Fastest Growing Occupation

“There are currently about 2.5 million home care workers in a workforce that is the fastest growing occupation in the nation,” according to Carol Regan, Government Affairs Director at PHI (Paraprofessional Health Institute). Care N Assist is seeing this growth. We continue to see our offices working hard to recruit, train, and then use turnover prevention tactics to stay ahead of the growth we are seeing.

Recruiting home care aides has changed since we opened in 2005. I remember having a file full of applications which required no advertising for help wanted. I would pull them out and “cherry pick” the best applications before calling and setting up interviews. That is not the case today.  

Today, we spend several hours each week working to recruit the best possible home care aides. We use internet and multimedia platforms to advertise to our prospective employees. We often put people on the job the same week they inquire about work.

Many people are coming to us with little or no experience in healthcare. We don’t require them to have a license or degree for most of our work, but it is important for them to be able to perform the tasks which our clients require with proficiency. We have a training module that recognizes the skills they come with, and seeks to improve and direct those skills depending on our client’s needs.

Keeping these workers on the job requires just as much, or more, effort than recruiting them does. Carol Regan says, “The situation for these workers is somewhat difficult: they’re really low-paid, most are part time, and there’s a tremendous amount of turnover.”

As entry-level healthcare workers, they are at the bottom of the pay scale, but Care N Assist exceeds the average with its pay when comparing us to the Home Care Pulse’s Annual Report. We recognize that a part time job is not what all employees want, but it is the flexibility of scheduling that attracts most of our star employees. When you read Regan’s material she states that there is an average 50% turnover rate in the industry. I am proud to say that our recent efforts have reduced that to an average of 22.5% in our offices.

I predict that we will continue to see the number of home care aides in the workforce increase, with the rising trend in clients desiring to receive services in their homes. As part of this trend, we continually innovate our service to meet client’s desire to live in their own home for as long as it is feasible. The win-win here is multifaceted: safe and satisfied clients where they want to be, this gives people jobs that fit their lifestyle, and truly gives them experiences that satisfy those who are caring in heart.

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Drink Water First

Drinking 8 ounces of water first thing every morning is good for your overall health for several reasons. Doing something simple like drinking water can motivate you to make other good decisions for living a healthier lifestyle. Below are just 5 reasons why drinking water is so important for the body.

First, drinking water improves circulation. Water carries away toxins in your body and improves circulation to the areas of the body that need to be renewed with nutrients. This is a great reason to drink water before eating each morning.

Secondly, drinking water helps to prevent constipation. Washing your digestive system with water each morning will stimulate bowel activity. It also softens the contents of your bowels to make it easier for your body to eliminate waste. Be aware that in the older adult population drinking too much water when the bowel is already slow can cause problems due to water absorption instead of nutrient absorption.

Thirdly, drinking water can alleviate pain. First thing in the morning it is common to feel achy. Your body needs that drink of water to wake it up and get things moving. As it helps your muscles to relax and improves circulation to your nervous system you will feel the difference.

Fourth, drinking water can reduce the signs of aging. Your skin can accumulate toxins causing age spots. Dehydration is also a cause for uneven or rough skin appearances. Getting off to a good start by drinking water every morning will give you the best chance of maintaining hydration and you will stay younger looking.

Lastly, drinking water can help with weight loss. Drinking water before breakfast, or any meal for that matter, gives you a fuller feeling therefore causing you to eat less and fires up your metabolism. Also, adding lemon to your water can help because lemon contains pectin fiber that decreases food cravings. Adding both can improve your ability to curb your appetite.

If you are not a breakfast eater or if you are a coffee drinker… consider doing this one small thing to improve your health. A glass of water a day, first thing in the morning. Smile as you do it because you are doing something great. Relax as you do it and feel the benefits all day long.

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This summer, Care N Assist reaches 12 years in business. Summer is a great time to reminisce about all of the good times of the last year like establishing the Marshall office and launching a Lansing office. My favorite memories are centered around the times we were together as a team for meetings, lunches, trainings, and softball.

I remember Team Day in February 2017 when the management from all 5 offices met together in Kalamazoo. The newest version of our cultural values was unveiled. Designed to be a decision making model, it keeps our company’s goals and the focus of our elite processes in check. But just in case anyone forgot, the day was not all about sitting and learning. I still laugh as I think about CPR in an elevator, the potential client Glenn wouldn’t help, Stacey getting lost in the parking lot. Of course all of these things were part of an exercise to develop a sales strategy.

As winter broke and spring arrived in 2017, we have seen many clients come and go. It is wonderful to see so many of them recover and regain their independence, and it is equally wonderful to be the support service for others as they spend their last weeks on earth. We are halfway through the year and already we have provided care for over 400 clients.  

Now it is time to play another company wide softball game, East vs West. This will be our third annual game. As it stands West has one victory and East currently holds the trophy for winning last summer. All the competition and supposed bad umpire calls aside… I am looking forward to an energetic and fun Sunday afternoon at the end of August.

One last thought as our twelfth year comes to an end, Kirk Golden sent me a quote several years ago that says, “Business grows at the speed of leadership.” I don’t remember who he was quoting anymore, but I realize today that it is true. Care N Assist has grown, but more importantly, like a storm system that back builds before hurling all of its power to the earth we have been growing internally:  Cultural growth, training, and the strength of our team.

I remember very well the slow start which was as a second income for me, but is now a new unexpected career. The people that have entered my life through Care N Assist as employees, clients, or cohort have enriched my life. I look forward to the next year to see what this team can make happen.

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Pathway to Independence

When illness or injury strikes, you don’t have to surrender to it. There are things that you or your loved one can do to recover and/or maintain independence. Having to depend on others for support and assistance can be frustrating but it doesn’t have to be something that you resign yourself too. You can be prepared and recovery is possible.

I have seen many people on the day after they are discharged home from the hospital or rehabilitation center. It is common for them to be exhausted. Some try to do too much that first evening home. A trip to the pharmacy, navigating stairs to enter the house, and then preparing dinner or cleaning up. Then they spend the next three days trying to recover from doing too much.

I say give it time. It takes three days to recover for every day you were down. At least, this is what my rehab doctor told me. I thought I would prove him wrong, but he was right. I was in the hospital for 60 days, and I spent another nine months recovering at home before I was able to get back to work part-time. Of course, there were ups and downs during that time that extended my recovery, but the fact remains that your body requires time and attention to get better.

I have been telling my clients for years that it takes three things to get better after being sick: Good rest, good nutrition, and good activity. Not necessarily in any one order. I suppose some days you will need more sleep and other days you will need to fulfill your physical therapy requirements. The truth is that you cannot ignore any one of these three without it causing you to fail to recover.

Rather than focusing on what you have lost, if you want to recover, it is important to focus on what you are able to do. Keep doing what you can. Realize that any decision you make is a little bit of independence. Going to the grocery store with a Home Care Aide, HCA, to drive and push the cart means that you get to choose your own purchases. This choice is powerful. Giving the HCA a list and having them go for you, means that you have to trust they will spend your money wisely and they will not make a mistake when choosing the brand or quantity of anything on your list.

Asking for help is not the same as admitting defeat. Help should allow you to maintain your course of recovery. An HCA can work alongside you to support you as you handle normal daily activities. Their involvement will lessen as you improve. Their work will ensure safety and encourage you as you meet your goals.

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Hygiene; Too Important To Ignore

I walked into the home of  an elderly couple and asked them a question which I repeat almost daily, “What is the most important thing we can do for you?” The husband spoke up saying that his wife needed help at least once a week to take a shower. She wasn’t safe doing this activity alone and he wasn’t strong enough to help her anymore.

This is a common circumstance for me to hear. At least half of our calls for service are related to a client’s difficulty managing their hygiene. Most people think of brushing your teeth and hand washing first, but showering and cleaning up after toileting are just as important.

You may say, only once a week? Well, showering once a week doesn’t necessarily mean they are ignoring hygiene the other days of the week. Some people find that the hot water of a shower dries their skin, so they limit the number of times they get in under the water each week. Some people even avoid showers all together because of safety, endurance and/or strength issues.

As a registered nurse, I definitely put hand washing at the top of the list for health and wellness. Simple attention to hygiene can prevent skin rashes, bladder infections, and digestive problems.

It can also make you feel good. The hot water of a shower can lift your spirits. A warm washcloth on your face in the morning will bring sighs of comfort and joy. I’m more likely to smile after brushing my teeth each morning!

This client’s husband’s request was a good enough answer for me. I left their home feeling like we had a good starting point; that is as long as that feeling lasted though. A call from their daughter revealed a doctor’s concern that her mother’s hygiene was not being paid attention to as she was diagnosed with a bladder infection just a week earlier.

The daughter needed me to be the one who addressed the issue. She didn’t want to overstep her part, since her father was trying so hard to remain independent. I planned for the Home Care Aide to make a visit and then report to me her findings. When her visit revealed what the daughter feared, I told the client’s husband that I felt it was necessary for him to allow our Home Care Aide to visit more frequently. He was reluctant, but did accept the help.

When I find myself in the position of telling people what they don’t want to hear I remind myself of our core values. The first is caring, but the second is safety. Our company should never behave in a heartless way, but we do want to keep a high safety standard.

We want our clients to be able to live at home; this means that they will have to learn to accept help. The problem is they did not choose to change, their health did that without them being in control. As a professional, I like to soften the blow, but cannot side step my responsibility. Hygiene and health are too important to ignore.

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A Flat Rate

Care N Assist doesn’t use gimmicks or slick packages to get people to spend money. We charge a flat rate per hour for services. Our rates remain the same regardless of the length of the shift or if the shift is on a weekend. Simple and straightforward billing is something we offer because our clients and/or their loved ones don’t need billing confusion to be added to their list of burdens.

It is common right now to call one of the franchised In Home Care companies and get a list of pricing that would confuse an accountant. I recently saw a flyer advertising a package of services that was designed to make it hard to compare their pricing to the other competition in town. I am frustrated with these sales tactics. I recognize the reasons they are being used, but I don’t like the burden it puts on our clients who already have difficulty managing their affairs.

In Michigan, the average In Home Care company charges are difficult to calculate due to all of the special rates. The lowest rate I have heard is $17 per hour and the highest I have heard is $35 per hour. Genworth Insurance did a study in 2015 that showed the median rate was $20 per hour in that year. The 2017 Home Care Pulse Benchmarking study breaks averages down by shift length showing average rates to be from $21.50 – $28.00 per hour in 2016.

When we started in 2005, we charged our first client $10 per hour. My strongest influence when deciding our rate was affordability. It seemed to me that most companies in business at that time were overcharging their clients. I was naive to the costs of training, insurances, and taxes. As our company grew, We had to make a conscious decision to value our employees; this meant increasing their pay rate and raising our client rates.

Amazingly, as our rates have risen to become standardized compared to most other companies, we have been given greater opportunities. Potential referral sources and clients alike began to view us as being more professional. Of course, our Elite Standards have not changed, but we are now being recognized as the Elite In Home Care and we continue to grow in each of our offices daily.

Today, I believe our rate is both fair to my employees and a great value to our clients. We are not the cheapest company to hire or the most expensive. We are built on a customer service culture and an age friendly business model. Our flat rate is just one way we demonstrate how much we care about our clients.

Home Care Pulse. (2017). The 8th Annual Edition of the Home Care Benchmarking Study 2017 (Vol. 8).

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Why Do We Work @ Care N Assist

It seems to be a hot topic on LinkedIn and other places to talk about employee retention. I am seeing article titles like:  Five Reasons People Leave Their Jobs, or The Top Ten Ways To Keep Your Team Engaged.

When I held my weekly team meeting on Friday morning with my Office Managers and Corporate Officers, my topic was; Why a Home Care Aide choses to work for an agency. I shared statistics and quoted people who research these things. No one seemed surprised by this information. Hiring and managing Home Care Aides is the work we do everyday.

After that, my question to them was, “Why do you work for Care N Assist?”

I expected to hear something along the lines of what motivates me. I have been talking about our goal to help people live at home incessantly for the last couple years. I made a huge deal of getting a client home from a Skilled Nursing Home so many times the response from those around me went from cheering to looks of “We get it… Okay?!”

But I didn’t hear that from this group. One person did say, “Of course, I care about helping people live at home, but…” they went on to talk about what really motivated them. My first reaction was to be sure I framed the question right when I asked it. I questioned myself as to whether or not I had been clear. Then the next person and the next all answered and still nobody seemed to have my answer to the question as their answer.

The majority of their answers were profoundly simple. They talked about having fun at work. They enjoyed their co-workers and felt that they were friends. A few turned my face red as they explained that they worked for Care N Assist because of me, saying I was a great boss… Just in case you are wondering, nobody was given a raise just for saying those things.

These responses surprised me; maybe they shouldn’t have surprised me, but they did. It was refreshing to hear about their friendships. The running jokes and camaraderie is authentic and I certainly enjoy participating in them on a daily basis.

I have often been concerned that I put more pressure on my staff than they would wish to endure. I hold a very high standard when it comes to serving our client’s needs. It seems a combination of clear expectations and some fun has made a winning formula. I’m sure that my wife bringing in chili for lunch a few times may have had something to do with this  positive response too.

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