COVID-19 is creating an epidemic of employee burnout in the senior living and care industry, but one segment has actually seen burnout decline since the pandemic started: home care.

A recent survey of 330,000 senior living and care workers by research firm Activated Insights found the burnout rate for home care workers dropped to 12% in the second half of 2020 compared with 19% during the same period in 2019. By contrast, the poll found burnout rates increased in the double digits for people working in both skilled nursing and senior living.

“We think providers in the at-home space are doing better because they have adapted very quickly and are supporting their employees a lot more than they have in the past,” Activated Insights CEO Jacquelyn Kung told McKnight’s Home Care Daily. 

Employee burnout can be costly to companies because it can increase staff turnover and the number of sick days employees take. Burnout also can affect worker performance and client satisfaction. 

The demand for home care workers has outpaced supply in some high-density regions as many consumers have delayed moving into senior care facilities because of the coronavirus. That has prompted some home care providers to add staff and change their approaches to retaining employees. 

Increasing engagement

In the past year, Santa Ana, CA-based Care to Stay Home has expanded field and administrative support staff by roughly 30% in the five Western states it serves. The company has also increased wages between 10% and 25%, depending on the region. 

Parker Wells

“Along with that pay increase came a lot of education and training on how to use critical PPE [personal protective equipment] in the home,” said Parker Wells, Care to Stay Home co-founder.  “I think all of that helped to improve the engagement of staff and the expectation the staff had of what we needed them to do.” 

New tactics

San Mateo, CA-based Care Indeed is using a different approach to prevent burnout among its 300 caregivers. It’s only letting workers care for two clients at a time. Prior to the pandemic, some of Care Indeed’s staff were taking on multiple clients and working numerous hours for financial reasons, Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Valerio told McKnight’s Home Care Daily.

Headshot of Vanessa Valerio
Vanesssa Valerio

Valerio says it educated staff about the risks of working too many hours and about the potential of spreading a deadly virus by going into too many homes. To offset lost wages, Care Indeed is letting field staff provide more contactless services to clients, like grocery shopping. It’s also asking clients to combine shifts when possible.

“Before where the client may have been asking for a four-hour shift in the morning and a four-hour shift in the evening, we are asking them to do one straight shift. That way we provide one caregiver for that eight-hour shift,” Valerio said.

Both Valerio and Wells say their companies also are engaging more with staff to make sure they take care of themselves while taking care of clients.

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