By and | November 4, 2019

Giving attentive care day in and day out can sap the energy of even the most dedicated caregivers. These unlicensed professionals provide support to clients in multiple ways. To fuel motivation, caregivers need to know they are supported by their care coordinators and organizational leaders in turn.

Recognizing and addressing the challenges faced by unlicensed professional caregivers can mean the difference between engaging those staff members and allowing them to drift out the door to another job.

Whether they are called home care aides, certified nursing assistants, unlicensed assistive personnel, homemakers, personal care assistants, or personal care aides, unlicensed caregivers provide unskilled services that address the needs of clients who are unable to take care of their own hygiene, nutrition, or living space without help. They also provide companionship.

Their role and typical duties may vary in different settings, all guided by a plan for care. Never forget how important they are in helping your clients live as independently as possible.

Supporting Professional Caregivers

Stress on professional and family caregivers can be intense. November is designated as National Family Caregivers Month, to honor those who support aging parents, ill spouses, and other loved ones with disabilities.

The professional caregiver’s role includes providing respite and support to family caregivers. Keep in mind, though, that the professional caregiver needs support too, and can benefit from stress relief strategies.

Effective leaders and high-performing organizations will find ways to refuel their caregivers by showing them they care. Consider these five strategies for fueling caregiver engagement:

1. Ask for feedback.

Use informal or formal surveys to find out what resources caregivers believe will help them improve the care they provide, their motivation, and their job satisfaction. You’ll find different ideas about what benefits or supports are desired. That can help you determine an appropriate array of strategies to keep caregivers engaged in their work and your organization.

2. Provide effective onboarding.

Provide welcoming and informative orientations, conduct insightful prehire assessments, and assign targeted education so you can build competence and confidence from the start.

3. Offer professional development.

By including continual online education and skills training opportunities as part of the total employment package, you can build a better and brighter team and combat turnover, as Relias client American Health Partners notes. If caregivers are interested in gaining certifications, you can support their future career paths via online learning.

4. Actively promote staff well-being.

Institute a wellness and fitness program, offering information, training, and incentives for caregivers to participate.

5. Encourage a positive work culture.

Because caregivers work in isolation from one another most of the time, consider creative strategies for helping them feel part of a team. That might include video team meetings, informal social gatherings for sporting or music events, and peer messaging systems for asking questions and offering tips.

Promoting Engagement, Reducing Turnover

Because the number of caregivers available to fill open positions is often inadequate, finding ways to show appreciation and offer growth opportunities is a crucial responsibility.

When turnover is high, new staff cannot be hired quickly enough to fulfill demand. As noted in our whitepaper on employee engagement, this staffing gap and the new employee learning curve can start a downward spiral that involves a temporary dip in productivity, a higher workload on existing employees, lower staff morale, inconsistent care quality, and reduced patient and family satisfaction.

If you provide proper training from the start and ongoing development opportunities, you can educate caregivers about paying attention to the whole person’s needs and listening to client and family concerns. High-quality care reduces complaints, increases positive interactions, and eases caregiver stress.

The burden of care can become heavy at times. Some options for relieving stress are mentioned in the Relias course “Survival Skills for Professional Caregivers.” For example, coach caregivers to:

  • Find ways to organize work tasks that are efficient and effective.
  • Balance their work and personal lives.
  • Ask for assistance when they need it.
  • Talk to someone who is a reliable ally and will listen and understand.
  • Engage in after-work activities that bring personal joy.

Structuring Your Organization for Success

At the organizational level, leaders should consider whether changes in roles and reporting would maintain or improve morale and efficiency.

Just as you expect caregivers to consider the individual client, you can also expect supervisors to consider the individual caregiver. As a start, review how many caregivers report to each care coordinator in your organization.

In a July 2019 survey by Home Care Pulse, respondents revealed that the median care coordinator to caregiver ratio was 1-to-27. Consider whether it might work for your organization to increase the number of care coordinators so that fewer caregivers report to one supervisor.

Based on feedback from caregivers, consider which benefit options might help you retain more staff members longer. Most commonly offered are:

  • Travel reimbursement.
  • Health care plans.
  • Paid time off and sick leave.
  • Matching a portion of retirement contributions.

Explore how you might institute or improve an employee recognition and rewards system. As our whitepaper on the topic notes, options may include public and private praise, token rewards, and monetary rewards, and they may be initiated by leaders and peers.

Within Relias, an internal recognition program allows colleagues to thank and praise one another and to celebrate when team members demonstrate the company values. Sometimes a word of appreciation can go a long way on a challenging day.

Developing Caregiver and Coordinator Competence

Consider developing a program dedicated to coaching and mentoring caregivers who are new to your organization. Employees are more likely to thrive when given one-on-one support and encouragement as they build relationships with their clients and families. Connections matter.

To ensure good support for caregivers, provide care coordinators with education in communication, management and leadership, quality improvement, cultural competence, and more.

Likewise, educate caregivers about communication, basic care, boundary setting, safety, documentation and reporting, infection control, working with families, and other appropriate skills.

When you tune in to caregiver needs, you may be pleased to see how well those efforts translate to better care for your clients.

Jennifer Burks, RN, MSN

Jennifer W. Burks, RN, MSN, has over 25 years of clinical and teaching experience, and her areas of expertise are critical care and home health. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from The University of Virginia in 1993 and her Master of Science in Nursing from The University of North Carolina, Greensboro, in 1996. Her professional practice in education is guided by a philosophy borrowed from Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing, “I do not pretend to teach her how, I ask her to teach herself, and for this purpose, I venture to give her some hints.”

Terrey L. Hatcher

Terrey is a Content Marketing Manager at Relias. She has worked in professional development and curriculum design organizations for more than 20 years. At Relias, she has collaborated with physicians, nurses, curriculum designers, writers, and other staff members to shape healthcare content designed to improve clinical practice, staff expertise, and patient outcomes. Besides her current focus on healthcare solutions, Terrey’s experience includes sharing best practices in education, IT, and international business.

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