Strength in Solidarity
For the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic, 7pm in NYC brought about a first petering, slowly building, and finally thunderous wave of applause. The famously grouchy New Yorkers cracked open their windows, stepped onto their balconies, and joined together to show appreciation for medical and caregiving staff.
While the pandemic awakened many of us to the almost battlefield- like nature of the medical and caregiving fields, this is the daily reality for caregivers around the nation. Even prior to Covid, caregivers across the country worked long hours, helping clients with various degrees of mental and physical decline. All this is done with little appreciation, low wages and employment instability.
What do the numbers say?
As demographics begin to shift, the “silver tide” ushers in an age where a fifth of the population will be 65 and older. Caregivers will continue to be the backbone holding up our aging society. While technological solutions and innovations in age-tech are the light that we will increasingly be looking towards to shoulder the burden, technology cannot replace caregivers, it can enable them. Technological solutions will have to take caregivers into account, and be developed towards enabling and empowering caregivers.
In a Benchmarking Study conducted by Home Care Pulse, the data collected shows a 65.2% turnover rate for caregivers in 2020. While this was only a slight increase from the 2019 figures (64.3%) both figures are staggering.
Many caregivers love what they do, and wake up with a sense of purpose each day. They finish their day as they say goodnight to their last client, knowing that many times they are the older adult’s only source of aid and support. Caregivers are privy to the most delicate moments of someone’s life, and often have to act as a companion, a cleaner, a cook, administer medical aid, and help with complex daily tasks such as toileting, showering and dressing.
On this National Caregiver Day, let’s take a moment to show well deserved appreciation, and ask ourselves what we can do differently to make sure we extend it well beyond merely today….
So How Can We Do Better?
When asked across a number of professions and levels of seniority, the number one reason for quitting a job is lack of appreciation and respect. When it comes to appreciation, a little goes a long way. Picking up the phone periodically to ask a caregiver how their day went, or sending a holiday note and gift-card go a long way. To facilitate this, innovative technological tools use audio analysis to give care managers and agency owners transparency into which of their caregivers are doing an exceptional job.
- Lack of Training
Caregivers are expected to perform a wide variety of tasks that require high emotional intelligence, physical capabilities, as well as knowledge on dealing with dementia and other mental conditions. Often caregivers are not provided the proper training to handle all of their task load. Training not only allows caregivers to do their job better, but helps reduce risk and friction, and also provides opportunities for upward mobility and advancement.
Caregivers often have very little to no communication with the agencies they work for. Shift-scheduling, evaluations, and changes in policy often occur without the caregiver being promptly updated. Caregivers often can’t reach office staff, and have no one to turn to if they have an issue after hours. Implementing seamless scheduling software, and opening better channels of communication are key for caregiver retention and wellbeing.
If we had a glimpse into the day-to-day of a caregiver, we would understand the grit, commitment and compassion that the job requires. Caregivers are by the side of the most vulnerable members of our society, providing emotional support and crucial aid. Caregivers should be valued, not only on National Caregiver Day, or with applause at the height of a global crisis, but each and every day.
We can do better by caregivers, and we will.