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8 Ways to Address Challenges and Rebuild Relationships With Your Clients

Published on December 7, 2022 by Sharon Morrisette

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As a client-facing industry, home care involves working with a wide variety of people from all walks of life. Some are easier to deal with and a natural fit for your agency, while others can prove more challenging.

Working with clients who are aging, disabled, managing a chronic illness, and/or living with a cognitive disorder can contribute to more complex relationships, demanding behaviors, and ever-changing needs.

Of course, as a home care provider, you and your team want to do your best to build and maintain harmonious relationships with all your clients and their family members and provide the highest quality of care and satisfaction. 

Unfortunately, you will occasionally cross paths with clients and families that may not turn out to be a good fit for your home care company. These clients can create additional stress for your caregivers and team, which can seriously affect job satisfaction and retention.

However, before you make the difficult decision to let a client/patient go, it’s worth considering if there is anything you can do to help reset and rebuild the client-provider relationship – while remaining true to your core business values. 

Here are eight simple solutions that could help address a number of challenges:

1. Manage client and family expectations 

Manage client and family expectations

When preparing for in-home care services with new clients/patients and families, it’s vital to set clear expectations and boundaries and to be on the same page from the start.

You need to understand what the client needs/wants and be transparent about what your home care company can (and cannot) provide. Clients/patients and families should know precisely what services you will be providing, including scheduling, limitations, policies, pricing, and so on.

By communicating clearly from the beginning, setting clear expectations, and having everything agreed upon in writing, you set the right tone and lay the foundations for a successful ongoing relationship. 

If you find clients and families constantly raising issues or concerns later along the care journey, it’s always valuable to revisit this initial stage together to discover what might have changed. Working with your clients, families, and care team to identify any updates needed to a care plan – and realign expectations – should improve the client experience and restore your client-provider relationship. 

2. Check your caregiver-client matching and consistency

Studies show that good relationships between clients and their caregivers can significantly impact the client/patient experience and drive satisfaction. 

Therefore, it’s important to consider if there are ways to fine-tune your client-caregiver matching, taking into account physical and medical needs, location, language, and cultural preferences, lifestyle habits, personalities, skill sets, experience, etc.    

Investing in the right technology with unique machine-learning technology and matching algorithms will help to tailor care to meet specific needs and ensure you make the best matches every time. 

It’s also crucial to review client-caregiver matches regularly, as a client’s needs can change over time and require adjustments. For example, consider if they require a more skilled caregiver, more hours of care, or if their current caregiver needs to be upskilled/trained (to ensure consistency of care).

3. Understand what might be behind any challenging behaviors

List of current medications and any allergies

Sometimes clients will present challenging behaviors that can put a considerable strain on your care team and, over time, have you thinking they’re just not a good fit with your home care company. 

However, it’s important to identify the reasons behind these behaviors before making any hasty decisions to see if there are any solutions to work around them.

For example, clients/patients with chronic pain, memory issues, hearing/vision deficits, or cognitive disorders may experience fear, frustration, anger, and so on, which are not directly related to your caregivers or the level of care you’re providing. They can also have reactions to their prescription medication or poor medication adherence.

In these circumstances, it’s essential for everyone involved to record all incidents to help identify and understand any triggers, review medications and their combinations, and implement effective medication reminders if needed.

The solution may require additional training for your caregivers, or more education for the clients/patients and their family members, to fully understand what is behind the behaviors and find positive ways to respond more appropriately to desensitize situations as they arise.

4. Improve communications and care coordination

If you’re finding a client/patient and their family overly demanding or trying to micromanage their care, consider if these challenges can be overcome by delivering more consistent, timely, and effective communication. 

A 2021 study of home care consumers showed that a better quality of communication is essential for client/patient and family satisfaction. Over 90% said that communication responsiveness influenced their satisfaction with their home care provider, with only 40% fully satisfied with their current provider.

Being able to access information and communicate effectively with clients, families, and care teams are essential components of client and family-centered home care and can:

  • Ensure potential problems or misunderstandings are quickly identified and resolved, improving client safety.
  • Keep families fully informed on their loved one’s care (avoiding the need for micromanagement) and improve their home health education.
  • Increase trust and client loyalty to your agency (increasing Lifetime Customer Value – LCV).
  • Improve your home care business reputation.
  • Result in a higher percentage of client referrals, including positive reviews.

To read more about increasing client/patient and family satisfaction through improved communications and leveraging the right technology, visit our popular blog here.

5. Train all staff in effective communication skills and conflict resolution

A well-trained, motivated and empowered team can deliver a much higher, standardized level of care to your clients, manage complicated care situations with confidence, boost engagement, and significantly impact client/patient satisfaction. 

Therefore, it’s essential to support your team and ensure you have training programs that offer growth opportunities for all caregivers and office staff, particularly in areas that directly affect the client experience you aim to provide. 

For example, are you providing training in communication skills, schedulingtime management, and conflict resolution to help your team build solid relationships and rapport at every touchpoint, significantly improve workflows, and directly impact client experience and satisfaction?

6. Look for ways to work in collaboration with clients’ family members

smartcare communication channels with family

Actively involving family members and working collaboratively with them has been shown to significantly impact the quality of care and patient outcomes. In addition, it can be a great way to understand their pain points and preferences, build more positive relationships, and avoid many potential issues.

Make sure you’re involving clients’ families, as appropriate, in care discussions, progress reports, reviewing care plans, and so on – always keeping the client/patient at the center of any communications. Two-way communication is vital, as family members can often provide your team with missing information from medical records, detect the need for additional care services over time, etc.

Investing in a family portal is an excellent way to engage family members, helping them quickly find details and information about their loved ones’ care services, schedules, important updates, and payments. 

To learn more about actively involving your clients’ family members to improve the client/patient experience, boost engagement, and increase satisfaction, read our recent blog here.

7. Expand your care services

In some cases, an existing client might need additional home care services that you’re currently not equipped to provide, for example, specialized dementia care. While this means they’re no longer a good fit for your home care business, there are ways this challenge can be easily resolved, for example:

  • Training and/or upskilling your existing caregivers.
  • Teaming up with another provider who offers complimentary services.
  • Diversification acquisition.

8. Preempt problems by gathering regular feedback 

Asking for regular feedback

Being proactive in measuring client satisfaction is an effective way to identify any problems before they escalate, for example, through regular feedback surveys, questionnaires, team feedback, focus groups, online reviews, and in-app tools.

It’s equally important to act promptly on the feedback, demonstrating your home care business is committed to delivering what your clients/patients and families want and that they can trust you. 

Using software tools like Smartcare’s Family Portal gives your home care clients and families access to engagement tools that they can use to send instant feedback via a mobile app. Capturing client and family feedback in real-time gives your team operational insights that will help identify any ‘problematic’ clients or recurring issues, enhance your home care services, and improve the client/patient experience.

When it’s time to say goodbye

If you’ve tried these solutions without success, bringing the client-provider relationship to an end might be the best option for you, your team, and the client. It’s important to know that you did not fail, but rather, you are giving the client an opportunity to find an agency that is a better fit for their needs.

At this point, it’s important to consider the best interests of everyone involved and to ensure you end the relationship respectfully and fairly – similar to letting an employee go. Managing this situation correctly will generate a level of respect that can help protect your company’s reputation.

A different “exit strategy” will be needed for every client, but the following points provide a quick guide:

  • Be well prepared in advance and have a strategy in place.
  • Set up a face-to-face meeting with all stakeholders (in person or via video conference) and let them know why you are meeting in advance.
  • Keep your behavior professional and courteous at all times. 
  • Be clear and concise when explaining why – don’t leave any room to negotiate.
  • Follow up with written notification and next steps (including a notice period).
  • Equip the client/patient and family with as much information and support as possible, with recommendations for alternative home care providers that would be a better fit for them.
  • Deliver on your commitments through the notice period until the transfer is made.

Please refer to your state and local regulations regarding ‘firing’ clients before taking action.

As a final note, it’s important to remember that challenging clients can be a great learning source for developing and improving your home care business. Use the experiences as a learning opportunity that could result in greater success for your home care business in the future.

At Smartcare Software, we understand home care businesses’ challenges and how important it is to keep your teams and your clients/patients, and families satisfied. Call us today to discover how our home care software can help your business deliver first-class care consistently and realize your goals, or request a free demo.