Senior care, historically, has struggled with finding and keeping qualified caregivers. This problem with caregiver turnover is multiplied tenfold in the home care industry. General home care turnover spiked a few years ago at just over 80%, with caregivers leading the turnover numbers.
Unfortunately, as many home care agency leaders continue to be inundated with pandemic-related priorities as well as day-to-day tasks necessary to keep their business running, they are unable to devote the attention required to develop a comprehensive caregiver retention plan. Fortunately, there are alternative solutions available to every agency that can lead to less turnover, ultimately making patient care more consistent.
Why are caregivers leaving?
Before we can develop strategies to keep caregivers in the home care field, we need to understand why they are leaving. While some caregivers leave their positions to find better pay and benefits, many leave because they do not feel tethered to a team and they do not have the opportunity to grow within the organization. Caregivers can feel underpaid and unempowered, finding ongoing education difficult to attain in their home care agency.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the crisis. Home care caregivers, like all healthcare workers, carried the brunt of the work throughout the pandemic. They cared for patients in unusual circumstances, with new guidelines and protocols coming out every few weeks. This left them feeling depleted, underappreciated and stressed out.
Challenges both during and beyond the pandemic continue to put caregivers in difficult situations that require agencies to step in and provide relief.
Increasing caregiver retention
One thing is certain: home care turnover is simply too high. Agencies that commit to increasing retention benefit throughout their business and patient care metrics. Here are changes any agency can make to reduce turnover.
1. Trust and respect
Caregivers are seasoned professionals who are ready for responsibilities that go beyond patient care. Unfortunately, leaders are desensitized to high turnover rates and end up treating caregivers as disposable workers that come and go. This approach leads to supervisors not taking time to grow their caregivers through training or additional responsibilities.
Agency leaders can begin to give trust and responsibilities to their caregivers by:
- Eliminating a dictated schedule. Instead, allow caregivers access to technology that gives them the opportunity to schedule their own shifts, making them feel empowered and trusted.
- Making ongoing education easy. Caregivers are ready to learn new tools and interventions to serve their patients better. Give them the technology that allows them to get training on-demand right on their smartphones.
- Begin a mentor program. Provide opportunities where seasoned caregivers can offer guidance and advice to new caregivers at the agency.
- Involving caregivers in the care plan process. Offer caregivers the opportunity to share their experiences and perspectives at the point of care for every patient they serve, as they know patients better than anyone else in the agency.
2. Gamify the work experience
Caregivers rely on their smartphones throughout the day, especially since they spend their day in the field with patients. It’s important they can manage their schedules, take training courses, and document right on their phones. Finding the right technology to make this experience both easy, engaging and fun is key in caregiver retention.
Leaders can use positive reinforcement techniques through the smartphone experience by:
- Using gaming techniques through the agency’s caregiver app to incentivize caregivers. Give designated points for clocking in and out, taking educational courses, or offering positive suggestions.
- Allow caregivers to repurpose their earned points for prizes and benefits.
3. Relieve loneliness
Perhaps the biggest step home care agencies can take to reduce turnover is to foster a team environment. This is admittedly more difficult in a home care setting, as there isn’t a centralized breakroom or nursing station where friendships are cultivated. However, if caregivers don’t feel part of a team, leaving an agency is even easier.
Agency leaders can begin to build a team atmosphere and relieve loneliness by:
- Scheduling regular team meetings and events.
- Using technology, like a caregiver app, to strike up conversations and host digital events between caregivers.
Decreasing turnover is not a problem industry leaders can solve overnight. However, anyone can begin taking positive steps to build retention over time.
Levi Pavlovsky is chief operating officer & co-founder of Medflyt, a homecare platform that assists in the staffing and training of caregivers.