Rick Merrill Memorial Fund will support CDF’s home care cooperative development work

Judy Ziewacz and Rick Merrill, left and center, in the crowd at President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in January 1981.Judy Ziewacz and Rick Merrill, left and center, in the crowd at President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in January 1981.Judy Ziewacz and Rick Merrill, left and center, in the crowd at President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in January 1981.Judy Ziewacz, President and CEO of NCBA CLUSA, has designated the Cooperative Development Foundation as a recipient of contributions made in the name of her husband, Rick Merrill, who passed away in June. The couple was married for 35 years.

Funds from the Rick Merrill Memorial will be used to provide travel and lodging support for home care cooperative board members to attend CDF’s second annual National Home Care Cooperative Conference in November. Home care workers provide services that allow seniors and people with disabilities to remain in their homes, close to families and support groups.

In 2005, Rick suffered a traumatic brain injury after a fall, leaving him in need of full-time home care.

“For the past twelve years, caring, reliable home care provided peace of mind and improved quality of life for both Rick and me,” Ziewacz said.

Ziewacz said she directed the funds to CDF because of a national shortage in quality, reliable home care services, especially in rural areas. While 52 percent of people over age 65 require some form of home health care, many do not have access to the services they need not only because of cost, but because of a shortage of trained, reliable workers. In the U.S., demand for home care over the next ten years is expected to outpace any other field.

Most home caretakers work in an environment of low wages, limited benefits, poor supervision, demanding workload, inconsistent scheduling and poor training and support. Isolation and limited advancement opportunities result in burn out, high turnover and inconsistent quality of care.

“Our home care experience is the exception and not the rule in an industry plagued by low wages and high turnover,” Ziewacz said.

Rick Merrill’s accident inspired Ziewacz, a lifelong cooperator, to apply the cooperative model to improve the quality of home care jobs with the goal of creating stable, reliable and consistent care.

Ziewacz said that without a reliable direct care workforce, seniors and people with disabilities do not get the care they need. Families are forced to give up outside employment to care for loved ones. Forming cooperatives, she said, can help address the problem.

“Cooperatives offer the potential to provide quality jobs, wages and care,” Ziewacz said. Worker-owned cooperatives, which experience lower turnover than traditional agencies, give members a voice in how the business is run and offer better quality, full-time employment. Those in need of care benefit from reliable workers focused on person-centered care.

There are currently eight existing home care cooperatives operating in the U.S. and six in development.

You can contribute to CDF in memory of Rick Merrill by clicking on the donate button on CDF’s webpage. Contributions are tax-exempt.

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