As the number of individuals living with dementia continues to rise, it’s a given that those working in the home care space will end up serving seniors who are living with the condition.
Pansy Homecare, however, has made delivering non-medical support for seniors living with memory damage the main focus of its business in recent years.
“Assistance with activities of daily living is what any home care agency does,” Jonah Francis, co-owner of Pansy Homecare, told Home Health Care News. “Now, when you’re taking care of someone that has dementia, all of those things have to be done by someone that is trained in dementia. Their approach has to be different. They need to have a level of understanding about that person’s capabilities because of how the brain is deteriorating.”
Hartford, Connecticut-based Pansy Homecare was originally launched in 2013 by former caregiver Pansy P. Francis. Pansy’s son, Jonah, has since taken helm of the company. Pansy is still involved in the company’s training program, and on the quality assurance side.
Pansy Homecare is a mostly private-pay agency, but the company also has a contract with the VA, as well as a contract with the Medicaid waivers program.
While it’s become common to see home care companies embrace dementia – or memory care – as an additional service line, Pansy Homecare knew that it needed to go all-in when it came to memory damage.
“If you’re not thinking about it, living, and breathing it on a regular basis, it’s not possible to be able to deliver good quality care,” Francis said.
Pansy Homecare’s focus on memory damage is also top of mind when it comes to how the company recruits caregivers.
Potential caregivers go through what Pansy Homecare calls the dementia experience, even before they sign on to work at the company, as part of the orientation process.
“We put them in the shoes of what it feels like to be living with dementia,” Francis said. “They put on goggles that are a different color, so they can see what it feels like to not be able to see perfectly. We turn off the lights that’s in the room, we play loud music to simulate how the environment might be disorienting to them. We tape their fingers to duplicate what it feels like to have arthritis, and then put two different layers of gloves on over it. We put things in their shoes to simulate the neuropathy that develops in seniors as they age.”
After this process, Pansy Homecare asks these potential caregivers to complete a few simple tasks in order for them to get an idea of what it might be like to live with dementia.
“After this, we actually sit down with them, as a group, and for 30 minutes we go through what they felt like, and how this opened their eyes to the experience of the clients’ they’ll be helping,” Francis said. “You can have good intentions, but still not be able to perform properly. We just wanted to really start at that ground level, show them what it feels like, and then reset their mind about how they can go about doing all of those same activities with someone living with dementia in mind.”
In addition to this aspect of orientation, situational-based dementia care training is paramount to the work that Pansy Homecare does.
As a result, Pansy Homecare has seen success in relation to caregiver recruitment and retention. This is because of Pansy Homecare’s selectiveness.
“On a monthly average, we hire about 9% of the total applicants that walk through our door,” Francis said. “It’s not necessarily hard to get applicants. It’s not even hard for us to keep them, but we’re looking for a very particular segment of people. At the end of the day, if a person doesn’t possess the qualities to be able to be comfortable with working with someone living with dementia, that just wouldn’t be the right fit for us.”
Partnerships have also been a key factor in Pansy Homecare’s operations.
The company has significant partnerships with local assisted living facilities, for instance.
“We’re able to go in there and keep that person within their same environment so they don’t have to transfer into a memory care unit where they’d have to relearn things all over again,” Francis said. “They can stay within their assisted living facility.”
Looking ahead, Pansy Homecare has a number of newer projects under its belt. Most notably, A Better Way, the company’s mental health organization which was launched a year ago.
“My sister is a licensed mental health clinician, and we started A Better Way together,” Francis said. “Through A Better Way, we’re giving families the ability to work with licensed mental health counselors and therapists that understands the journey that their loved ones have gone through. Aging, regardless if its dementia or not, is a very tough process.”