When my mom’s caregiver left abruptly, our world turned upside down for a few weeks. Not only had my mom been very close to her caregiver, but suddenly there was no one to help her with everyday small tasks, such as giving medication, cooking, and cleaning. As I scrambled to find a new (and hopefully long-term) caregiver, I realized how important the bond between my mother and her caregiver had been—and how I may not have shown enough appreciation. When we found a wonderful new caregiver, I made a big effort from the start to treat her as though she was part of our family. Because, in reality, she is.
There are no two ways about it: navigating an unexpected change in caregivers can create anxiety for your aging loved one, leave them without care temporarily, and add stress all around. Maybe the caregiver is being reassigned to another patient, changing agencies, or simply taking some much-needed time off. Whatever the reason, there are several ways that you can help prevent caregiver turnover, and also strategies for dealing with change when it occurs.
The Consequences of Caregiver Turnover
Caregiver turnover was recorded at a troubling 60% in a recent survey, which found that nearly two-thirds of home care workers from the 700 companies they surveyed either quit their job or were let go in 2014. This high turnover has a significant impact on older adults: they might go for periods without proper care, or must frequently adjust to new caregivers as a result. Developing a bond with someone new can prove difficult for some older adults, especially since the relationship is so vulnerable and intimate.
Caregiver turnover can also leave a blank space in the schedule for caring for your loved one, which can prove dangerous. While organizing interim help, families might find themselves struggling to manage caregiving tasks usually reserved for a professional. Whether it’s managing their loved one’s medication, serious illness, or depression, family members aren’t necessarily properly equipped to deal with these challenges. Suffice it to say, when you do find a great caregiver that your loved one gets along well with, you hope they’ll always stick around.
Solutions for Preventing and Managing Caregiver Turnover
Whatever the reason a professional caregiver might need to stop working with your aging loved one, there are steps you can take as a family to recover from this change—and reduce the likelihood of future turnovers.
- Use a Reputable Caregiver Agency
A good agency—one that treats their caregivers well—will understand and help prevent the most common issues before they become problems:
— They’ll naturally have a lower turnover rate since employees will want to continue working for them.
— They will have strategies in place to lower the amount of reassignments; and they’ll use best practices when reassignments do occur.
— They’ll have a good hiring process and training program, so the majority of caregivers working there will be high quality, trustworthy, and knowledgeable about important issues like elder abuse.
- Build a Personal Relationship with Caregivers
Get to know your loved one’s caregiver—ask them how they’re doing, check in with them regularly to ask about potential problems, and be open to solving issues that crop up.
— When you have a connection with someone and are genuinely interested in their well-being, you’ll be more likely to nip any of their concerns in the bud—including the most common cause of turnover, burnout.
— Caregivers who enjoy working with a particular family will more likely fight to stay with them.
— If a turnover does take place, they may be more likely to recommend someone trustworthy to your family.
— To show your appreciation, there are many small things that you can do for your caregiver, as well as say to them. For example, simple gestures like remembering their birthday, bringing them flowers, or giving them a thank you card can help to build a foundation for a strong relationship.
- Have Family or Friends Help Out
If possible, have some family members or friends help out when they can—before there’s a problem.
— You’ll already have a team of people in place who are familiar with caregiving for your loved one if you do have a period where you’re in between caregivers.
— Having friends or family who regularly stop by about once a week to do some easy tasks can make a caregiver transition feel a lot more seamless.
— This can also help your loved one become familiar with seeing other people in the role of caregiver.
- Rotate Between Caregivers
Hiring two different caregivers who split shifts and duties can make it a lot easier to cope with one leaving.
— Chances are your loved one will always have a familiar face around, even during times of change.
— Since your loved one will have formed a good relationship with both, transitioning someone new in will be easier as they are used to being cared for by multiple people.
— Note that this might not be possible for families getting a government reimbursement.
- Take Care of Yourself While Taking Care of Others
For family members who help out with caregiving for an aging loved one, in addition to having a part-time caregiver, it’s imperative to take care of yourself as well.
— Go to a support group, whether it be online or in your community.
— Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or delegate tasks to other friends and family.
— Take care of your own physical health through a nutritious diet and exercise so that you can offer your best to the situation, no matter what it may be.
Reduce the chances of your loved one being affected by caregiver turnover by trying out a few of our suggested strategies—choosing a respected caregiving agency, building a relationship with your caregiver, and taking care of yourself will help you feel empowered.
Similarly, lessening the risk of burnout and asking for help from family and friends will help you to deftly adapt to anything that comes up—unexpected or not. And, most importantly, when life inevitably does bring change, you’ll feel more at ease knowing that your loved one will be cared for, supported, and feel secure.
If you’re unsure about how to offer your aging loved one the best support, Institute on Aging offers a range of programs, services, and free online resources to help. Contact us today to learn more.