Caregiver isolation often comes up in the context of family caregivers. But feeling lonely and disconnected is also an issue for professional caregivers. Why would you want to do this? Retention, my friend! When caregivers don’t feel connected to YOUR agency, they are less likely to be loyal and committed to your agency.
Feeling alone is an issue that most caregivers will face. Professional caregivers too experience physical, mental, and emotional strain while caring for clients.
Here are some tips to break the isolation and connect meaningfully.
The office staff plays a critical role. Although the scheduler is in regular contact with caregivers to discuss work schedules, those interactions rarely amount to a meaningful connection.
Schedule meaningful and regular touch points from day 1. Instituting a mentoring program for new hires is a great way to set the tone and put systems in place for regular communication with caregivers in the first 90 days. Beyond that, all-hands meetings, one-on-one reviews with the supervisor, scheduled training and un-scheduled visits from the nurse are many ways to stay in touch with caregivers in a meaningful and business-building way. Sometimes, an unexpected call or visit from the agency owner “just because” is another way to show you care. All in all, best practice recommends at least one meaningful touchpoint with each caregiver every month. Plan it, schedule it, put some accountability behind it so it does happen!
Have an open door (phone) policy. Most agency owners will say they have one. Employees are welcome to stop by anytime. The way it is executed day in and day out will be the test. Will you always make time to lend an ear to a caregiver when a crisis is boiling somewhere else? When your deeds match your words no matter what, then you have a powerful culture of open communication.
Train your staff, including the caregivers themselves, to recognize the signs of feeling isolated, burnout and depression. Explore coping strategies through training and peer coaching.
Encourage healthy habits at work and at home. Wellness should not be reserved to Fortune 500 companies. The work of caregiving requires strength and resilience. Caregivers who do not take care of themselves experience burnout. They become susceptible to mental and emotional distress as well as physical health challenges. Encourage your employees to make time for themselves in their weekly routine, to eat well, and exercise. Even as little as a 1-mile walk every day to start or end the day will offer some relief from stress. Again, lead by example. Take a lunch break. Walk outside. Take the stairs.
The feelings spurred by isolation and the difficult task of caregiving for the elderly may require counseling. Consider offering informal support from other caregivers in your agency who have been in a similar position. Consider professional counseling for the more persistence problems.
Building a business around caregiver and client satisfaction is the recipe for success. Caregiver turnover is not likely to disappear but it can be abated. I am here to tell you there is no easy solution. Addressing caregiver turnover takes thoughtful planning to tackle one small challenge after another.