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The Caregiver Dilemma

Amanda Lambert - April 03, 2019 10:12 AM

Many of you who use professional caregivers. You most likely share the same thoughts and expectations that most people do when it comes to finding the right fit for your family member. As a professional care manager, I too want what is best for my clients in choosing a good caregiver. Things to consider:

·       A caregiver skilled at what they do. Are the required tasks more complex?  Examples include administering medications (if your state allows it), bathing, dressing and assisting with walking.

·       A caregiver that has good professional boundaries that don’t interfere with privacy.

·       A committed caregiver that demonstrates responsibility and integrity.

·       A person who has a good personality and meshes with your family member.

·       A caregiver that sees what needs to be done without necessarily being told and communicates when they see problems.

These are not unreasonable expectations for what you may be paying per hour for professional caregiving. Nationally, the cost you can expect to pay per hour is about $20- to over $30 an hour. The hourly rate is often based on how many hours you require. The rate can go down slightly for a higher number of hours.

This can add up. Especially if your family member needs a lot of help. But consider this: the caregiver may be only making $10 an hour. The national rate is $12 an hour. And each caregiver typically has several clients that they travel to take care of.  At $10 an hour that is $20,800 a year. Hard to raise a family on that!

Many home care agencies also do not offer benefits such as health insurance and vacation time. All these factors add up to an astronomical turnover rate: 66.7% in 2017. So, what can be done and how can you help?

Changes in the Home Care Industry

Home care agencies are finally starting to make changes that can make caregivers happier which makes clients happier. Here are some of the changes we are starting to see:

·       Higher pay. Companies are seeing the benefit of paying their caregivers more. The downside is that many of these companies are passing this increased cost on to the consumer.

·       Recognition of good caregivers. Recognizing the hard work that caregivers do helps to retain staff. This if often done through gift cards or bonuses.

·       Offering health and other benefits to full time caregivers. This makes caregivers feel like they are valued and reduces turnover.

·       Training. Regularly scheduled training for caregivers treats them like the professionals that they are. It also enhances their skill set and builds confidence.

What You Can Do

Despite acknowledging how professional caregivers should be treated, you may wonder what you can do. Here are some suggestions:

·       Some agencies will allow the consumer to pay above the going rate for caregiver services. For example, you have a caregiver you love. You can offer to pay more to the agency with the guarantee that the increased pay goes directly to your caregiver. Don’t ever make under the table payments to a caregiver.

·       You have the right to make suggestions to the agency you are using. Some agencies will take their customer suggestions to heart. Everyone should have a vested interest in improving working conditions for their employees.

·       Treat your caregivers well. If you are happy with a caregiver’s work, show it by expressing gratitude. You will be amazed at how much a difference this can make.

We want what is best for our families and ourselves! Being involved in this industry in a proactive and positive way benefits everyone. Take the time to acknowledge your caregiver. Make recommendations to home care agencies on how they can retain their most valuable resource: their caregivers.

Amanda Lambert is the owner and president of Lambert Care Management, LLC which provides care management for older and disabled adults. She is the co-author of, Aging with Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018).

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