Treat Caregivers Like Your Clients

Treat Caregivers Like Your Clients

Treat Caregivers Like Your ClientsI am delighted to bring you Dr. Aaron Blight. If I say that Aaron is a home care expert, it does not even scratch the surface. Before launching into a new career as a healthcare consultant, Aaron was a home care owner in the Home Instead Senior Care franchise network. He came to the industry after years at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) where he was a national leader for the federal Medicaid program.

While leading his home care company, Aaron wanted to learn how to find and keep the best caregivers, so he studied factors that contribute to the recruitment and retention of home care aides for his doctoral dissertation. Dr. Blight’s study included hundreds of caregivers in 15 states and expanded both the practical and theoretical knowledge of the home care industry. He is now an Adjunct Professor of Health Care Management and Public Health at Shenandoah University in my home state of Virginia.

Today, Aaron shares words of wisdom on the impact Schedulers have on caregiver retention.

Over the years, I observed dozens of schedulers filling shifts at my home care company.  One of my best schedulers was a woman named Nina who had an uncanny ability to get our caregivers to commit to shifts.  Nina was highly effective in staffing because she took extra time to develop relationships with both our clients and our caregivers.  Nina was often inconvenienced by caregivers who would call out of shifts or talk about their personal problems with her.  Although she was extremely busy, Nina always made time for a client or caregiver who needed her. She was unceasingly courteous and kind. Her extra “doses of “honey” (as she called them) came back to her like good karma whenever she was in a pinch and really needed a caregiver’s help.  

Not all of the schedulers were as kind to our caregivers.  One day I watched in horror as my scheduler slammed the phone down after getting a caregiver call-off.  She started ranting about yet another caregiver calling out of a shift. Her colleague responded by asking, “Why do all of them do that?!?”  I knew we had a problem when I heard this exchange.  Based on the actions of a few caregivers, my schedulers were generalizing about all caregivers.

The Risk of Negative Narratives in Scheduling

Scheduling can be a stressful and frustrating job. There are challenges like staffing weekend shifts or handling last-minute call offs. We know most caregivers want to do a good job.  Of course there are a few exceptions and I dealt with those. But when the narrative in the scheduling department descends into a constant cycle of cynicism and complaining about how caregivers are always causing problems, that perception permeates the office culture.  

Your schedulers should not talk among themselves about how “worthless” caregivers are. This perception will unintentionally seep into direct dialogue with caregivers.  Caregivers know when they are not respected by office staff. Where respect is not given, it is not reciprocated.

When there’s a lack of respect between caregivers and schedulers, the challenges in staffing multiply. Caregivers and schedulers alike are less likely to be considerate of one another’s needs.  As caregivers and schedulers descend into a tug-o-war, clients suffer because the quality of service suffers.  Clients will only tolerate so many scheduling mishaps before they start looking elsewhere for service.  

Treat Caregivers Like Clients

Every visit to a home care client is a double-sided transaction.  What’s a double-sided transaction? It’s a transaction that requires two “sales” in order to deliver a single service.

In home care, not only do you have to “sell” the service to the client, but you also have to “sell” the visit to the caregiver.  It’s easy to see the importance of “selling” to your client. The necessity of “selling” the visit to your caregiver may not be as obvious.  Why can’t you just tell the caregiver when and where to go?

Too often, there is a perception among office staff that caregivers simply have to be told where to go and what to do with the plan of care. This is approach is bound to fail.  

Caregivers are humans with complex lives and many demands put on them outside of work.  The variability of available work in home care means that caregivers rarely have predictable schedules.  Caregivers must adjust their personal lives to accommodate evolving work requests, and sometimes they just can’t do it.

Belittling, scolding, insulting, and complaining about caregivers who can’t work a shift does nothing to fill that hole on the schedule.  In fact, being rude is how you drive caregivers away.  Home Care Pulse recently reported that the biggest cause of the industry’s high rates of caregiver turnover is poor communication with the office.

You’d never think of being rude to a client.  Given the nature of home care’s double-sided transactions, you shouldn’t be rude to a caregiver either. Teach your staff to treat your caregivers like clients. Listen to caregiver needs and make efforts to accommodate them.  Caregiver job satisfaction will increase and turnover will decrease.  Caregivers will be more inclined to respond in a positive way when you’re desperately seeking to fill that last minute shift.  

That’s Nina’s secret: over time, the honey is always more effective than the vinegar.  


Dr. Aaron Blight is the Founder of Caregiving Kinetics and speaks to groups everywhere about home care and caregiving.

In addition to talks and training on the phenomenon of caregiving, Caregiving Kinetics specializes in one-day, high-impact, custom business consultations for home care companies wishing to develop their teams.

More information can be found at www.caregivingkinetics.com.