To remain competitive in the highly fragmented home care industry and capitalize on an increasingly lucrative niche market, agencies are opting to roll out specialized programs entirely focused on dementia care.
Sunrise, Florida-based Interim HealthCare and Omaha, Nebraska-based Right at Home—two of the largest home care franchisors in the country—are hoping to lead the way.
“Having a specialized dementia care program makes sense in terms of caregiving, makes sense in terms of where the population is going and makes sense from a business perspective to be able to say we have specialized caregivers,” Interim Chief Clinical Officer Jennifer Ballard told Home Health Care News. “There’s certainly a need in the future for caregivers of all types, but specifically for those who have training in dementia—that’s going to become extremely important.”
Interim HealthCare—a part of Caring Brands International, which also includes U.K. company Bluebird Care and Australian company Just Better Care—provides private duty home care, skilled home health and hospice services through 340 franchise locations in 44 states. In addition to care offerings, Interim also oversees a staffing business that works with health care facilities, schools and government agencies.
The national franchisor officially launched a patient-centered dementia program earlier this month.
“For families, providing care to loved ones with dementia or related disease becomes often unsustainable or extremely difficult,” Ballard said. “Many will turn to home health agencies like Interim for support, so it’s a natural fit for us.”
In-home companionship and personal care assistance franchisor Right at Home rolled out its own specialized approach to dementia and cognitive support for its more than 500 U.S. and international franchise locations in July of last year. Since then, 135 Right at Home owners have moved to adopt the method.
“We see the impact of dementia on not only clients, but also on their families,” Shannon Mitchell, Right at Home’s director of client experience, told HHCN in an email. “We developed the RightCare approach to dementia and cognitive support to begin addressing the deficiencies in support, resources and training so desperately needed for clients and families living with dementia.”
Filling a need
Nearly 50 million people worldwide live with a form of dementia, research by the World Health Organization has found. The figure is projected to triple by 2050, making dementia care programs even more critical in the years ahead.
In 2018, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the United States $277 billion, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
At any one time, Right at Home serves more than 25,000 clients across the globe. Specifically tracking how many of those people are affected by dementia is difficult, Mitchell said, because most do not receive formal diagnoses until latter stages of the disease. The franchisor estimates, however, that roughly half of its clients are living with some form of dementia or cognitive change.
“Dementia causes changes in a person’s ability to remember, communicate, focus, reason and perceive their surroundings,” she said. “Professional caregivers, like those with Right at Home, are trained to recognize and report changes in the condition, behavior, communication and ability level of the clients we care for.”
About 40% of people over the age of 70 have been diagnosed with some type of dementia or related disease, past research has suggested. Similar to Right at Home, Interim does not know exactly how many patients with dementia it serves due to the complex nature of the disease.
“It’s expected [numbers] are going to keep growing, but it’s that formal diagnosis and being able to get your arms around it that makes things a little bit gray … in the industry in general,” Ballard said. “People may have been having cognitive changes for years, but nowhere in a medical record is there any kind of diagnosis that you can [pinpoint].”
‘Gems’ for success and focusing on the positives
Interim’s newly launched dementia program is designed to educate the 40,000 caregivers and staff members working across the franchisor’s network.
With an emphasis on exactly how the brain changes during each stage of dementia, Interim hopes to give its franchisees and workforce the tools they need to better understand and care for affected patients. From a business perspective, by having a specialized program, Interim also puts its brand in better position to attract new clients.
Information and training from the program is carried out over the course of a five-part webinar series, Ballard said. After completing each series, trainees must pass a knowledge exam before advancing, with a separate comprehensive final exam at the very end of the training. Material in the program centers on the research and philosophies of well-known dementia and Alzheimer’s care expert Teepa Snow, who developed her own progression model used to classify and define changes in a person based on the unique qualities of gemstones.
The model starts at “sapphire,” which represents a “true blue” brain not experiencing changes. It then progresses to amber, which represents a person caught in one particular moment in time. The model has six total gemstone states and ends in “pearl,” the point where the effects of dementia are strongest and most evident.
“We’re encouraging even office staff to complete the program, because they’re the ones on the front lines in terms of phone calls when family members call in or referral sources ask about details of the program,” Ballard said. “It’s not necessarily just for the caregiver.”
Participation in Interim’s specialized dementia program is largely up to franchisees and individual caregivers. Even so, nearly 1,000 caregivers have already enrolled.
Besides providing specialized care for patients, Interim also expects the dementia program to help continue bringing down the company’s turnover rate.
“The bottom line is caregivers want help,” Ballard said. “We want to help our caregivers help people living with dementia so they know what to do.”
Right at Home developed its specialized care program for dementia and cognitive support—RightCare—with Jackie Pool, another well-known expert in the field.
The RightCare approach to dementia and cognitive support is delivered by local Right at Home-certified cognitive support program providers who have received at least 12 hours of specialized, in-class training, along with ongoing on-the-job coaching.
The RightCare approach teaches caregivers how to create an individualized person-centered plan that accounts for a client’s ability, personhood and lifestyle risk factors known to increase dementia symptoms.
“Caregivers are Right at Home’s most valuable asset and our true market differentiator,” Mitchell said. “Attracting and retaining high-performing caregivers is incredibly important for Right at Home business owners. The RightCare approach creates a dementia-focused career path for caregivers wanting specialized training and advancement opportunities—-something not typically offered in our space, but something that is critical to ensuring Right at Home is providing industry-leading employee and client experiences.”
Written by Robert Holly