COVID-19 has already changed home care, and it’s going to change it more. Here’s what we think is coming.
There are changes coming.
Obviously, COVID-19 has already changed home care, business, and society as we know it. During the crisis, many of these changes have taken the form of major challenges and obstacles.
However, as the COVID crisis (hopefully) winds down in coming months, we think home care is headed for a number of changes that might be significant growth opportunities.
To be fair, no one can say with certainty what the future holds. The multitude of blogs and webinars predicting trends in home care for 2020 couldn’t possibly have foreseen the ways that COVID-19 would shake up out industry.
However, based on the current trajectory of COVID-19 and comments from home care owners and experts across the industry, these three trends seem likely.
Increased Awareness of and Demand For Home Care Services
In recent weeks, many experts have predicted a coming surge in demand for home care. Some are referring to a short-term surge as home care agencies assist COVID-19 patients moving out of hospitals, while others look toward a long-term rise in demand for home care services.
While any short-term surges are likely to depend heavily on geographic location, our team believes it’s likely that the future does hold a general rise in demand for home care services over the long-term.
There are several main reasons.
First, several high-profile cases of COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted living center have not only resulted in strong negative PR for facilities, but also highlighted some key risks with the facility care model when it comes to infection control.
While facilities will likely always exist as an option for those seeking care, the COVID crisis has brought post-acute care into the spotlight and demonstrated its advantages over facility-based care, especially in times when infection control is a primary concern.
Second, the economic turmoil from COVID-19 has forced many people to seek more affordable forms of care.
post-acute care has long been recognized as a more affordable choice for care, and with the ways that COVID-19 has battered the economy, more families will be seeking out home care as an option.
Finally, in many ways COVID-19 has been a proving ground for home care because it’s forced many aspects of care to move in-home as hospitals and facilities have cleared out beds for COVID-19 patients.
Not only has home care garnered some of the awareness it has historically lacked, but it’s shined during this time. We’ve been inspired by the ways we’ve seen home care agencies rise to the occasion when the US healthcare system is strained.
As Jennifer Sheets, CEO of Interim, has said, “Home care is the answer.” post-acute care is not only here to stay—it’s the future of care.
Decreased Turnover and Competition for Home Care Workers
In any recession, the job market shifts in favor of employers. With fewer jobs available, more applicants compete for the same jobs and businesses have their pick of applicants.
Once applicants are hired at a job, they’re also much more likely to stay with that company because of the difficulty of finding a new job.
While economic downturns are never a cause for celebration, home care agencies may find some silver lining in a partial reprieve from some of the staffing challenges they’ve grown used to over the last few years.
It’s true that competition for home care workers will probably always be higher than in many other industries; the relatively low barriers to getting a job in home care coupled with the difficulty of the job and the inconsistency of schedules make the nature of home care conducive to high turnover.
It’s also true that in the long-term, there’s still a shortage of direct care workers as over 10,000 Baby Boomers reach retirement age every day. Over the next ten years, the care industry will need to find solutions to what some experts have called “a coming train wreck.”
In the short- to mid-term, however, caregiver turnover may be less of an obstacle growth for many agencies than it’s been—and for that we can be grateful.
An economic recession reducing caregiver turnover is one of three scenarios we discussed in an article last year, which forecasted a short term, mid term, and long term solution to the caregiver turnover crisis.
More Agencies Embracing Remote Work
This change is born out of necessity, but it’ll continue out of efficiency.
The timeline for opening back up isn’t the same everywhere—in places where it’s taking longer for schools to open, many working parents will have to work remotely because their kids are at home.
Long term, however, many companies, including home care agencies are finding advantages to working remotely even after they no longer have to (or at least providing remote options).
According to a study by Gartner, 41% of employees are likely to work remotely at least some of the time in the future. “Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has many employees planning to work in a way that they hadn’t previously considered,” says Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR Division.
It’s hard to know exactly how much of this will translate to home care—however, we’ve already spoken with multiple agencies who say they plan to let staff work remotely after the crisis is over.
It’s also important to recognize that in many ways home care is more conducive to remote work than many industries, as most of the caregiving workforce is already distributed in their clients’ homes.
Crises are often followed by periods of growth because they force innovation; this one is probably no different. While remote work brings its own challenges, it holds advantages for many businesses—and we’re going to see more agencies embrace it.
What do you think?
We’re working hard to keep a pulse on the industry, and we want to hear from you. Do your experiences support these predictions? What are you seeing and experiencing? What’s on your mind right now, and what topics would you like us to cover? Email your thoughts to [email protected].