Like you, we are keeping a close eye on the latest news both nationally and locally as we follow the advancement of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the US and worldwide. All the conversation, focus, and media attention on COVID-19 can create quite a bit of anxiety for a home agency’s staff, caregivers, and clients. As home care agency owners there are some steps and actions that can be taken to help manage those anxieties.
The coronavirus has rapidly spread around the word infecting over 145,000 people in 137 countries since it was first detected in China late last year. In the United States the number of cases will be increasing as testing becomes more widely available over the next few weeks. While the majority of the cases are mild, much of the population we care for is considered high risk. High risk individuals are older adults (60 or older) who have serious chronic medical conditions. This means, our clients and in some cases our caregivers, are more vulnerable to the virus and more likely to develop serious illness. At the same time, because our clients are receiving care in their homes, they are already limiting their risk of exposure and contraction as the disease spreads.
Here are some suggestions for helping manage the anxiety of your staff, caregivers, and clients. First, start with you! Reach out to your fellow agency owners and learn what they are doing to prepare and address COVID-19 in their communities. Review industry resources, as well as the websites for your local health organizations and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Take what you learn and develop or update your agency’s plans and protocols. Always project confidence and calm for your staff and clients. Take things day-by-day and communicate regularly is key to reducing anxiety.
Clients and Their Families
Your client’s and their families may worry or express anxiety about their loved ones getting the virus. The best way to help them through this is with thoughtful and trusting communication from you and your team. Without information it is human nature to jump to conclusions. Share your emergency action plans, protocols and provide access to resources, such as the CDC website highlighted above. Most importantly, communicate regularly with your clients and their family members, even when you don’t have a specific update. Your calm, focused voice on the phone can go a long way to reducing their anxiety. In addition, ensure your caregivers are engaged with the family, providing regular shift updates and communicating with the family every day. It’s always a good idea to engage the family to improve satisfaction, but in today’s environment it is critical.
Home Care Staff and Caregivers
Your staff and caregivers are also thinking about COVID-19. They may be experiencing concern, worry or anxiety about their loved ones, their ability to safely care for clients or the security of their job. They have concerns about what will happen if they become infected. They may be worried about their client’s safety and what to do if a client demonstrates symptoms. Again, the best ways to help them through these anxieties is with compassion and thoughtful communication. Ensure that they review and understand your infectious disease protocols and your emergency preparedness plans. Provide the resources available from the CDC. It also might be a good time for a training refresh. Make sure you update caregivers regularly with national, local and agency developments.
Listening and continual communication is the key to helping your clients, their families and your staff and caregivers get through this crisis while managing their anxiety. It’s important to note that if you have a business automation platform, like Smartcare software, make sure you are taking advantage of the digital tracking and care management. Fully us the built-in communications tools available to engage your staff, such as HIPAA secure messaging, automated reminders and scheduled notices.
It is times like these that not only make a difference for what happens today and the quality of your caregiver and client relationships, but will also impact how your agency is 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.