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Home Care Agency Guidance for COVID-19 Coronavirus

Published on March 11, 2020 by Scott Zielski

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Below please find some suggestions for steps and actions home care agencies can take to help with the continued safety and wellbeing of their clients and caregivers during the changing situation with COVID-19.

We are all watching the media, following the advancement of the novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide and now developing around the US. We understand that what we are hearing sounds concerning. Smartcare shares your concerns in particular as our agency partners work to care for clients that have been identified by the CDC as being at higher risk, older adults, people who have chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. To best care for your clients and your caregivers, it is important for your home care agency to develop an operational plan and protocols for dealing with the situation. 

In past blogs, we have made suggestions around working to increase the engagement of your caregivers and clients with better communication, resources, and tools. During this difficult time, as the situation in your community is changing by the minute, it is more important than ever to increase caregiver and client engagement; to be thoughtful and have prepared messaging that helps your caregivers and clients understand how you are supporting them and keeping them safe.

Look to your Community Experts

Experts in your community are working together. Your local health departments are working with state health services, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to stay current with the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation. Make sure you are following them on social media, checking for updates on their websites, and taking their lead. As a home care agency, you should continue to monitor recommendations at both the national and local levels. In many cases what is being recommended in another community in the US isn’t being recommended for your local community Follow your local health organization recommendations and the CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 of course for the most current information. But make sure you also. stay connected to your local health community and follow their evolving recommendations.

Follow Healthy Habits to Avoid Sickness

Share with and remind your caregivers, office staff and clients of the common-sense healthy habits they should follow to help protect them from any sickness. The CDC still advocates that the most effective way to avoid transmitting sicknesses is through effective hand washing. The CDC has recommendations for infection control CDC habits to share and continue to reinforce:

– Wash your hands often with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

– Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.

– Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

– Stay home from work if you are sick. If you have children that are sick, keep them home from school or daycare. Avoid others who may be sick.

– Follow the CDC guidelines and travel guidelines.

If you have already communicated this, regular reminders of these healthy habits are important. These are good practices to follow every day, even after this situation is resolved.

Each home care agency should develop a plan that is specific to its own community, needs and circumstances. The National Association for Home Care NAHC has set up a Twitter feed that you can follow specifically for home care and hospice agencies. Find it at @OfficialNAHC and see the NAHC coronavirus resource page.

Develop a Plan for Clients, Caregivers and Yourself

Be a Home Care Agency that is Prepared:

– Stock up on needed supplies that caregivers and your staff may need.

– Develop a plan for your agency’s worst-case scenario. Included what you will do if a staff or caregiver is identified as a possible infected person.

– Have documentation for your agency on infection control processes and protocols. The CDC has illness prevention steps you can follow. See something, say something. Report if you believe that one of your staff, caregivers or clients could be infected. Early treatment is critical to a successful outcome.

– Review your caregiver and staff’s health status, i.e. flu shots and vaccinations.

Communicate and Support with Clients and Families:

– Give regular updates to your clients and their families on what you are doing to be prepared.

– Share your plans and high-level protocols to reduce risk and how you are helping caregivers with their health.

– TThe CDC guidance states that older adults should stay at home as much as possible. Reassure your clients that the safest place is their home.

– Encourage them to limit outings and public places when close contact is possible.

– Show clients under your care how they can be active at home.

– Help your team and your clients stay informed with the latest national and local updates.

– Help your clients follow healthy habits in their homes.

Your clients and families may have concerns even if they aren’t yet sharing them directly with you. Be proactive in communicating to help put them at ease. 

Support your Caregivers:

– Make sure your caregiver’s contact information and health information is up to date. Offer flu shots even at this late time of the year. It shows your concern for their health.

– Help them understand their possible exposure risks.

– Find out where they or their families may have traveled both within and outside the US and possible exposure risks.

– Support your caregivers with sick leave policies that won’t discipline them for an excused absence.

– Be more active in your recruitment of caregivers to fill any possible shortages.

– Educate your care team on how they can practice healthy habits.

– Communicate what you are doing as an agency to help.

It is times like these that can not only make a difference for what happens today but also how your agency will be viewed in the future. Be open, thoughtful, compassionate and prepared. Your caregivers and your clients will appreciate you for your efforts. Most importantly communicate, communicate, communicate.