Meeting Caregivers Needs Equals Caregiver RetentionLet me introduce Kelly. Kelly is a Care Coordinator at an agency in the mid-Atlantic region. She participated in the Momentum course I co-lead with Steve “The Hurricane” Weiss. Kelly loved the course so much that she decided to summarize what she learned and how she has used many of those tips successfully. She generously agreed to share with you all, my readers!

In a nutshell, Kelly’s recipe for caregiver success is about creating a virtuous cycle of caring and encouragement for caregivers. In short: Meeting caregivers’ needs. This creates the environment to recruit and keep caregivers when the going gets tough. It’s about creating a culture for your agency focused on caregivers and becoming an employer of choice in your community. The results of her efforts speak for themselves: caregiver turnover is at 26% for her agency. This is way better than most agencies I know (and the national average of 65%).

Caregiver Recruitment

  • We keep our office immaculate (and our bathroom!). This sets an environment that tells our caregivers and applicants that we care about where we work. We take pride in our surroundings.
  • We offer refreshments whenever caregivers come into the office. We offer coffee, tea, and bottled water. We ask if they would like to use the restroom. We hang up their coat. When possible, we introduce anyone else who happens to be in the office. This is especially important for caregivers coming for an interview.
  • I get ready for my interviews. When I meet a prospective caregiver for the first time, my desk is clear. I’m not on the phone or late, whether it’s a Zoom interview or in person. I make sure to respect the candidate’s time.
  • I review the notes I took during the phone screen and replay the information back to the candidate regarding their preferences (e.g. no smoker, female clients, afraid of dogs, allergic to cats, availability to work overnight shifts). This is my way to show that I have paid attention to who they are as a person, that they are more than just a skillset.
  • I explain the steps of our recruitment process so candidates understand what will happen next. I let them know that their application is complete (i.e. reference check, background screening, drug test). I don’t want to leave a caregiver in limbo. I want them to stay invested in our agency throughout the recruitment process.

Caregiver Orientation

  • We are prepared for each new caregiver with the care plan, their name badge, employee handbook, and enrollment forms for benefits. 
  • We give a goodie bag with PPE, a bottle of water, and some company-branded swag (tissues, hand sanitizer, pen, notepad). And we include a few personalized packaged food items. For example, if I know the caregiver has children, I include lollipops.  I also make a note in the caregiver’s file of the children’s names and ages. 

Be Attentive to Caregivers’ Needs

  • When caregivers call the office, take the time to speak to them. Do NOT give them the “bum’s rush.” A caregiver may be frustrated or struggling with a client. They need to vent. Let them talk it out. Show them that they are heard even though you might not be able to “fix” the situation.
  • Seek to understand their needs and struggles. Always ask “What can I do for you? What can we (this agency) do better?”
  • Be responsive to their requests such as time-off requests, pay stubs (they may be buying a new car or applying for a new apartment). Make it a priority to respond to them. Too many agencies put these requests from employees on the back burner. Caregivers notice it and they don’t like it. 
  • Deliver supplies to the caregiver’s home or the client’s home. It might sometimes take up to a one-hour round trip, but this makes a very good impression on the caregiver AND the client!
  • Never get angry when a caregiver says no to a case. Don’t force them into accepting a case. There’s a chance something might go wrong and the caregiver would end up resenting your agency for putting them in a position of failure.

Meeting Caregivers’ Needs Through Recognition

  • Be timely in sharing a client compliment with the caregiver. It means a lot to them!
  • Be specific in praise: “Mrs. Smith said that her husband is so impressed with the way you shave him and you make the most delicious French toast. He feels safe when you are in the home.” We document all client compliments in the caregiver’s file. 
  • Never miss a chance to thank caregivers for all the work they do. Tell them how grateful you are, or we are so thrilled to have you on our team. 
  • Put reminders in the agency’s calendar for birthdays, graduations, etc. Send a card or a small gift for each event. Don’t forget to send a sympathy card when a family member or a long-time client passes away.

Caregiver In-Service

  • We provide monthly in-service to our caregivers via SMS and email. We make it easy for them to complete the quizzes by allowing them to simply reply to the message and list their answer for each question. Most of our caregivers do not have a computer at home, much less a printer!
  • Do not poach your best caregivers to fill office positions unless the employee has shown a long-standing interest or acquired a degree that qualifies them for the position. We offered office positions to two caregivers and neither one worked out. They were not equipped to function on an administrative level. We lost an office employee AND a fantastic caregiver when they both left the agency!

The last word goes to Kelly who hopes that you find these tips beneficial and that they help other agencies in their retention efforts. “Some of these things are difficult to do in a busy office, but I can assure you that the payoff is immeasurable,” she concludes. 

Thank you to Kelly for sharing her knowledge, experience, and words of wisdom to meet the caregiver’s needs!