COVID-19 vaccination efforts for front-line caregivers working in the home setting continue across the country. As that task unfolds, home care operators must now navigate related business disruptions, from scheduling challenges to clients refusing visits.
At a corporate level, Homewatch CareGivers has been working to make sure its franchise owners are all up to date with the latest information about vaccines. The information campaign has been crucial to curbing vaccine-related myths and boosting confidence, company leadership says.
Denver, Colorado-based Homewatch CareGivers is a home care franchise company that serves 33 states and seven countries through 230 total locations. The franchiser employs over 4,500 caregivers across its network.
There is still a lot of skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine among the general public. Concerns even exist among individuals who work in health care.
Roughly 79% of health care workers say they haven’t received enough information about the COVID-19 vaccine or its safety, side effects and administration, according to a recent survey conducted by the American Nurses Foundation.
So far, about 15% of health care workers have turned down the opportunity to be vaccinated, according to a report by Surgo Ventures.
“There’s just a lot of fear in our society these days. It’s motivating people in different ways,” Jennifer Tucker, the COO of Homewatch CareGivers, told Home Health Care News. “They may be seeing misinformation on social media about deaths because of the vaccine. There are all kinds of [rumors] out there that … are largely untrue but have been getting around. And it seems like our caregiver population is especially susceptible to seeing those messages.”
Homewatch CareGivers hasn’t surveyed all of its franchise locations, Tucker said. But some of the company’s top offices have reported having a 75% to 80% vaccination rate among their caregiving pool.
One way Homewatch CareGivers has managed to cut through the misinformation is by encouraging peer-to-peer discussion between caregivers who have received the vaccine and those who have not.
“Peer-to-peer discussions seem to really work well,” Tucker said. “We certainly, in many of our offices, have nurses, social workers, health care professionals who are a part of the team. We are having them conduct some of those conversations, whether they’re one-on-one or calls with groups of caregivers on Zoom.”
At a Homewatch CareGivers New Jersey office, for example, the owner recently put together a call where nurses on the team dispelled vaccine mistruths during a call with 50 caregivers.
“If [vaccine hesitancy] is based on what sounds like just fear, which we completely understand, then it’s absolutely worthwhile to continue to try to educate [caregivers] on what the evidence says,” Tucker said.
That said, Tucker acknowledged that there will be some caregivers who refuse to be vaccinated due to religious reasons or pregnancy. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine trials haven’t included people who are pregnant.
In these cases, Homewatch CareGivers stresses the importance of being respectful.
“We’re not going to go after those people in terms of pushing message after message,” Tucker said. “We understand those reasons.”
One potential business disruption that may arise related to vaccinations is any recovery time a caregiver may need after receiving the vaccine.
“Caregivers — during either the first or second shot — may feel bad. Then they’re out of work for a few days,” Tucker said. “Our offices have schedulers. These schedulers are so adept at handling all of that.”
Business disruption related to clients turning away unvaccinated caregivers is also top of mind for Homewatch CareGivers.
At some of its franchise locations, the organization has already heard from clients who have inquired about the vaccination status of caregivers. Some have gone as far as stating that they didn’t want to be assigned a caregiver who had not been vaccinated, Tucker noted.
“We’ve had to explain, in many cases, that caregivers are on the list, and we’re working really hard to get all of our staff vaccinated. But not everyone gets vaccinated on Day 1,” she said. “For the clients themselves, many of them want to be vaccinated as well. We’ve wanted to help, so many of our offices have educated them on how they also can get in line for this.”
Tucker noted that when clients understand the process of getting vaccinated, they tend to be more understanding. So far, Homewatch CareGivers has not lost many clients due to unvaccinated-caregiver concerns, she added.
Overall, caregivers have the client’s safety in mind first and foremost, Tucker said.
“Our caregivers are so passionate about providing care,” she said “The last thing they want to do is put the clients at risk.”