Earlier this year, a storm dropped 29 inches of snow in a single day and… our plow guy never showed up! By the time we realized what was happening, it was much too late to find a replacement. The best we could do was locate some shovels and get to work.
For many families, the “storm” that appears without warning is when a loved one’s caregiver fails to arrive as scheduled. There can be all kinds of reasons why, but whatever the cause, it’s very scary when we know our loved one is left vulnerable.
And, as with snowplows in the middle of a storm, this is the exact wrong time to be searching for a replacement.
Covid Caused a Shift in Homecare Services
Finding and retaining qualified staff has always been a challenge for homecare companies. With Covid, however, it’s gotten even more difficult. There are now extreme staffing shortages and these companies have been forced to focus more on keeping quality caregivers than on meeting client expectations.
For example, many homecare companies are now requiring six-to-eight-hour minimums per visit. Staff prefer this because it gives them more guaranteed hours and cuts down on travel time. For clients, though, it means committing to more outside support. And, if the caregiver fails to show up, it leaves a big hole!
That’s the unfortunate reality. But there are some things you can do to minimize the impact on you and your loved one…
#1. Do your homework now.
Many people wait for a crisis to occur before taking action. At that point, you are desperate for any solution and may be forced to settle on something that is less than ideal. It can be especially stressful if the older adult in question lives far away.
So do your research now. Even if your mom or dad does not yet need outside support, spending time proactively to research options and interview companies will put you ahead of the game if and when they do.
#2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Even a reliable company can have unforeseen staffing issues. (On the day of the big storm, our plow company had two drivers out with Covid and one of their trucks had broken down.)
One very practical solution for homecare backup is to work with two different companies simultaneously, dividing the coverage between each. This way, if a shift can’t be filled at the last minute by one company, you can call the other and see what they can do. As a known client, you’ll receive a much higher level of prioritization.
Working with two companies gives you a larger pool of caregivers to choose from while reducing your dependency on a single provider. It is helpful for both communication and continuity for each company to know about the other; they may even appreciate the collaboration.
#3. Create a village.
My family, my sister’s family, and my mom all live on the same property. This has many benefits, not the least of which is that we are there to help each other when needed. When it was time to shovel 29” of snow, I’m glad I wasn’t faced with doing it alone!
Likewise, it’s a good idea to be aware of and tap into local resources that can provide support for your loved one in times of need. Examples of this include introducing yourself and getting the phone numbers of neighbors; setting up Meals on Wheels (they don’t leave the premises until they make contact on delivery); signing up for “Are You Okay?” automated check-in calls if offered by your local law enforcement; and registering for Life Alert devices in the home.
None of these are standalone solutions. But, taken together, they provide an additional layer of comfort and support.
Now is the Time
One of the biggest mistakes people make is waiting to find care until it is absolutely necessary. Another is waiting until there’s 29 inches of snow to go find your shovel!