Home Care and COVID 19Since the COVID-19 pandemic has hit our shores in mid-March, our world has changed completely. For many, it means staying at home, working remotely while supporting children with their online school work. For home care, it means being on the frontline, protecting seniors against a virus that is so deadly to vulnerable people. In today’s blog post, we’ll talk about Home Care in the time of COVID-19, employee impact, and how home care agencies are adapting.

I have asked my home care clients about their experience of dealing with the pandemic. Readers like you have reached out to me with questions. Business connections have shared their observations on how the pandemic is affecting home care. Here’s what I have heard from across the country.

First and foremost, this crisis highlights how much we rely on our people. More than ever, home care agencies that will survive this crisis are taking care of employees, taking care of clients and taking care of each other.

Zack, owner of a home care agency in New Jersey, summarizes it well: “We are being extra sensitive to every situation that comes up in the business, with our clients, and more importantly, with our employees…it’s not business as usual.”  

More than ever, home care agencies need support from industry experts

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Keeping Caregivers Safe

The focus is on keeping caregivers safe although there is a shortage of PPE. Jennifer, owner of a large agency in Michigan, reports that the local nail salon donated a supply of masks and gloves which they won’t need as their business is now closed. The outpouring of support from the community does ease the stress of working on the front-line.

Another big trend is staying close to each and every front-line worker. “We divided the employee list among the office staff and call each and every caregiver. We made sure we get them on the phone to ask simple questions,” said Zach. The objective of these calls is to do a personal check-in, ask caregivers what they need and check on their family situation.


Proceeding with Caution With Growth

Agencies have experienced a slight growth in demand for services. Owners want to proceed with caution especially if clients were in a hospital or a group setting in the previous 14 days. “We certainly don’t want to bring the virus to our clients and we don’t want to expose our caregivers to a possible source of infection,” says Ryan in Colorado. 

This is a valid concern. Caregivers who contract coronavirus on the job may be entitled to collect workers’ compensation according to a recent HR Dive article. Employers may be responsible for covering medical bills associated with the disease if an employee becomes ill due to contact in the course of their work.


COVID-19 and Payroll

Very early in the pandemic, senior living facilities were among the first to close their doors to outsiders to limit the spread of the virus. For Ryan, this meant a drop in business but he was able to re-deploy a few caregivers to other cases but not all of them. He decided to keep his caregivers on the payroll, paying them although they are not providing services. His rationale is that his agency is doing the right thing by its employee and in turn, the caregivers will remain loyal to his agency as the crush of the pandemic lightens up. He hopes that the financial hit will be softened by the funds available under the Paycheck Protection program provided in the CARES Act offered through the Small Business Administration.


Still Recruiting

Tina in Michigan explained that some clients have suspended service. Their caregivers are assigned new clients. The agency is still actively recruiting new caregivers but “we are very selective in who we bring on at this time.” Recruitment is still happening but at a slower rate. 

Stacy in North Carolina asked how to on-board caregivers remotely. For agencies that have moved to electronic on-boarding, this transition is relatively seamless. For agencies that are still doing paper on-boarding, documents can be signed electronically without the need to print or scan using Adobe Sign. For agencies doing drug tests, it is time to contract with a local lab that can handle the drug testing on your behalf.

Interviews are an important part of hiring new employees. Many agencies have moved to video interviews. Some agencies are reluctant to forgo in-person interviews. They practice physical distancing and demonstrate proper hygiene procedures as part of the hiring process. “We ask candidates to wash their hands just like they would in the home of a client. We also deliberately wash our hands, provide PPE and disinfectant wipes to candidates if they come in the office,” says Shannon in California.


Employee Morale During COVID-19

Most agencies report that employee morale is relatively good at the moment. The clear and present danger has galvanized employees around their mission to care for seniors. However, as the crisis lasts this may change. Some employees will experience anxiety and maybe the illness themselves. Others will experience fatigue and let their guard down. Leadership must stay attune to the changing emotions and circumstances of their employees and respond appropriately.

One developing challenge: enhanced unemployment benefits are making it more profitable for many caregivers to claim unemployment rather than stay on the front-line. Although many are dedicated to the care of their clients, the calculus of risk versus reward could trigger some to stay home and collect the benefit. Agencies are considering hazard pay to boost the caregiver pay and incentivize their best caregivers to stay on the job.

Get in touch with me for a free consultation:

  • Email – Just shoot me your question here
  • Call – Schedule a call with me for a free 20-minute consultation to get HR support NOW. I have opened many new slots in my calendar to make room for all of you!

Note: the stories reported in this article were collected between March 23 and April 9, 2020. Given the fast-moving environment at this time of COVID-19 pandemic, some of the mitigating strategies related in this article may have a short shelf-life.