By Mark Friedman
As Owner of Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore, no one needs to give me a primer on the impact of professional caregivers. In my opinion it is one of the hardest jobs in the world. I know this because it’s my job to find, recruit, develop, train and empower a broad team of talent to caregive for a diverse group of clients I have the privilege of serving in more than 75 communities in and around Greater Boston. They are both my and your angels.
Right now we have a scary shortage of them (data shows a range of 25-40% labor shortage). It is even more worrisome when experts from the Department of Labor and Bureau of Statistics suggest that between now and 2024 the demand for home care workers will need to add more jobs than any other single occupation. Where, I ask, do I look to find these angels?
Recently, WorkingNation, a national group that uses multimedia to address work and employment changes, partnered up with PHI, a research and consulting non-profit, and its #60CaregiverIssues.org initiative, to launch a multi-year campaign to raise awareness for the shortage of home care workers. It calls attention to the importance of caregiving as a career, and makes the case for advanced training and improved wages.
Backed by significant data, this is a bold and ambitious undertaking for both organizations. It has stunning promise for hundreds of thousands of caregivers. It has the potential for impacting the nature of work, the image of the care, and the lives of the care providers, their clients and families. It will surely cast caregiving in a whole new light. If the campaign fulfills its objective, caregiving will be fittingly honored and given its due. It will be appreciated as one of the most difficult and respected positions one can discharge. It will be front-burnered as a potential career for college students seeking training, benefits, mentoring, fast-tracking and immediate feedback. More importantly, it will call attention to the urgent crisis we have, right now, for well trained, certified, and empowered caregivers.
Robert Espinoza, VP of Policy for PHI, originally reported in the Huffington Post on the “8 Signs the Shortage in Paid Caregivers is Getting Worse”. This set the stage for his campaign strategy, which was declared in “How Training and Multimedia Can Fix the Home Care Shortage”.
Espinoza and his WorkingNation partner, founded by venture capitalist Art Bilger, are heavily invested in this two-year, national campaign. They want to change minds, hearts, attitudes and, ultimately, the future of long term care. Their media blizkreig will be about a lot of things: facts, trends, quality jobs, pay, employment respectability and the undisputed need for advanced training for home care workers. This compelling campaign will resonate because it will convey the power of caregiving, by the story of one caregiver at a time. How provocative.
As part of this effort, Livia Gerson of WorkingNation reported on “Reimagining Masculine Work in a Post-Industrial Future” . Here she comments on and totally legitimizes the emerging role of the “emotional labor force” as men consider and fully enter jobs thought to be more feminine, like caregiving seniors in their homes.
The campaign is adventurous, imperative, and intrepid. A YouTube video thrusts caregiving in a whole new light, presenting Home Care as a game-changing opportunity for women looking to make a difference. “Do Something Awesome” is a fresh, smart, and real insight into how home care is a valuable and valued employment option.
I love what Working Nation, 60CareGiverIssues.org, and PHI are doing, and we all have a huge stake in the success of this campaign.
I am by no means a bystander in all of this. Their efforts are catapulting Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore not only to engage with the campaign, but to supercharge and lead efforts, whenever, and however, we are able.
Our considerable footprint in the New England region enables us to recruit from a significant pool of caregivers, and we are constantly looking for the best and brightest. We need talent fresh out of nursing aide school, and seasoned veterans with particular skills in areas like complex care, Alzheimer’s and dementia, Parkinson’s and end-of-life. Because we have such a clear understanding of seniors and aging, we grasp not only the crisis in caregiving, but our role in mitigating it.
Our caregivers are essential to our ability to deliver innovative services and unparalleled care, so we are absolutely rigorous in our hiring practices. We have a multi-step selection process, and full background and reference checks. The on-boarding process is serious because my angels are embarking on serious work.
At Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore, our philosophy of care begins with our approach to caregiving. Meaningful work means caregiver readiness. This translates into intensive training and orientation for every caregiver we bring on board. This includes full days of tests, exercises, evaluations and skill development around topics ranging from fall risks, blood-born pathogens, meals, nutrition, ADL evaluation, medication administration to legal policies and procedures, elder abuse and more.
We also have certification and competency training around our nationally approved Alzheimer’s training program, Senior Gems®. Several years ago we introduced formal caregiver and care management training in Parkinson’s Disease as part of our exclusive home care partnership with the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
In these two complex care areas we are unique in our market and distinguished for our abilities to make a profund difference in the lives of the elders in our care. Our intensive training and certification for caregivers only adds to the advanced understanding our angels have around these diagnoses. The fact is, our reputation for trainings is so highly regarded that we are often asked to professionally coach and advance the internal staffs at residential communities on dementia and Parkinson’s.
In addition to initial training, caregivers are assigned monthly trainings either in person or online. We have a comprehensive course library, fully equipped training room for learning new exercises and techniques, demonstrations, re-fresher courses and certifications. I am particularly delighted when families use both our staff and facilities for acquiring tips for caregiving family members at home.
This Fall, we are preparing to open our own Home Health Aide training program. We will be creating opportunities for those who want to become professional caregivers to acquire the depth and breadth of formal training that, I believe, should be the minimum standard to help those in need.
As our “Going Home Safe” program continues to grow, we are going to evidence a sea change in how people view recovery at home, and manage the risk of readmission to hospitals and acute care. This program alone requires specific case management and caregiving – which in turn demands specialized training. “Going Home Safe” is supported with a full training curriculum for professionals, families and caregivers because, if a senior is going to safely recover at home, their (family’s) engagement is required even before discharge from the hospital or rehab.
One of the big themes of the Working Nation media campaign is the importance of being offered and earning “advanced” training. I absolutely applaud their focus. We need caregivers committed to continuing their education because the health needs of our seniors are becoming more complex. This is another, very critical reason, why this bold media effort must succeed.
As I write this, I have more than 300 angels currently working for Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore as employees. Although I do not know each of them by name, I DO know each of them for the care they do for the clients in their care. I know each wears a Senior Helpers shirt and badge, and these symbols are more than just a uniform. They are a testimony to the fact that each angel is “client ready”; trained, confident and empowered to do what is best, right, and safe for the senior in our care.
As owner of Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore, I have a very strong philosophy about caregivers and caregiving, and I am rooting hard for the Working Nation, 60CareGiverIssues.org, and PHI multi-media campaign, not as a bystander or cheerleader, but as one who is actively giving voice to their endgame and doing what I can to move the ball down the field.
About the Author
Mark Friedman is the Owner of Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore. Passionate about seniors and healthcare, the goal of his agency is to set a new standard in home care in Massachusetts. First by delivering an exceptional home care experience in a combination of highly trained and high-touch caregivers. And secondly by becoming a significant connection for elders to resources and services in the 75 communities his company serves.
Reprinted from the October issue of South Shore Senior News.