Many people’s minds turn to vacation during the summer, but the demand for home care doesn’t take time off.
“When someone needs health care, they typically need health care year-round,” Steven East, CEO of Caring People, told Home Health Care News. New York City-based Caring People offers a range of in-home services, including companion care and skilled nursing, at locations in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida.
Providers consistently experience a referral rush following winter holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. The phenomenon occurs because families often get together during those holiday periods after having been apart, and family members seek assistance when they notice changes or deterioration in an aging loved one’s health.
“It tends to be after the families are together … when we’re seeing a lot of the [adult] kids start making phone calls looking for services,” East said.
Although some families do gather for summer holidays such as Memorial Day or Independence Day, the referral boost does not occur to the same degree following those events.
“Fourth of July is not really a major holiday where we see that happen,” Jeff Bevis, CEO of FirstLight Home Care, told HHCN.
Cincinnati-based FirstLight is one of the largest franchise-based providers of home care in the nation, with more than 150 locations across 33 states.
Home care providers explain that summer doesn’t necessarily bring a business slump, per se, but rather the demand remains fairly even compared with the expected winter holiday spikes.
“This is the time you just have to work harder and smarter, but there’s still plenty of business,” East said.
Summer service shifts
Home care providers report seasonal shifts in some niche services, particularly those related to travel.
Given that Caring People primarily serves Florida and markets in the Northeast such as New York, some clients who spend portions of the year living in both places request assistance with their seasonal transitions.
“Clients who tend to migrate north look to have individuals accompany them as a transport care, to help navigate the airport, help get them from the airport back home and get them situated,” East said. “Then they’ll typically set up services in that area.”
FirstLight experiences a similar trend, in addition to a boost in requests for its Travel Companion program, which offers health care providers who accompany clients for the duration of a vacation or other trip. The program launched about four years ago when FirstLight noticed an increase in customer inquiries about whether care services were available for patients who travel.
“We wondered if this was happening more often and contacted a local travel agent, who said they have requests from seniors who want to take trips but need a companion to go with them,” Bevis said. “That’s how we created the Travel Companion program.”
The program assists customers with travel logistics like transportation and luggage, as well as traditional home care services like meals, dressing and bathing. Currently, more than 50% of all FirstLight locations offer the service, Bevis said.
Sometimes program participants already are FirstLight home care customers who use the service if they plan to travel, and others only request à la carte assistance for an individual trip. Costs can vary widely depending on the trip length, the type of trip and assistance requested, but clients typically pay a flat per-day rate plus costs related to travel such as airfare and lodging. An hourly rate is charged for partial-day travel.
Although the Travel Companion program is available year-round, “there’s a bit of an uptick in the summer,” Bevis said.
Seasonal training adjustments
Caregivers undergo training throughout the year. In some cases, the training is updated for the summer.
Most training topics are pertinent regardless of the time of year because health care needs generally don’t fluctuate significantly, but “our standard training for summer does touch on things like heat stroke, dehydration and proper nutrition in warmer temperatures,” Bevis said.
Seasonally focused training isn’t simply confined to summer, either.
“It’s the same thing in the wintertime … when we worry about slip-and-falls,” East said. “Every season has its own challenges and the provider has to be able to speak to each one of them.”
Written by Katie Pyzyk