CaregiversI first met Emilie Bartolucci during the Home Care Growth Summit hosted by Home Care Pulse in March 2021. The presentation she gave was very different from the usual presentations on the topic of caregivers. As a former CNA and researcher on the topic of professional caregivers, Emily’s approach provides the caregiver perspective. After her presentation in March, I wanted to go deeper with her and scheduled a follow-on interview. This is what she shared with me.

Emilie joined the National Association for Homecare and Hospice (NAHC) in 2019. She’s the Executive Director for Private Duty Home Care. In this role, she advocates on behalf of caregivers on the wage front and workforce development. “The pandemic was a catalyst to recognize the value of home-based care. We need to take this opportunity to put the spotlight on the work of Aides and elevate their role” says Emilie. 

What’s Unique About Committed Caregivers

In the research she undertook for her Ph.D., Emilie wanted to give a voice to Aides who worked in caregiving for many years. One common thread among the caregivers she interviewed: caregivers started working as Aides because it was easy to start working. They stayed because of the connections they made with their clients. They stayed because of the relationships they had with their co-workers and the office staff. They stayed because they felt like they were doing important work and they were valued. They stayed because they received regular and relevant training. They enjoyed the flexibility of the work hours and mental health support. 

Thanks to her research and her work as a CNA at Boston Children’s Hospital, Emilie has a better understanding than most of the reality of the lives of caregivers. Although most people are aware of the challenges inherent to the role (i.e. physically demanding, emotionally taxing, and not valued by Society), few understand the implication of the intimate connections between caregivers and care recipients. The home is an intimate setting. Working as an Aide means more than just a bath or a medication reminder. Having a caregiver in the home is creating an intimate connection with a sharing of lives. 

Create Caregivers Satisfaction

She observed that caregivers were most satisfied when the office focused on creating bonds through deliberate interactions. These deliberate moments create “cultural imprinting” that creates a different sense of place and makes those agencies stand apart. To be successful and scale, these interactions have to be built in the operational infrastructure. Agencies have to put in place (and sustain) “cultural imprinting” through weekly meetings, peer group meetings, and weekly shout-outs on social media. Any event employees come to, expect to create the traditions of your agency.

In addition, strong relationships between caregivers and office staff have shown to be the best way to overcome the bumps along the caregiving road and support longevity in the job of caregiver.

Recognition Of Caregivers Work Is Crucial

Agencies should endeavor to recognize the value of caregiving and the commitment of caregivers to their clients every day in small and big ways. Consider ways your agency can share caregiver stories to educate the public about the role of caregivers and the positive experiences of professional caregivers. This also contributes to elevating the work of caregiving and the role of care professionals.

How to attract more people to the caregiving profession?

Emilie suggests that the best candidates are the ones attracted by the positive aspects of the job while being aware of the negative factors. Effective job ads should act almost as a public service announcement showcasing the positive impact of caregiving for clients and families, the social impact and fulfilling a higher purpose as well as the flexible work schedules. Job ads shouldn’t gloss over the negative factors of the work such as the isolation, the burden of working with a vulnerable population, and the fact that those jobs offer low pay.

Change Your Mindset For Better Caregiver Retention

Emilie reckons that when you start with the mindset that caregivers are your most important assets, then the rest falls into place. Listen to caregivers. They will tell you what they need and what they want. “Think about investing in them because the connection with clients is what creates the kind of care delivery we all want.”

Emily likes to share the mantra she learned at Ritz-Carlton years ago. “If you invest in your most valuable assets, the rest will follow and the business will succeed.” In home care, caregivers are the most valuable assets. If we build the business around caregivers and care delivery, the agency is likely to be successful. It’s simple and yet profound.