Home Care Providers Win Over Reluctant Clients with Short Visits, Light Touch

Seniors overwhelmingly say that they would rather receive services at home than enter a nursing home or similar setting, but that doesn’t mean they are eager to become home care agency clients. Recognizing this, innovative providers have grown their client base by implementing programs to ease the transition into home care and address the concerns of reluctant seniors.

“It’s a tough hurdle to cross,” says Tricia Mullin, director of the Covenant Home of Chicago and community relations for Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services (CMSS). Seniors themselves rarely reach out to begin receiving home care, but rather it’s a family member who contacts CMSS and initiates services, she tells HHCN.

This issue might be especially acute for members of the so-called Greatest Generation, says Shaun Toomey, director of business development for private duty agency Capital City Nurses/The Cottage at Curry Manor in Washington, D.C.

“This generation of seniors, they’ve been through everything, the Great Depression, World War II, and they’ve done everything for themselves, and there’s still that fierce independence,” Toomey tells HHCN.

Additionally, many Silent Generation members feel an obligation to play host to anyone who enters their home, including professional caregivers, and this can be a deterrent to starting services, Toomey says.

However, these seniors often are less resistant to very brief visits, Toomey says. This can prove challenging from an operations standpoint, as the typical home care visit lasts about four hours at a minimum, and scheduling is organized accordingly. But Capital City decided that offering briefer visits could be so worthwhile that it created a special program called “Short and Sweet.”

These visits take about 90 minutes and have proven to be an effective introduction to home care.

“The home care worker might just prep a meal, do some laundry, and the client says that’s kind of nice, I probably could use four hours,” Toomey says.

While the Short and Sweet program is designed for clients who need help with activities of daily living, Capital City offers another program—“Daughter Down the Street”—for people who primarily are looking for additional companionship.

The program started when Capital City owner Susan Rodgers recruited some friends to drop by and visit with some seniors, and has grown since, in part through coordination with a senior center. Now, there are some “daughters” who have been doing the work for 10 years, says Toomey. A corollary program, “Sons Stopping By,” was implemented after a client mentioned that he was looking for someone to join him for a round of golf.

For some people, the program does serve as an effective introduction to home care, Toomey says. And Mullin agrees that whether through a shorter visit or even check-in phone calls, building a relationship the most important part of helping seniors be at ease about accepting more in-home services.

For new clients who have not built up trust in the agency, the first interaction is especially crucial for overcoming reluctance, Mullin emphasizes. A care worker may need to take a light touch at first.

“You can’t go in like gangbusters and do the laundry, cleaning, cook the meal,” Mullin says. “Your workplace is someone’s home. Be mindful and respectful of that, and have the wherewithal to pick up on subtle cues about how the client is responding to you.”

Written by Tim Mullaney