At a time when home health agencies turn down cases because they don’t have the staff, I want to highlight four new talent pools. Instead of fishing in the same pond as other agencies, it might be time to consider new sources of workers.
The labor statistics are clear: there are not enough direct care workers to meet the demands for home-based senior care. In recent years, many home health agencies have worked diligently to widen the talent pool and bring new workers to the industry. Most agencies are searching for potential caregivers in other service-oriented labor pools like retail, hospitality, and restaurants. And that’s not a bad idea. Service workers have transferable skills that apply to home care. Service workers who are willing to be trained in caregiving can make great new caregivers. That definitely happened during the pandemic when most services were shut down.
As I work with home care agencies across the country, I encounter creative ways agencies look for untapped talent pools among the ranks of older workers, artists, students and disabled workers.
Here’s what I have learned in the past year.
Home Health Agencies can Recruit Senior Workers as Caregivers
One untapped segment is senior workers. Because of the aging population, they represent a growing share of the workforce in general. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects those aged 55 and older will represent 25% of available workers by the end of the decade. Based on data alone, it makes sense to begin recruiting from this demographic, especially considering that seniors have the time to provide companionship and personally understand the nuances of aging in a way that other caregivers might not.
When targeting older workers, make sure your application process caters to their preferred mode of communication. At Family and Nursing Care based in Maryland, prospective caregivers can apply in person at one of their locations, send in a paper application or apply online. They have found that the traditional applications (in-person and paper) have been quite successful with seniors looking for a meaningful second career in their early retirement years. Those workers also tend to be reliable and less likely to call off.
Home Health Agencies can also Recruit Artists and Creatives as Companion Caregivers
Joe Fisher, of Renewal Memory Partners, is very aware that the caregiver workforce is not expanding enough to keep up with the demand for services. “Everyone is fishing in the same pond, but we decided early on that we were going to recruit in a different pond,” says Joe. Based in New York City, his agency is recruiting companion caregivers (which they call Care Partners) with backgrounds in music, art and theater. The high-end companion care service matches clients and Care Partners with shared similar backgrounds, hobbies, and intellectual interests. “The recruitment pitch is focused on an opportunity to do work that matters and ‘bring your whole self to work’ for people with a creative background. Care Partners work really well for early-stage memory loss which requires less hands-on personal care,” explains Joe.
Renewal Memory Partners was the first agency in the country to make its mission to serve the LGBTQ community. Another aspect of the recruitment message is pitched towards the LGBTQ community and its allies who want to serve LBGTQ seniors. The agency emulates the recruitment ethos of organizations like the Peace Corps and Teach For America to attract the best and brightest who want to be of service to others. Joe recognizes that most of his caregivers will not be with the agency forever, but Renewal is grateful for the couple of years they might provide service to seniors.
Another unusual aspect of Renewal’s recruitment: they require work exclusivity. As most caregivers are new to senior care, they require extensive training which is a significant investment. “But it has benefits too”, adds Joe. “They learn the Renewal way from the start.” After one year on the job, Companions can get their CNA certification if they wish to do so.
One recruitment tip shared by Joe for those interested in expanding their recruitment to creative and mission-driven individuals: post your positions on job boards where mission-driven individuals go to find work like www.Idealist.org.
Recruit Students As Caregivers in Your Agency
Barbara Jones of Visiting Angels in Arkansas employs about 50 caregivers, some of them students of the nearby Nursing school and Physician Assistant (PA) program.
Did you know that most PA schools require students to have at least a thousand hours of patient care experience before starting their education? Students can earn these hours while working as an EMT/paramedic, CNA, or phlebotomist. Some programs specify that only paid patient care experience will satisfy this application requirement. If you have a PA school in your community, you could position yourself as a great place to work for those looking to earn patient care experience.
Barbara employs students from non-medical backgrounds too, but “those who have some personal experience of care, so they understand what the work entails.”
Recruit Mildly Disabled Workers As Caregivers
This is maybe the most improbable source of caregivers. It might be scary to think about hiring an employee who has a disability. But this didn’t deter Barbara who has made her personal mission of helping people realize their full potential. She hired a caregiver who has high functioning cerebral palsy. In this case, the right hand has limited fine motor movements but otherwise is able to function. The applicant had experience as a private caregiver. Barbara conducted a skills check, and the applicant did well.
“Initially some clients were unsure she could handle the work,” acknowledges Barbara. “But the employee’s bubbly personality, her positive attitude and hard work has won over any skeptic.”
It has been such a positive experience that Barbara would consider hiring a deaf caregiver for a deaf client. “It hasn’t happened yet, but I am certainly open to it.”
At a time when agencies turn down cases because they don’t have the staff, being creative and looking for untapped sources of caregivers should be part of your recruitment strategy.