Citing a rising need among older Americans and an opportunity to boost profit margins, several U.S. home care agencies have taken steps to launch specialized dementia care business lines and associated caregiver training programs. A Maryland-based home care agency is looking to continue that trend — and eventually spin its new specialized caregiver training program into a whole separate revenue stream by offering the training to other organizations.
The home care agency is Regent Healthcare, one of the largest, non-franchised home care agencies in Maryland. Founded in 2008, Regent operates throughout more than a dozen Maryland counties and provides care for more than 800 clients annually on a private-pay basis.
In November, Regent announced it had formed a partnership with Shore Neurocognitive Health to create a dementia education and behavioral management training course for its team of roughly 300 professional caregivers.
Unlike other home care agencies that have made their dementia training programs voluntary as a way to provide career opportunities for interested employees, Regent’s is mandatory, Felton Magee, president and CEO of the organization, told Home Health Care News.
Even administrative and client services staff will complete the training program, which is branded as ConnectEd Care, Magee said.
“From a business perspective, Regent Healthcare wants to not only be seen as a thought leader, but the highest-level service provider for clients who have dementia,” he said. “If we’re seen as both a thought leader and the highest-quality provider, obviously our phone is going to ring more — and we’ll have more clients.”
Regent Healthcare expects all employees to finish the program by early 2019.
Inside Regent Healthcare’s ConnectEd Care program
Designed exclusively for Regent Healthcare employees, ConnectEd Care is a multi-level certification program that focuses on the unique challenges caregivers and home care staff members face when providing home-based care to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Perhaps the biggest challenge home care workers face is the fact that individuals with dementia can, at times, become agitated or aggressive, Beth Parker-O’Brien, owner of Shore Neurocognitive Health, told HHCN. Home care workers are often working alone, Parker-O’Brien said, meaning they need to be equipped with practical tools for de-escalating or preventing those behaviors from happening.
“Over the past 20 years or so, I’ve focused on older adult issues, specifically those with some sort of memory disorder, or the broad spectrum of dementias,” she said. “More specifically, I’ve focused on caregiver issues and helping caregivers understand the disease process. The unique thing about being in a home care situation is that you’re one-on-one with an individual.”
In addition to designing specialized dementia programs for home care agencies, Easton, Maryland-based Shore Neurocognitive Health provides individual caregiver support and education, psychotherapy, memory screening, neuropsychological testing and limited medication management services.
Regent Healthcare is headquartered in Odenton, Maryland, and has four offices throughout the state. It is accredited by The Joint Commission.
While Regent could have chosen to partner with another organization, it picked Shore Neurocognitive Health due geographic synergies. Additionally, Shore Neurocognitive Health had already been referring its clients to Regent for home care services, making the partnership a “natural fit,” he said.
In launching ConnectEd Care, Regent hopes to primarily decrease hospital readmissions and achieve better health outcomes at large, Magee said. However, it also expects the program will help with employee retention and lead to more robust revenues due to the higher hourly service rates the agency can charge for expert dementia care.
“In our industry, [improving retention] is the Holy Grail,” he said. “An agency is only as good or as big as it is good at attracting and retaining the very best caregivers.”
Only 10 or so clients have signed up for the specialized dementia care so far, Magee said, though noting that the list is grows every day. In general, patients receiving specialized dementia care need care for longer durations and more frequently, he added.
“What were were starting to see was that a large majority of our clients coming to us were coming with some form of dementia, whether it’s Alzheimer’s, Lewy body or another type of dementia,” he said. “We also found that the cases were getting longer. When [clients] come in with dementia, depending on the stage, they’re anywhere from 12- to 24-hour a day, seven days a week care.”
A booming business trend
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Early and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias — perhaps with the help of a more educated caregiving workforce — could save up to $7.9 trillion in medical and care costs overall.
Given the rising prevalence of dementia — and the potential retention and revenue gains that Regent hopes to achieve through its dementia care approach — it’s no surprise that other home care providers are adopting similar strategies.
Sunrise, Florida-based Interim HealthCare and Omaha, Nebraska-based Right at home — two of the largest home care franchisers in the country — each have launched specialized dementia care programs. So too has the Phoenix-based Cypress HomeCare Solutions, an independent home care agency.
Cypress’ dementia care service line currently accounts for about one-fifth of its overall revenue mix, with the service line’s gross margins typically hovering above 50%, Cypress HomeCare Solutions leadership previously told HHCN.
Regent Healthcare is well aware that other home care companies may soon be looking for specialized dementia training, and it has plans to leverage the expertise that it is building through the new partnership. After all employees have competed ConnectEd Care, Regent Healthcare plans to open up the training program to the industry as a paid resource, adding to its revenue stream, Magee said.
“The plan is — after we’ve perfected this — is to actually begin providing training to other agencies and other caregivers who are interested,” he said. “We’re going to have a certification tied to it.”
Home care agencies interested in building out a specialized dementia care training program should start take action soon, Magee said. A targeted strategy that solves a specific problem is the best approach to a successful program, he noted.
“My advice would be to figure out, from an agency’s perspective, what problem do you really want to solve? What impact do you really want to have?” Magee said. “Then design a program around that.”
Written by Robert Holly