Coronavirus Considerations for Home Care Agencies
March 6, 2020
Suggestions for supporting the safety of your clients and caregivers.
Many of us are following the frequent media updates on the spread of COVID-19, also known as a coronavirus. In the home care industry, where many of our clients are elderly or have preexisting health conditions and are more vulnerable to this type of virus, it’s essential that all agencies have operations and communications plans in place. Frequent (multiple times per week) communications will help reassure your clients and caregivers that you are thoughtful, prepared, and acting in their best interests.
Honor is working with the California Association for Health Services at Home (CAHSAH) to create a task force to receive and share coronavirus updates and best practices. When we have new information and important notifications, we’ll be sharing them on social media and on our blog. Please subscribe to our social channels on Twitter and LinkedIn to receive updates.
While every agency’s plan will be tailored to their own unique needs, we want to share the factors we’re considering during this rapidly-developing situation. We hope this is helpful to you and welcome your thoughts as well. By working together as an industry, we can all play a role in helping our clients remain safely in their homes.
There’s so much information about coronavirus that it’s hard to know where to source the most relevant breaking news. Some suggestions:
- Follow NAHC on their excellent Twitter feed (@OfficialNAHC) and read their resources page.
- Sign up for email updates from the CDC.
- Follow your local city’s health department and police department twitter feeds.
- Sign up for newsletters from your state home care association—many are offering coronavirus preparedness webinars.
- Create Google alerts to get breaking news on coronavirus cases in your city or at nearby facilities.
Prepare for emergencies:
- Document your infection-control protocols. Follow guidance from the CDC on proper infection control and make sure all caregivers are aware of and adhering to your policy. Share these protocols with your clients as well and make sure they know to contact you if they have concerns about their caregivers.
- Stock up. We know supplies are low but scour your local stores to stock up on supplies that your caregivers and clients may need, such as wipes, sanitizers, and gowns.
- Scenario plan. Document your worst-case scenarios now so you’ll be ready to act quickly if they happen. What will you do if a caregiver has an unconfirmed case? If it’s confirmed? And do the same for your clients and office employees.
- Research reporting requirements. Be aware of any mandatory reporting laws if one of your clients or caregivers has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
Care for your caregivers:
- Assess your caregivers’ exposure risk. Ask them about recent travel or interactions with family members or clients who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
- Reconsider your caregiver sick leave policy. Caregivers will be more likely to stay home when sick if they know they won’t be penalized or required to get a doctor’s note to excuse their absence. Consider what procedures you will follow to allow a sick caregiver to return to work.
- Activate/recruit backup caregivers. You may find yourself with a shortage of caregivers— so prepare now by identifying additional qualified caregivers who can be available.
- Offer flu shots. While the flu shot doesn’t protect against coronavirus, it’s a visible way to show your concern for your caregivers’ health. And protecting caregivers against the flu can contribute to their general health, keep them working for you, and reduce the burden on our health system.
- Document the facilities where your caregivers work. As we’ve seen, coronavirus can spread quickly in facilities. Make sure you keep tabs on the facilities where your caregivers work so you can be aware of any enhanced procedures they’ve implemented and react quickly if your caregivers have been exposed to the coronavirus in a facility.
- Research options for your caregivers. Consider what programs may be available to help your caregivers if they become unable to work for a period of time, including state disability, unemployment programs, or private disability insurance. Many states are requiring insurers to waive co-pays for testing and at least one state has announced it will be covering test costs for the uninsured. Others may follow.
- Update your contact information. Make sure you have valid email addresses, cell phone numbers, and emergency contacts for each of your caregivers.
- Communicate often. Send regular updates so your caregivers know you’re concerned about their well-being and share frequent hygiene reminders, including videos showing proper hand-washing techniques. Share your emergency preparedness plans. Remind them to alert you immediately if they’ve had any exposure to someone who might have contracted coronavirus.
Reassure your clients:
Clients and their family members are justifiably concerned given the particular impact of coronavirus on older adults. This is the perfect time to be sure you have email addresses or cell phone numbers, along with and emergency contacts, for every client. We suggest sending frequent updates to your clients’ family members where you:
- Share your emergency preparedness plans and infection-protocol.
- Outline the ways you’re keeping their caregivers healthy (such as paying for flu shots and supplies).
- Remind clients that the safest place for them may be their home and encourage them to limit their outings, particularly to large public places.
- Check if they’ve had recent travel to affected regions or have been exposed to anyone with the coronavirus.
- Educate clients on the latest government updates, such as increased funding for coronavirus testing and tele-health services.
- Make sure they’re also following CDC flu season best practices and have appropriate hygiene supplies in their homes.
We know this is an unsettling time for those of us who care for older adults—and we hope these guidelines help and support you and your team. Take good care.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Want to learn from leaders and innovators in our industry? Want to stay up on home care tips and tactics—and trends that affect your business? Give us your email, and we’ll keep you informed.