We’ve all heard the horror stories. Unexpected no-shows. Home care aides quitting after just days on an assignment. Aides completely mismatched to their clients. Constant turnover. Agency managers unreachable when problems arise. Theft, dishonest acts—even exploitation and abuse can occur.
How does such unacceptable customer service happen when clients engage an apparently reputable, licensed home care agency? From our 12-plus years of experience, here are some of the reasons:
New home care agencies are daily entering the market to capitalize on the boom in eldercare services. Desperate to capture business, companies will often do anything to get a new client—even if it means promising what they can’t deliver.
Every new client brings to the table a set of factors that govern how readily high caliber care can be arranged. The most important are the client’s location and desired schedule, but things like pets in the home, special skills needed, mobility limitations and personality factors also play a role.
Sometimes these factors collectively pose major barriers to the assignment of a suitable aide. Rather than admit this up front, however, many agencies forge ahead, casting around for any warm body willing to accept the case—often with disastrous results.
The better approach is to be straightforward about limitations right from the start. At Ready Hands, if we believe we are not the best fit for a particular client, we try to help them find better alternatives. People appreciate the honesty and the goodwill.
Failing to Consider the Aides’ Needs
Happy aides mean happy clients. Our experience (not to mention common sense) suggests that an agency cannot achieve a satisfied client if the assigned aide is unhappy. If the commute is too long, the number of weekly hours insufficient to cover living expenses, the physical demands of care unreasonable, then no good aide will stay for long.
In their eagerness to staff a case, agencies sometimes pressure aides to accept assignments that aren’t a good fit. Such situations usually don’t work.
Good communication is the cornerstone of a successful home care experience. It starts with a visit by an agency representative to learn a client’s particular needs and preferences. In turn, these considerations must drive the selection of the right home care aide. A detailed written care plan must also be prepared and carefully reviewed with the aide.
Despite the best preparations, things can still go wrong. When that happens, clients need to be able to reach an agency nurse or manager 24/7 to address problems. Unfortunately, unresponsiveness and delayed replies to messages are commonplace in our industry. Clients will forgive honest mistakes if they are acknowledged and rectified quickly, but will be justifiably angry if they can’t reach someone in authority to discuss concerns.
A Slipshod Hiring Process
No agency wants to hire sub-standard employees. However, many agencies don’t seem to employ a planned, systematic hiring process designed to attract the best applicants. It starts with cultivating a large applicant pool by treating both applicants and employees with the utmost courtesy and respect. A reputation as a good employer is better than any employment advertising.
The hiring process must also take into account several facts of life in home care: aides are only paid if they are working with a client; aides who don’t get the work hours they need must eventually quit; the agency must always have a few aides on hand who are available to accept short-notice assignments or fill-in work; the ability to hire “just in time” without shortcutting proper pre-employment screening is essential.
Ready Hands addresses these realities by maintaining a large searchable database of applicants where key information is stored on each. Every conversation with an applicant is a screening opportunity that is dated and logged. Our office has ongoing dialogues with applicants that may go on for many months or longer before the right opportunity arises to consider them for hire. When that time arrives, we already have a good idea of who are the most promising applicants before we even invite them in for further screening.
Most home care aides are warm, dedicated and honest, but there are obviously exceptions. When warning signs of poor behavior arise, it is tempting to counsel the employee and count on improvement. That is certainly the right approach for minor policy infractions. But certain behaviors are completely incompatible with running a reputable home care agency. When these occur, it’s time to cut the cord with the employee.
Unexcused no-shows are one prominent example. In the absence of a proven emergency, an aide who fails to appear for an assignment cannot be entrusted with the care of vulnerable clients. Leaving a client unattended without authorization is another.
In our experience, consistently achieving great home care matches is impossible without paying attention to the foregoing five factors. It’s not easy—but it’s not rocket science either!