The coronavirus pandemic has affected every part of our lives. For those in the senior care field especially, COVID-19 has changed how we protect older adults and how we do business in general. You are leading your home care agency in the midst of a global pandemic, and it isn’t easy. However, many of the hurdles and challenges you are facing are not unique; home care agencies across the globe are all learning how to effectively operate in this “new normal”.
Here are just a few ways home care agencies are being affected by COVID-19, as well as how agencies are rising to the challenge.
A Focus on Building Confidence
Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles home care agencies are facing is the general anxiety and confusion from current and potential clients. It’s no wonder family members and older adults are worried and overwhelmed; the information about coronavirus comes fast and furious anytime they turn on the tv. Even more troubling is the rampant spread of wrong or inaccurate information. In fact, so much misinformation about COVID-19 led the World Health Organization to start a “Stop the Spread” campaign to stop the spread of incorrect information across social media outlets and press reports.
Home care agencies are choosing to combat anxiety and confusion by communicating with confidence. You can build confidence in your agency by:
- Choosing to only reference and post about information from reputable resources such as the CDC, WHO, or your local health department
- Communicate about tangible things your team is doing to protect your clients, staff, and community
- Post photos of your caregivers in appropriate PPE while working with clients or before entering a client’s home
- Post positive and recent reviews from family members, clients, or referral partners
Choosing to Actively Protect Clients and Staff
An ongoing Home Care Pulse survey notes that more than 30% of agencies have had positive COVID-19 tests from either a client or staff member. If you haven’t had a positive case reported to your agency yet, you likely will by the time this pandemic has come to an official close. However, you shouldn’t wait for the positive test to start planning. Instead, choose to proactively prepare for your first COVID-19 case while also implementing policies and procedures that protect your clients and team.
You can begin this process by:
- Calling your local health department to talk about what to do if a client or caregiver tests positive for the virus
- Working with your custodial company that cleans your office to ensure thorough cleaning and disinfecting happens on a daily basis
- If your town has a COVID-19 taskforce, ensuring a member of your agency has a seat at those virtual or in-person meetings
- Speaking candidly with your clinical team about PPE policy and procedures, along with any changes that need to be made
- Making sure caregivers have plenty of PPE readily available in client homes
- Communicating your policy and procedures to caregivers, clients, and family members
- Creating a way for clients or caregivers to express their concerns about coronavirus protection
Remaining Financially Successful
COVID-19 has left many small and large businesses without a regular source of income. While senior care has certainly experienced some uncertainty during this time, agencies and organizations are staying flexible and creative in order to stay financially successful.
Many home care organizations have successfully applied for, and received, federal, state, or regionally based loans. This is an excellent option to pursue, as is switching marketing strategies in a time when it is more difficult to visit hospital discharge planners or other partners throughout your local area. Keep those partnerships strong by adding these ideas to your quarterly marketing plan:
- Host virtual lunch and learn opportunities for discharge planners and other partners (just send lunch ahead of time and host a Zoom meeting with an educational component)
- Find a way to make virtual assessments easy for the potential client and for the discharge planner (or partner)
- Send happy care packages to your local partners that include a cloth mask, a candy treat, and a gift card for a cup of coffee
- Get involved with your Chamber of Commerce’s virtual networking events as well as any program they have where they feature a local agency on their social media page
Connecting with Families and Clients
COVID-19 has impacted seniors and their family members in one of two different ways. The first is that family members have lost their jobs and now have more time to care for their senior loved one, eliminating or significantly decreasing the need for home care services. The second is that the family sees the senior isolated at home and needs home care services to fill in the gap for better healthcare and socialization. Unfortunately, right now it seems there is no in-between.
If you have found that your billable hours have decreased rapidly, you aren’t alone. It’s frustrating and scary. However, you can find new ways to connect with new families and potential (or current) clients by using technology:
- Work with a local entertainer to host a virtual music concert via Zoom or other video conferencing service
- Host weekly cooking-for-one classes via Facebook Live, featuring one recipe prepared by a leader and a caregiver from your agency
- Post trivia on your social media feed and encourage participation from family members and clients
- Host monthly educational sessions for families regarding caregiver/senior topics via video conference
- Enlist the help of your caregivers to host virtual sing-a-longs, reminiscing sessions, or other activities that you can advertise to any senior in the area
- Write resource posts for your agency website and newsletter about how your services can keep seniors living at home healthier, happier, and less isolated
- Host teleconference reminiscing sessions with a local entertainer or with your own staff members
Adjust Your Services
If your agency is seeing a decline in service requests, you might find that adding a few more services could help make up some of that income. For example:
- Grocery drop-off services
- Doorstep or outdoor porch visits
- Assistance with tablet, smartphone, or other technology to communicate with family members
- Safer transportation to/from doctor visits
- Assistance during telehealth visits
- Selling activity box subscriptions with senior-friendly activities included
- Gardening or light landscaping services
- Virtual visits and regular check-ins
Support Your Staff
Finally, the coronavirus pandemic has drastically affected home care agency staff. While some staff are being furloughed or laid off due to decreased hours available, others are feeling worried about working in client homes. You may find your agency is struggling to keep up with a constantly changing schedule or a solid recruitment effort.
You can utilize caregiver recruitment and online scheduling platforms to take some of the burden off your office staff. For example, Medflyt’s online staffing platform allows agencies to alert all available caregivers of a new shift immediately upon entering it into their system. Then, interested caregivers are able to message your agency directly, making your scheduling job much more efficient. And who doesn’t need more efficient ways of doing things, especially now?
The coronavirus pandemic continues to change how we do business. As family members begin returning to work and as seniors require more care at home, your business will begin to boom again. In the meantime, it’s all about flexibility, creativity, and supporting your clients, family members, and staff.
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