In this first of three articles about how we strive to achieve high customer satisfaction rates, I describe our views on matching Home Care Aides to clients. Parts two and three will cover how we attract and retain high caliber aides in the first place, and the roles played by our nurse supervisors and administrative personnel.
In reference to recently departed clients, husband and wife, for whom Ready Hands provided home care service for several years, a close family friend recently felt moved to write us as follows:
“Now that they are both gone, I feel I need to write to tell you what wonderful care and support they received from all four of the women you sent to help them: Mimi, Veronica, Bertie and Saada. I have never met kinder or more thoughtful people.” The letter goes on characterize the aides as “always upbeat, alert and loving,” and concludes, “They are each a credit to Ready Hands and to caretakers everywhere.”
Ready Hands is privileged to employ scores of aides for whom clients have expressed similar sentiments. We love our Home Care Aides! But we also know that achieving a high degree of customer satisfaction does not happen by accident; it requires planning for the best match between aide(s) and client that we can achieve.
Why is such matching so important? Because a successful home care experience depends on much more than simply dispatching a properly trained and pre-screened aide to a client’s home. It requires giving consideration to many other variables. Here are a few of them:
- How will the personality and style of the aide conform to the client’s personality and preferences? Some clients need someone who can take charge and show initiative without prompting. Others prefer to give active direction. Some clients value their private time. Others seek companionship and conversation. There are many other examples.
- How does the client’s desired schedule correspond to the aide’s availability and income needs? A client requesting daily five-hour visits would not be the right assignment for an aide who is out of work and needs a full-time job. No matter how good the aide, such an arrangement cannot last and will jeopardize the continuity that is so important to Ready Hands and to our clients.
- Is the commute distance reasonable in view of the daily work hours? A 20-mile commute each way might be acceptable for a live-in aide or for an aide working 12-hour shifts, but not for an aide working just a few hours per day.
- Are there pets in the home? Some aides are allergic to cats, or afraid of dogs, no matter how docile.
- Are the aide’s skills and experience commensurate with the client’s needs? An eager newly trained aide might be perfect for a client with mild cognitive impairment with modest needs. However, such an aide would be a risky choice for a client requiring “total care”, especially if specialized tasks such as tube feedings or insulin injections were needed. And how about driving skills? Cooking capability?
- Does the aide have other obligations that might conflict with a proposed client assignment? Some aides who work elsewhere or attend school during the daytime might express a desire for an overnight shift, but that would usually be unwise.
From considerations like those above, we have learned certain operating rules that we try to apply to every client situation:
- Aim for home care arrangements that meet the aide’s needs as fully as the client’s.
- Don’t promise what we cannot deliver well. When we feel that a client’s unique combination of circumstances make it unlikely we can do a good job, we say so up front and suggest other solutions.
- When proposing a possible care assignment to an aide, don’t just take “yes” for an answer. We explore all possible obstacles in detail first.
- Adhere to our minimum requirement of four hours daily at least Monday through Friday. An aide may at first accept an assignment of two weekly four-hour shifts, but with time he or she will be compelled to leave for more hours.
- Use the same primary aide(s) for each client, except for occasional relief.
- Do not offer clients multiple aides to interview. We prefer to choose the best aide for a given client, describe why we feel that aide will be the best fit, review the alternatives and then invite the client to interview the proposed aide before making a commitment.
- Fix mistakes. At least 90% of the time the approach outlined here will achieve a high level of client satisfaction. However, if we fail at first, we quickly make it right.