One of the biggest complaints that new home care clients have is a lack of consistency. Often times, the home care routine can feel like more of a disruption than a helpful part of the client’s life. With caregivers rotating constantly, it can be difficult to build a meaningful relationship. Of course, with relationships at the center of home care, this can be detrimental.
Fortunately, achieving consistency is possible. Consistency is an extremely important goal for both clients and caregivers, so home care businesses should do all they can to make sure it happens. By understanding what consistency in home care means and realizing that it takes a cooperative team effort, caregivers will be well on their way to reaching this goal.
What is Consistency?
Consistency in home care isn’t a rigid definition. In fact, it can differ for each individual client—just like their care needs. However, at its core, consistency, otherwise known as continuity of care, can be defined as a pattern developed overtime that enables caregivers and clients to become familiar with each other and avoid the need to participate in re-orientation.
It takes time to develop consistency. The length of time necessary depends on how many visits a client has, how often they are, the length of the visits, and more. Of course, consistency will increase proportionally as the number and length of visits increases. Ultimately, building this consistency will ensure clients receive better care and caregivers are better equipped to provide it.
What Does Continuity of Care Look Like?
There are many variables that go into ensuring client care is consistent. Primarily, these revolve around the caregiver forming a personal connection with the client and understanding them and their needs. For example, a caregiver helping prepare meals should quickly learn a client’s likes and dislikes. By doing so, they will be able to create a weekly meal schedule every week without having to ask the client what he or she wants to eat every time.
Along with learning client preferences comes learning client needs. Although these will likely change greatly over time as the client’s medical needs evolve, home care employees should still have a working understanding of their client’s needs. For instance, caregivers helping care for a post-stroke patient should be able to identify the client’s weaknesses to then provide better care to alleviate them. Once needs are identified, continuity of care means the caregiver won’t have to re-identify them later on.
This process helps both the client and the home care agency in several ways. The client won’t need to worry about filling out forms with each visit, answering the same questions over and over, or wondering whether or not their caregiver is familiar with their needs. On the other hand, the home care business benefits by being able to provide better care. When caregivers know what a client needs ahead of time, they will be able to prepare more thoroughly. In many cases, this also helps cut back on costs and unnecessary use of supplies. More importantly however, it allows the caregiver to focus on providing care in the moment rather than trying to figure out how to deliver it most effectively.
Consistency Depends on the Team
Now, it is important to note that this does not mean consistency can only be achieved when a client is cared for by the same caregiver every time. To believe so would be foolish. After all, caregivers will have sick days, vacations, and scheduling conflicts that will impact their availability. As this is inevitable, home care businesses should have a well-developed plan that allows continuity of care within a team.
A huge part of this falls to the home care agency’s administrators who are responsible for the schedule. Whenever possible, clients and caregivers should be matched up so that their visits overlap. It should go without saying that this step comes after identifying which caregivers are optimal matches for each client.
Meanwhile, it should be the responsibility of all team members to ensure everything from care needs to preferences is properly documented. Caregivers in the home, administrators, and support staff should all be trained on how to do so. Detailed documentation helps ensure consistency in care by allowing employees to review it prior to appointments and any other time questions may arise. Documentation gives caregivers a glimpse into the past to see things that worked and things that didn’t, allowing them to plan better care in the present.
However, documentation only makes care continuous in the home care setting if everyone does their part. Likewise, continuity of care depends on every member of the care team.
Consistency is Possible
Though it is a challenge, consistency in home care is achievable. By understanding that it isn’t an individual effort, but a team effort, home care businesses can help ensure their clients receive the best care possible. Continuity of care helps improve clients’ satisfaction with their care and improves their overall quality of life. With every member of the care team working towards this very important goal, it is certainly possible to achieve.
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