How to Create a Diverse Caregiving Workforce While Getting Clients to Accept Them

Home Care Office Staff Hiring Tips

The caregivers that clients request don’t always match up with the diverse pool of available caregivers. Here are some tips to help you achieve across-the-board equality in your home care agency.

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lient and caregiver matching is almost challenging, but it gets even harder when the client’s preferences exclude competent, available caregivers.

Over time, client preferences can even contribute to existing imbalances in the caregiving workforce, causing agencies to overlook or pass on qualified applicants.

For example, caregiving has traditionally been a female-dominated field. While this gender imbalance may exist, it doesn’t have to be the norm–and there are benefits to a more balanced workforce.

When you look around at your caregivers, what do you see? You see caring, compassionate team members dedicated to helping the seniors of your community age in place.

Beyond that, who is your team? Do you have a balance of genders, ethnicities, etc.?

We’re going to share some tips with you to help set the tone for diversity and inclusion within your caregiving team while tactfully encouraging clients to accept caregivers who they might not typically request.

Caregiving is more than gender.

Did you know that over 75% of caregivers are female? Does this statistic fall in line with your caregivers?

The role of caregiving has traditionally fallen upon women. This social standard persists for various reasons, including cultural and religious beliefs, among other factors. Despite these expectations, it’s essential to recognize the benefits of having a diverse workforce within your home care agency.

Male caregivers are a necessary stronghold in the future of home care for a variety of reasons:

  • Equal opportunity employment

  • Assistance with transfers and lifting

  • Bonding with male clients and coworkers

  • Help with call-offs

Men and women deserve an equal space in caregiving; the perception held by some that caregiving is primarily a role for women not only creates challenges for individuals but may also exacerbate existing caregiver shortages. Through balanced employment opportunities, male caregivers will take notice and want to become a part of the growing caregiving workforce.

One of the caregivers we surveyed weighed in on the difficulties of working as a male caregiver: “I want them to give me clients, but it’s hard because I am a male caregiver.”

As a home care agency, it’s important to be an equal opportunity employer.

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Caregiving is more than race.

Did you know that approximately 30% of caregivers identify with a racial or ethnic minority group?

As an agency owner, you may have run into the awkward situation of a prospective or current client expressing racial preferences in a caregiver. There’s no easy way of deflecting or objecting to these concerns other than to confront them directly.

We recommend a zero-tolerance approach because you want to maintain a reputation as an equal opportunity employer. The objective is to care for a family member–not to pick and choose staff based on their race or any demographic group.

One of the caregivers we surveyed commented on race: “They could be fair across the board. A lot of us minority caregivers don’t feel that we get recognized.”

Take a look at your recognition programs and see if there are any ways that you can optimize the process to make it fair and equitable across the board. In addition to large, company-wide recognition efforts, take time to recognize each caregiver for their hard work individually.

In a recent episode of our podcast, guests Rick Dyer and Kate Fraser from InPro Insurance Group talked about the importance of preventing and preparing for discrimination claims through Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI). From “…hiring practices, promotional practices, wage, and hour really, anything to do with employees…if you’re in business for 10 years, three out of every five employers is going to get some type of EPLI claim.”

By diving deep into your hiring practices and policies, you can ensure that they make for an equitable and inclusive environment for caregivers to thrive. If you have a business or franchise attorney, see if they can give your employee handbook and procedures a look over to make sure that everything checks out.

These are all measures that will help your caregivers feel more comfortable and included. If you emphasize making your home care agency inclusive and diverse, it will pay off in your caregiver recruitment and retention rates.

Caregiving is more than money.

Did you know that 18% of caregivers live below the poverty line? This statistic, fortunately, is within your control. When people live beneath the poverty line, all facets of their lives are affected, from mental health to longevity.

If you can raise your billing rates, this could help offset a pay increase for your caregivers. We understand that it’s not easy to make such changes and challenges may stand in the way. But they are necessary changes that will play a significant role in attracting and retaining caregivers.

Here’s what one of the caregivers who were surveyed said about pay: “I would like for them to offer bonuses that reflect my hard work.” Caregiving is demanding and requires a lot of effort and skills from each caregiver. For those that put in the hard work and effort their pay and incentives should reflect that initiative.

We hosted a recent webinar on the Top Ten Reasons Caregivers Are Leaving; you can access the replay here. A good rule of thumb is to pay caregivers in (or above) the 75th percentile of your geographic location. Pay isn’t the primary reason caregivers leave an agency, but it is one of the top factors.

Combining the low wages and unstable nature of home care scheduling creates financial and emotional chaos for caregivers. If you can pay them livable wages and in tandem with stable scheduling, these changes can help them de-stress.

Or, if you can’t raise your wages, at least guaranteeing them a certain hourly amount each week can help them plan their finances better. For example, if a caregiver needs to call out sick, their check would be significantly shorter than usual.

There are many expenses that caregivers absorb that you might not have considered before. According to a 2013 study from the Foundation for Hospice and Home Care, caregivers for older adults in the United States drove a total of 7.88 billion miles. In context, this means that caregivers drive approximately 11 miles per shift. This could mean one shift in a day or three visits in a day if they are shorter shifts, etc.

What other costs do caregivers take on? The emotional costs. They work with clients living with a variety of conditions, some of whom may pass away in their care. Caregivers don’t always have ample access to grief management and bereavement support which may preclude them from providing exceptional care to other clients. Financial stress can also affect a caregiver’s health.

Support your caregivers by offering them financial and other support to make their employment more enjoyable and sustainable. You can start by asking them how you can help.

Your clients may have certain expectations of what their staff should “look like.”

You’re probably no stranger to some of the weird demographic requests clients may make regarding their caregivers.

We recommend a zero-tolerance approach to sexism, racism, and xenophobia; however, it’s vital to take the time to understand the root of each request or learn why they feel a certain way about a specific type of person.

For example, clients may request someone who is “American.” On its face, this request may sound discriminatory and prejudiced. However, you may come to find that their relative is hard-of-hearing and may not be able to decipher a caregiver speaking with a thick accent.

This is a reasonable request because of the nature of the client’s situation: they are hard of hearing. But there are ways around this, such as nonverbal communication through chore lists, whiteboards, and chore cards.

One example of an unreasonable request that I have experienced was during an inquiry call. A client’s relative called in requesting not to send an Asian or black caregiver due to a bad experience in a senior living community. This is a racist request; however, there are ways to address this issue:

  • 1. Mention that you’re an equal opportunity employer and can’t discriminate based on race

  • 2. Your caregivers are well-trained and qualified to avoid a negative experience. Perhaps probe a little further about the nature of the incident to make sure that caregivers pay extra attention to the subject of that incident.

If you’ve ever had a client refuse a male caregiver, take some time to understand the nature of their concerns as well.

I have had the pleasure of scheduling a male caregiver for a client that had preferred females. I had a last-minute call-off, and he was the caregiver on call. I spoke to the family and mentioned how great a caregiver he was, his wealth of experience, and his gentle demeanor.

They agreed to give him a try. The client, her family, and everyone enjoyed having him over! Getting this shift filled with a male caregiver paved the way for other male caregivers to fill in for her in the future if needed.

Some clients may need gentle suggestions or a caregiver shadow to feel comfortable with having a male caregiver.

Diversity, inclusion, and equity are a part of a bigger movement – a dance movement.

According to diversity and inclusion activist, Vernā Myers, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Your caregivers are the life of the party; are all types of them invited?

Diversity is not just a variety of people working for a company. Diversity in home care is the celebration of differences in a unified mission to care for older adults.

Which caregivers are you asking to dance? Inclusion is necessary as well.

Finally, equity is making sure that everyone is asked to dance.

If you notice a crucial part missing in your daily operations, would you be able to see who was not at the dance? Or what aspects could’ve been improved?

We understand that diversity and inclusion is a priority for many home care agency owners and that it may be difficult to incorporate these practices. This isn’t something that will be fixed overnight.

Work on each step one at a time and you’ll be on your way to an equitable and inclusive workplace. What are you going to do today to make your agency more welcoming?

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