OLIVIA JONES ON CAREGIVERS AND THE BATTLE AGAINST CORONAVIRUS
If we’re in a war against the COVID-19 coronavirus, caregivers are on the front line. Day after day, they put themselves at risk to ensure continuity of care for the most vulnerable among us, including seniors and people with disabilities and underlying health conditions.
Here at Care Advantage, we realized early on that the coronavirus would test every ounce of our clinical and organizational expertise. To protect our caregivers and clients, we needed to develop working methods that were robust enough to meet CDC guidelines but flexible enough to maintain our day-to-day operations. And we had just days to do it!
Olivia Jones, our Executive Vice President, is one of those responsible for drawing up these strategies, which have enabled us to start winning the battle, if not yet the war. We talked to Olivia about the difficult weeks that have unfolded since early March, and the way that the whole of the Care Advantage family has risen to the challenge.
When did you realize that COVID-19 was going to hit as hard as it has? How did you and your caregivers feel at that moment?
I think we had some anticipation but only began to absorb the true implications in the first week of March. That’s when we began sourcing additional personal protective equipment (PPE) beyond what we traditionally utilize in the home care setting, anticipating future needs.
Our caregivers were, and have been, incredible. Their commitment to their clients is unparalleled.
How has COVID-19 changed the way you interact with your caregivers? What have you done to help them feel safe and engaged?
We’ve taken some obvious and not-so-obvious steps. For example, we’ve implemented daily screenings, stocked and provided the necessary PPE, and limited interactions at the office level. Our offices were always a place where our caregivers would come, sit down, and mingle with the office teams – we are truly a family. Since COVID, we have had to meet our caregivers one at a time outside, in the open air, to deliver PPE and any other information or support they may need.
In addition, we have really ramped up our clinical touch points. Our caregivers are incredibly committed to their clients, so it didn’t cross their mind for a second to abandon them. However, they do have anxiety, and questions about the disease, and how they can protect their clients, themselves, and their families. The increased interaction with the Registered Nurses, and specific COVID-19 training have been instrumental in alleviating these fears.
Can you tell us a little more about the COVID-19 training you’ve offered your staff?
Absolutely. All new hires receive the training, as well as all current active caregivers. We start with the basic questions everyone has: What is a coronavirus? What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Then we discuss practical issues such as caring for clients who have tested positive for the coronavirus, treating the symptoms and preventing the spread of infection. Last, but by no means least, we talk about strategies for coping with the inevitable anxieties caused by working during a pandemic such as this.
So what are the biggest challenges caregivers are facing and how are they/you overcoming them?
Right now, the biggest challenge has been accessing enough PPE. This was not unique to our industry, our company, or to healthcare. Luckily, our caregivers working in a 1:1 setting were not in the high-risk category, and we were confident that with proper universal precautions being ramped up, the risk was minimal.
After much research, we have been able to invest in an extremely large order for PPE that should ensure that everyone has plenty of masks and gloves at their disposal. This will provide an added layer of protection for both our caregivers and our clients, and I’m sure will provide peace of mind.
We established our COVID Task Force quickly, and one of its primary functions was to source and manage PPE. We have successfully been able to do so, and I know I speak for everyone when I say what a relief that has been.
This has been tough on everyone. But if we’re looking for silver linings, what lessons have you and your caregivers learned that you’ll be able to apply in the future?
I think we have always known that communication was paramount, but I believe we will all have a much greater appreciation for that going forward and will continue to communicate frequently around company initiatives.
We have been able to create a virtual Personal Care Aide (PCA) training course that we will absolutely be using post COVID, and that is probably what we are most excited about.
We have collectively learned that we are strong, we are compassionate, and we will do whatever it takes to care for those who depend upon us. We can adapt quickly, certainly something that will carry forward – and I know I speak for everyone when I say that we will always remember how amazing our caregivers have been throughout this.
We are a critical segment of the healthcare continuum. We have always known that. But I think that after all this is said and done, more people will appreciate what home care is, and what we can offer.
Learn more about Care Advantage and our care options when you contact us today at 1.877.801.2664.