-home personal care by recruiting, training and stabilizing the work force of personal care attendants. The Council also sponsors the online Massachusetts PCA Directory (www.mass.gov/findpca), which offers a comprehensive and current list of people in Massachusetts who are ready to provide personal care. The Directory, which was launched in September 2009, helps elders, people with disabilities, and their families find and hire PCAs

Cindy was injured in a car accident in 1977 at the age of 18. She suffered a broken neck, and has lived as a C56 quadriplegic for the last 37 years. Finding the support she needed following the accident was difficult. After Cindy recuperated and was ready to leave the spinal cord unit, she was offered two choices: go home or go to a chronic care facility. At home, Cindy’s mother couldn’t take care of her and Cindy didn’t want to become a burden. The Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) could send a nurse once a week to help her shower, but home health aides provided only limited personal care and could not provide the medical care she needed. This was the beginning of Cindy’s multi-year search to find the support she needed so that she could live independently at home.

Cindy used home health aides from 1977 to 1980. At that point, Cindy began using the MassHealth PCA program, which was just getting underway and offered an independent living model that better suited her needs. Using the PCA program, Cindy was now in control of her own care, and could hire, train and schedule her own PCAs.

Cindy cannot say enough good things about the MassHealth PCA program, or about her PCAs. She has PCAs for seven hours during the day, plus night time coverage. “They do everything –personal care, dressing, and assisting with activities of daily living that most people take for granted,” says Cindy.

Cindy says that she would like to see PCAs get better pay for all the hard work they do, and all the hands-on assistance they provide. Cindy has had one PCA, Robin, for 31 years. Shay has worked for Cindy for 12 years, and Deb for sixteen years. Becky is the newest PCA, joining Cindy’s PCA team a few months ago after being recommended by a friend.

Cindy doesn’t downplay the challenges of her injury, but has not let it slowed her down. She and her husband Ted (who had a spinal cord injury at age 14) will celebrate 24 years of marriage in August. Their son Tanner turns 17 in June. Cindy’s pregnancy and Tanner’s birth were featured on ABC’s 20/20. Cindy and her family were also featured in a series called Amazing Families, which aired on TLC.

Cindy has worked full time for 30 years, and is currently a Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at the Worcester office of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Cindy has worked for Mass. Rehab for 27 years, and prior to that she worked for the Center for Living and Working (CLW) in Worcester.

At Mass. Rehab, Cindy manages a caseload of about 170 cases, helping people with a variety of disabilities – ranging from spinal cord and back injuries, amputation, mental illness, alcoholism, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy and some developmental disabilities. Some clients are seeking a new vocation, and others need training to help them get back into the workforce.

Over the last 30 years Cindy has served on various committees and has lectured at colleges and family service organizations. She currently lectures at UMass Medical School in Worcester. Her lectures -- to physicians, nurses and med students – are on disability awareness and focus on living life with spinal cord injuries, complications and sexuality, disabilities in general, and her work at Mass. Rehab.

Still, it surprises Cindy that – in 2014 – people are still surprised that she leads a normal life. “You work? You drive? Is your son adopted? These are just some of the questions I get, but I don’t mind. We have made enormous strides since I was injured in 1977. People are now very accepting of individuals with disabilities. And I will keep working to educate people as best I can.”

 

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