It takes a lot to grow a home care agency. When everything else is said and done, nothing is as important as the people in your care—both clients and caregivers. Are you focused on them above all?
We live in an exciting time. Technological advances are making it easier for seniors to live more comfortably and safely at home. Robotic arms can prepare meals. Smart watches can monitor vitals and track the location of the senior. Virtual assistant devices can provide reminders, turn lights on and off, read emails and initiate phone calls to family. Rideshare companies expand accessibility of transportation services. And “Granny Pods” equipped with cameras and sensors can monitor the home environment and provide alerts when there is a disruption to a person’s regular routine. The advances are astounding and will only continue as technology evolves.
While technology is a valuable complement to the services home care offers through efficiencies, standardized processes, and data capture, it will never replace human relationships and oversight.
As home care providers, we are in the people business. We must not lose sight of perhaps the most important element to caring for another person: the relationship.
A Wholistic Approach to Client Care
The opportunity to provide non-medical home care services to those in need is a privilege. Simple tasks that many of us take for granted, such as the ability to cook a meal or navigate the confines of a bathroom safely, can often be the difference between remaining independent at home or moving into a facility. In some cases, home care might even mean walking the dog so a client can keep a pet they have loved for many years or taking a client to the grocery store so they can maintain a sense of independence. It’s the ability to help our clients maintain the simple things about home and giving our clients the opportunity to stay at home, if they wish, no matter how big or small their needs might be.
Assistance with activities of daily living, however, are merely table-stakes. To legitimize ourselves as valuable participants in the continuum of care and as true partners to other healthcare professionals, we must take a wholistic approach to client care.
Through our daily interactions with clients, we are afforded unique insights into our clients lives that allow early recognition of health issues that permit early intervention and a reduction in hospitalization and rehospitalization. We can simultaneously promote safety, well-being, socialization, and ongoing engagement with life’s important activities. Technology has many benefits, but often it alerts us of a problem after it has occurred. Our ability to observe subtle changes in mood or behavior can cue us that something is wrong and enable us to proactively advocate on a client’s behalf. While a camera or sensor may alert us that a client has fallen so that we can respond, a caregiver in the home can potentially prevent the fall from ever happening.
Simply ‘Being Present’ Isn’t Enough
Depression and isolation can exacerbate many disease processes and are often at least one of the contributing factors in the decision to bring in a home care agency. The comfort of human touch and the peace of mind of knowing that you are not alone are all important parts of a person’s general wellbeing. Research conducted in the Health and Retirement Study, a national representative study of older persons, found that adults age 60+ who identified themselves as lonely were 59% more likely to suffer a decline in ability to perform daily activities and had a 45% higher likelihood of dying than those with satisfying social lives1. It is imperative that we keep client engagement at the forefront of everything we do.
Additionally, companionship helps deter diseases such as Alzheimer’s by keeping seniors mentally stimulated. The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry found that older adults who described themselves as lonely were twice as likely to develop dementia. Taking care of our clients’ physical wellbeing and simply being present isn’t enough. We must find ways to bring joy and improve the quality of life for those we have the privilege of serving.
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A Win-Win All Around
Our clients and their families should be able to expect more from us. This all starts with hiring the right people, providing the necessary training and education, and empowering our caregivers to be a meaningful part of the care team. As healthcare professionals who deliver services in the homes of our clients, it is our responsibility to educate our caregivers to not just check the boxes of the care plan, but to help us be the eyes and ears for family, physicians and other services providers. This proactive approach helps to ensure we’re connecting our clients with the resources and complementary home-based services that best meet their needs.
Not only does this wholistic approach have striking benefits for clients and their families, but if done right, this approach to home care can be financially lucrative for home care agencies. Having the technology to create efficiencies and optimize processes, coupled with quality care, relationship building, and meaningful human interaction can lead to more referrals, improve client acquisition, and increase client retention. It’s a win-win all around.
As home care providers, we must strive to deliver the best care possible to our clients. While our industry continues to find ways to best embrace the advances in technology and incorporate these advances into our service offerings, we need to ensure that this is not at the sacrifice of connecting with our clients and proactively understanding and addressing their needs and desires. The pendulum of care needs to remain at the heart of homecare – and that’s with the people who trust us to provide quality care and the caregivers who rise to that challenge every day.
1 Loneliness in Older Persons A Predictor of Functional Decline and Death
Carla M. Perissinotto, MD, MHS; Irena Stijacic Cenzer, MA; Kenneth E. Covinsky, MD, MPH
Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(14):1078-1084. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.1993
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