Within the at-home care industry, the winter holidays and weeks that follow are typically the busiest times of the year for providers. Although summers tend to be more of a mixed bag in terms of business, providers can still make moves to reinforce their operations and prepare for the upcoming busy season.
Generally, most providers report seeing consistent business with only small spikes and dips throughout the summer.
“We’ve seen a steady stream of business come through,” David Caesar, vice president of franchise training at Always Best Care, told Home Health Care News. “I wouldn’t say there is a huge spike in business in the summer months, but business has been steady.”
One of the benefits of summer: Families tend to visit their loved ones as they get away from work, often noticing the need for in-home care.
“They see cases where they didn’t realize that the level of care needed for that family member had reached a certain point, and then we start to get those phone calls,” Caesar said. “We’ve seen that happen consistently.”
Roseville, California-based Always Best Care — which has more than 200 independently owned and operated franchises across the U.S. and Canada — is a provider of non-medical in-home care, assisted living placement and skilled home health care services.
Meanwhile, for home care providers with locations in states that experience year-round warm weather, the summer season can create a seasonal slump as “snowbirds” return home. Snowbirds are older adults who live in northern states who head to warmer parts of the country hoping to escape the frigid winter conditions.
This is the case for Right at Home of South West Florida, which sees an almost 20% drop when its seasonal clients head north, according to Danielle Dyer, the franchise’s president and CEO.
Currently, Right at Home of Southwest Florida has 170 clients and 215 caregivers. Throughout the rest of the year, the location typically has between 200 to 220 clients — and more than 250 caregivers on staff.
“Here in southwest Florida, we definitely see a slump,” Dyer told HHCN. “Summer is right after Easter, and a lot our seasonal clients who are able to travel back and forth leave after Easter. If there isn’t a hurricane, usually people start coming back around October.”
Right at Home of Southwest Florida uses the summer as an opportunity to determine their staffing needs for the season and to take stock of their referral sources.
“What we do is take the opportunity to look at our caregiver list and look for anybody who wasn’t performing above average and cut down on our overtime,” she said. “We want to see who our rockstars are, and we take this time to really hone in our referral sources. [We look at] who gave us all of that business in season and who do we think were top referral sources — but didn’t live up to that this season.”
Omaha, Nebraska-based Right at Home is a home care franchise network with nearly 500 U.S. locations.
While the company provides some medical home health services, private-pay non-medical home care is are the company’s primary service offering.
As temperatures rise and the summer heat sets in, the risk of dehydration is top of mind for providers, as it can exacerbate many of the chronic conditions that older adults face, as well as lead to urinary tract infections, kidney problems, seizures and life-threatening complications such as heat stroke and hypovolemic shock.
As home care providers increasingly work with hospital and health system partners to reduce preventable re-admissions, keeping these dangers front and center is paramount.
“Dehydration is one of the biggest challenges for seniors, in general, but especially when it’s very warm from the heat of the summer,” Peter Ross, CEO and co-founder of Senior Helpers, told HHCN. “It’s really important for us to work with our caregiving team to make sure they understand this.”
As a rule of thumb, Senior Helpers recommends to its caregivers that there is always water and that seniors are getting a lot of electrolytes.
“We also make sure that we are keeping them out of the sun, making sure that they have sunscreen and shade when they are outside,” Ross said. “We are also making sure that there is ventilation for seniors, and that they avoid too much exertion in the heat.”
Maryland-based Senior Helpers is an international home care franchise with more than 300 locations worldwide, serving roughly 25,000 clients.
In addition to his role with Senior Helpers, Ross also serves as president of the Home Care Association of America’s board of directors (HCAOA).
Another major safety concern in certain parts of the country is preparing for hurricane season.
Right at Home of Southwest Florida provides a free home safety assessment to their clients as part of its standard summer procedures.
“We will go into a client’s home to make sure they are prepared for a hurricane,” Dyer said. “We go in with a checklist of what they need, we also find out if they need to sign up for a special-needs shelter because … you have to be signed up ahead of time. We really try to educate them ahead of time before its too late.”
Seasonal training and services
Additionally, the summertime presents an opportunity for home care providers to retrain their staff of caregivers, preparing them for the next season and allowing them to fine-tune their skill sets.
“Every summer, we do complete retraining of our staff,” Dyer said. “We bring everybody in for a reorientation. We go over policies and procedures, what’s changed, what’s stayed the same. We provide more training for skills. If throughout the year something presented itself as an area where our staff needed more training, we offer that.”
Home care providers also see a shift in the kind of services that they provide.
For example, some caregivers accompany clients for the duration of their travels. In other cases, when the client is unable to travel with their family, Always Best Care provides temporary care.
“The family may need to take a vacation, so we look at providing temporary care for [an older adult]. We use an assisted living facility,” Caesar said. “That help is needed in some cases, where it’s not a permanent placement but its a respite placement for a couple of weeks. Those services usually take place in the summertime.”