How Matching Clients and Caregivers is Like Dating

When it comes to a successful match in home care, finding the right chemistry between a client and caregiver is a lot like dating, according to Margalit Tocher, president of Home Care Assistance Chicago. And the stakes for matching are high, with a mounting caregiver shortage and pressure to keep steady work for employees.

Home Care Assistance is a national non-medical franchise home care provider. Home Health Care News recently sat down with Tocher in her Kenilworth, Illinois, office, located just outside of Chicago, to learn how the business finds the right caregiver for each client and how Home Care Assistance operates in the bustling Windy City market.

Front-end matching

Tocher, who has a background in psychology and business, opened the franchise with two other partners and has three offices in the Chicago area—Kenilworth, Hinsdale and the Gold Coast. The large coverage area means HCA’s caregivers can travel anywhere between the three sites and leverage their resources wherever their clients live. However, it’s not just geographical locations that make a good match between caregiver and client.

To guarantee a lasting relationship, the match should be just right. New clients and family members fill out two questionnaires so the provider can learn more about them. In addition, a client care manager will sit with the family and the senior to uncover hobbies and interests that might match well with a caregiver.

Sometimes, this process takes a little bit of digging, as seniors may no longer be as active as they once were. However, a little bit of ingenuity from the caregiver can go a long way.

“For example, we had a client who was a photographer, but who could not handle the complexity of a camera anymore,” Tocher told HHCN. “So the caregiver bought a disposable camera, and she and the client went to a sculpture garden and just took pictures. The client beamed–he hadn’t taken photographs in years.”

This approach to finding fulfillment goes far beyond taking care of a person’s physical needs, and gets to the core of Home Care Assistance’s philosophy, which includes improving social ties and quality of life.

Yet, overlapping interests don’t always mean a match made in heaven.

“I joke that it’s like dating, but it is,” Tocher said of this matching focus. “There is a chemistry component to it. Matching a caregiver and client solely on skillset and personality isn’t always enough.”

Honing in

In times when the chemistry isn’t a match, HCA will work with caregivers and clients to “hone” in on any problems and deliver on finding the right fit.

For many home care providers, taking caregivers off a case, for whatever reason, can be risky, as caregivers tend to leave their positions if they don’t have steady work. This has been referred to as the 48-hour rule, or bench time. The longer the wait, the more likely that caregiver is to quit. While some providers have looked to technology to help solve this problem, Tocher and her team offer a different solution.

“To our superstars, we may offer office work or temporary fill-in work,” Tocher said. “They know we are working to match them with an ideal client for their skillset and schedule needs.”

This approach has helped HCA keep its turnover rate low, with many caregivers remaining with the company for years, though Tocher declined to state the turnover rate.

The whole business approach boils down to the personal value-add that HCA hopes to bring its clients. Beyond caring for their physical needs, caregivers are helping seniors achieve fulfillment in their lives, which can in turn impact clinical wellbeing.

Written by Amy Baxter

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Amy Baxter
Assistant Editor at Home Health Care News
When not writing about all things home health, Amy fulfills her lifelong dream of becoming a pirate by sailing in regattas and enjoying rum. Fun fact: she sailed 333 miles across Lake Michigan in the Chicago Yacht Club "Race to Mackinac."

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