The 4 P’s of Being a Great Home Care Worker

Training that brings home care attendants together with individuals in need of services can help the workers cultivate the most important skills and characteristics for the job—but these types of training programs face threats such as state funding cuts, according to recently released findings.

Investigators affiliated with Rutgers University and Widener University conducted interviews with about 20 home care consumers and eight attendants, in an effort to determine how these participants defined quality care, what makes a good care attendant, and the ways attendant training is linked to quality.

When asked what makes a good in-home care provider, participants’ answers followed a pattern.

“Notably, we received a similar, one-word answer to these questions from both consumers and attendants: patience,” the authors wrote.

One consumer in particular described patience as the care attendant’s ability to “cope” with clients who have been ill for long periods of time and might therefore experience mood swings, which patient caregivers would not take “personally.”

Home care consumers listed several other “P” words to describe the most important skills and characteristics of a home care worker: passion, personality, and being on-point.

Passion for the job is essential for home care attendants given that the work is hard, one consumer stated. In terms of personality, descriptive words like “caring,” “loving,” “kind” and “supportive” were used. Being on-point was defined as being focused on the work at hand.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lengthier training process that more directly involves consumers resulted in caregivers being more likely to display these and other preferred traits and skills, the investigators determined.

Specifically, they compared two training approaches utilized by a home care agency based in Philadelphia.

One, termed “Building Bridges,” ran to 80 hours and taught caregivers both general skills and specific skills tailored for individual consumers who took part in the training process.

The other, called “Home Choices,” was only three hours of pre-employment training and a minimum of two hours of yearly in-service training.

“Interview evidence suggests that, while even the three-hour training provides attendants with some useful general knowledge with which to begin, attendants lack condition-specific knowledge, as well as hands-on knowledge,” the authors wrote. “In some cases, this leads to some in-home trial-and-error that may, in turn, contribute to failed consumer-attendant connections; frustration, anxiety, and shame on the part of consumers and attendants; and even a risk to consumers’ physical well-being.”

Despite the benefits of Building Bridges—and the significant risks involved in Home Choices—reductions in state funding over the past six years compelled the Philadelphia provider to shift toward the more condensed option, the authors noted.

Click here to access the complete research brief from the Center for Women and Work in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers.

Written by Tim Mullaney