caregiver with hands on older adults' shoulders

Editor’s note: Peer-to-Peer is a new feature from McKnight’s Home Care Daily. In this question-and-answer format, we talk to the leaders in home care, your peers, about their operational initiatives, efforts and ideas. If you think someone in home care would make a good subject for Peer-to-Peer, please email Diane Eastabrook at [email protected]

Pennsylvania-based home care franchise Seniors Helping Seniors might have found the secret to solving the home care industry’s worker shortage. The solution, quite simply, is in its name.

The firm and its 110 franchisees hire people mostly 60 and over to provide in-home personal assistance, dementia care, respite care and a variety of other services to seniors and the disabled. 

When you consider that baby boomers now comprise a quarter of the U.S. population and two-thirds plan to work well beyond the age of 65, hiring seniors to care for an aging population seems like a no-brainer.

McKnight’s Home Care Daily talked to Seniors Helping Seniors President Namrata Yocum-Jan and Chief Operating Officer Daniel Jan about their company’s core strategy and how that strategy helped Seniors Helping Seniors through the COVID-19 pandemic.

McKnight’s Home Care Daily: Why does hiring seniors to care for seniors make sense?

Namrata Yocum-Jan: They understand the aging process and many have gone through the experience (of caring for) their own parents. They understand what the person is going  through and there is that peer connection.

Daniel Jan: Sometimes our caregivers are older than our clients. We have a couple in their nineties that are providing services to younger folks who are 75. Everyone ages differently, but it’s the unique relationship that we create. It’s more than home care, it’s friendships.

McKnight’s Home Care Daily: Do you have less turnover with an older staff?

Namrata Yocum-Jan: Much less. They don’t say I’m not going to work because my car broke down or my alarm didn’t go off. These are people who’ve had careers. It’s a way for them to supplement their income and, at the same time, they have a heart for volunteering. They realize this is like volunteering and helping someone in need, while getting paid for it.

McKnight’s Home Care Daily: We hear so much about the worker shortage. Is staff — even seniors — hard to find?

Daniel Jan: We are really tapping into a unique market. The name Seniors Helping Seniors really tells folks that they can work for us and we will hire them. We do get a disproportionate number of seniors who apply for Seniors Helping Seniors versus other home care companies, so we really benefit from that.

Namrata Yocum-Jan: We also give them the freedom to decide how much or how little they want to work. They can decide the days they want to work and the hours. We give them flexibility they aren’t going to find elsewhere.

McKnight’s Home Care Daily: Seniors, as a group, were hit a lot harder by COVID-19. Did your workers have concerns about infection?

Daniel Jan: In the first few months there were concerns. What is unique about seniors is they are very conscious about their own health, about their own mortality. So, they took a lot more precautions than younger people who were spring breaking in Florida in April of 2020.

Namrata Yocum-Jan: We did implement telecare where our caregivers could call clients and they did not feel isolated. They could still talk about what was going on, if they took their medicine or had meals. It made it more social.

McKnight’s Home Care Daily: Many home care companies say vaccine hesitancy has been a problem. Some have told us about 75% of their staff has been vaccinated. What is your vaccination rate?

Namrata Yocum-Jan: We’re finding about 80% to 85% of seniors within the organization have been vaccinated. We have also encouraged our clients to get vaccinated too.