Affinity CEO Chris Zayid on his podcast show connecting the community with chris, in conversation with Affinity HR Manager Amanda Johnson.

Cracking the Caregiver Code with Amanda Johnson, Affinity HR Manager

Welcome to another episode of “Connecting the Community with Chris!” Today’s episode dives into a topic close to everyone’s heart: finding exceptional home care for our elderly loved ones.

Join host Chris Zayid, CEO of Affinity, as he teams up with the insightful Amanda Johnson, Affinity’s Human Resource Manager. Together, they’ll unveil the secrets to securing the perfect caregiver match. You’ll learn about the most important qualities to look for, navigate potential challenges, and gain valuable tips to ensure your loved one receives the best possible care.

Get ready to unlock valuable insights and practical strategies for creating a positive and enriching experience for your senior family members.

Tune in now!

Chris: Hello everyone. Welcome to Connecting the Community with Chris, where we bridge the gap between knowledge and everyday life for our senior community. And I want to introduce a special guest, Amanda Johnson, our Affinity Human Resource Manager here. And we are going to be discussing a topic that affects most seniors in our community and home care with our loved one. And we’re going to kind of give you a little insight of how what we’re looking for and when we’re trying to find the best caregiver for your loved one. So the best person really to talk about that is Amanda, who really, truly dedicates her time with our organization to making sure that she finds the best care. So welcome, Amanda.

Amanda: Thank you.

Chris: And so let’s talk about the qualities that you look for in a caregiver.

Amanda: Um, compassion is probably the biggest one, um, understanding their client, um, you know, becoming friends, integrating themselves with the family. Super important. Uh, being dependable is super important. A lot of times, you know, we don’t have another option. If the caregiver doesn’t go to their shift, then the clients are without care. They might not be able to change their own brief or even get to the bathroom or make a meal so they go without a meal, which you know would not be okay. Um, so definitely, definitely being dependable, um, you know, on time. Um, I think it’s just really super important to be compassionate and understanding. Um, it’s not easy for anyone to invite a stranger into your home. Um, and our hope is that by the end, when it’s all said and done, they’re not a stranger anymore. That they’re part of the family.

Chris: That’s great. Yeah. And then everyone’s individual based and all the specific skills we’re always looking for in the home and, and some clients can need more than others. But I know that there are specific skills when you’re sitting and doing interviewing with our caregivers that you’re really looking for.

Amanda: Yes.

Chris: And, um, let’s share about the specific skills that you look for.

Amanda: So most important is that they have at least a year of of home care or, you know, caregiving experience in some way, shape or form, um, whether it’s nursing home or direct care work with, um, or, you know, private duty, um, it’s important that they already know a lot of caregiving just because there’s not a ton of training other than, you know, we do, uh, Chris does some training videos, which are super helpful, and we’ve gotten a lot of compliments on those. Um, you know, if they’re not CNA certified, um, then they need to have that past experience. So they’re not going into the home and not knowing how to change a brief on an adult who’s bed bound. Um, you know, it’s different than, like, say, changing the brief on an infant. So, um, that’s super important. Um, you know, we always look for people who have had previous experience with, like, feeding tubes or colostomy or catheter bags.

Amanda: Um, you know, and there’s different types of catheters, um, you know, and we do offer training for that type of thing if they’re not trained. But it’s wonderful if, if they are.

Chris: Yeah. And I know sometimes even if they’re not a certified nurse assistant or home health aide, we’ll still hire them. And they’re called direct care workers. But I, I think that what we really look for is, is that did you care for your loved one? Did you care for a family or friend or somebody in the community? And so we love them to share that story with us so they can have that empathy and understanding that because it’s harder just to walk into a home to care for somebody who has a disability or lacking their independence. So, um, we do we will hire somebody who’s not certified but has tons of family experience or caring, caring experience. Um, now, what do you look for in the in in their work history? Do you dive into their resume? Are you asking them specific questions about like what what prior jobs that they had?

Amanda: Sure. Um, it’s important to know, um, I think most important is their length of somewhere they’ve worked because if they have a new job every three months, then maybe something’s going on. They’re not the most dependable. Um, so definitely the history of each workplace. Um, also, the different type of experience, um, is important, you know, whether it’s a nursing home or direct care work. Um, just like with direct care work, sometimes you’re in a home where they’re, you know, the clients are completely independent, so they might not still know how to change a brief. So it’s important to dig in and see what kind of care in each of those work histories. You know.

Chris: Do you hire someone still, if they can’t change a brief or we offer that type of support to help them.

Amanda: So for companion care, we do have cases where there’s no changing briefs. You’re there. Um, companionship is a big one, uh, taking to appointments or out grocery shopping. Um, you know, and definitely someone without that kind of background can still do those types of cases, they are limited in what they can pick up for us. But we still do hire.

Chris: But you won’t send them to a home if they don’t have a specific skill set.

Amanda: Exactly.

Chris: You want families to know that when they walk in they could handle it. But I know we do have our home health department and we have nurses available, and our internal office is willing to train on the field. The best really is probably in person, going in and or having another caregiver that’s completely experienced, who knows all the care and actually bringing them to the home and then having that, um, that training experience as well too. So we never want anybody to fear to come work for us if they can’t change a brief but still also to is we don’t want to place them there and then, you know…

Amanda: Proper placement. Yes.

Chris: Proper placement. Yeah. Exactly. So they feel comfortable and feel confident. Now screening is really important to and I know that we pride ourselves with it. A lot of home care companies actually lack on doing the screening. What are the type of screening that you want to, that we conduct?

Amanda: Sure. So we have a 15 panel drug screen. Um, we do a background check. Obviously, they have to have a driver’s license and car insurance as they are driving our clients. Um, you know, we prefer they have a vehicle on shift and, you know, don’t Uber just in case they need to have a vehicle. So.

Chris: Yep. And then we do background checks as well too.

Amanda: Yep. Yep.

Chris: And which are really important. And so screening is mandatory I’m assuming. Right. If they don’t pass the screening then there’s no employment.

Amanda: We can’t employ them. Yes. Correct.

Chris: Yep. And so the challenge is that clients that we typically manage can be array of from companionship to memory loss and dementia care, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS um etc., heart failure, leaving the hospital, having a surgery. But, uh, what do you see the challenges from the HR department that you see with the caregivers on the field now?

Amanda: Um, I, you know, we deal with a very large array. Anything from, you know, an auto accident where, you know, they’re all there, but, you know, they might be paralyzed. Um, so it’s more of a physical thing or someone with dementia that. You know, if they have a different caregiver every day, it gets really confusing. They get aggressive. You know, in those kind of cases, we definitely need to narrow it down to like one permanent caregiver. And they kind of learn them or they become more comfortable with them. Um, I think that’s the biggest challenge, is just fitting the caregiver with the right case that knows has the experience and knows how to handle it.

Chris: Yeah. Because like dementia could be behavioral, uh, physical or it could be verbal. So a caregiver, you know, it needs to understand how to adjust.

Amanda: Yeah. They’re all a little different. Um, you know, they might just have imaginary friends. They introduce you to happy as a clam, but, you know, you’re going to meet some people that you can’t see. And you know how to handle that, that type of thing.

Chris: So and we always want to provide our team with support. I know that we, we, we provide a course that’s on dementia and it talks about all the stages that they will understand. So um, I think having a team and creating them is all about also providing them with training and education as much as possible. I know that you always try to ensure that, hey, listen, if you’re not comfortable, we can provide you with resources.

Amanda: Yes.

Chris: And to make them feel a little bit more confident in the home too. Our caregivers are only as good as what we offer for them to be better, too. So, um, I wanted to also talk about the hours that our caregivers, that they’re available to work. Sometimes they come in and they are looking for part time, or sometimes they’re looking for full time. How do you manage the caregiver schedule when they’re coming for employment?

Amanda: Uh, so they basically give us their like available hours, um, which we give to the scheduling department. Um, you know, they also keep an eye on what we have available. Um, sometimes they’ll change, you know, the hours they’re available to work. It’s important to note that if they’re going to work, going to work midnights for us, that they can work a 12 hour shift, 99% of our midnights are going to going to be like a 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., which some people can’t do. They can’t be there till like 11, or they need to leave early to take their kids to school. Um, so they wouldn’t ever really be able to work midnights for us just because that’s all our midnights. So, um, other than that, we are super flexible. You might have four hours between classes where you can pick up a shift. You know, you might be going to nursing school class in the morning, four hour shift, classes at night. So I think people seem to really like it. You, you know, a lot of our, our caregivers pick up permanent. So they have the same shifts every week, but we’re flexible to their needs.

Chris: I noticed that a lot of our caregivers, they go on our app and our and we have a 24/7 caregiver app which shows all the open shifts. So as, uh, a caregiver or a client would be changing their schedule, the whole team could be able to see this activity, to be able to pick up something that possibly could be available for them. So I noticed that when you do talk to our team members on the field, is that you tell them that we’re flexible and to make them feel comfortable, that, hey, listen, we want consistency, but we also are flexible. So please look at the shifts. So that way it makes sense in your daily life because caregivers normally I know if you notice you could share this. You could share your feedback on this, like they have a life outside of work. And so um, home care and maybe other industries are different. We have to be empathetic of what’s going on with our our team members life on top of when they’re caring for others. And that’s always like you notice. What’s your feedback on it? Is there a fine balance between that?

Amanda: Um, I think that’s the great thing about having a flexible schedule. We don’t hire them in and say, okay, I have this case here. Here are your hours. You know, you get to pick. That way you’re able to balance picking your kids up from school, dropping them off in the morning, um, with the hours that you can work, we, you know, we don’t make them work. You know, hours that they cannot do. Yeah. Um, we’re very flexible. If they need holidays off, you know, we take them right off the schedule or if they have vacation, um, it’s no problem whatsoever. So I think the flexibility works great with the family.

Chris: Yeah, it’s important to, you know, but obviously we always stress consistency is number one, what most of our clients want the same caregiver every time. Um, now when we go out and do an assessment we’ll create a care plan. And so the care plan is the client’s expectation and the family members expectations of what the caregiver should do in the home. And so how our care plan is managed by, uh, in our office. Okay. In a home care office.

Amanda: So, um, the original care plan is taken. It’s entered in the computer so that all the clients or all the caregivers can see and read it. Um, and then also every three months, we call to get an update, um, you know, we’ll say, “Is there any changes to these certain areas? Um, is there anything you want to add?” Um, and doing that like every three months, so we’re not calling too much, but maybe just enough time to where things have changed. Yes. Because we like to stay updated.

Chris: Yeah, the changes.

Amanda: With older people. Yeah, stuff changes quickly sometimes. If they get out of the hospital, we won’t need a call. Yeah.

Chris: They, you know, they had, uh, broke a hip or had a reason why they went to the hospital or the rehab. Changes of the condition after coming back. Back home. That’s a good point. We can see the notes daily. So our team does look at the notes to be able to say, hey, this is there’s some red flags. Maybe let’s call the family up and talk to them um too as well too. So we can add that indirectly by just reading the notes every day.

Amanda: Yep. There’s two different sections. There’s a shared note that all the caregivers and the families can read. Um, and then there’s also like a narrative where if they just need to let the office know, hey, I stayed late or something like that. So there’s, there’s two different way. So there’s a lot of communication between the families, the caregivers.

Chris: And that’s live, right? So the the caregiver leaving the shift can see the notes that that the previous one left. Yeah. And so usually if they’re taking over shifts it’s important to them to understand that, hey you know I didn’t get time or she declined to eat her dinner. And so that’s good information to know. So that way the next caregiver can offer her dinner and make sure she eats. And so just a simple task like that, it could also be for medications as well too. She declined to take her evening medications. Just letting you know. So that way we can offer that. Now uh, communication is provided, um, by technology in our office too, but also too is is we are hands on in the office too, so as a HR coordinator, you know, and and seeing the caregivers hiring them and then seeing them on the field, you know that’s obviously could be a good feeling to knowing that, hey, if family comes back with a raving review and say, hey, you know who you placed in the home I’m happy with, right? But then, um, what communication do we provide for the family to be able to, to be able to feel comfortable.

Amanda: They can write us on the app. Um, they can get into the portal and they can see their schedule. A lot of times they call us just and ask us, which is great because then we get to touch base with them and see how things are going, any incident reports they can see. And then there’s the shared notes as well that the caregivers leaves. Um. So.

Chris: Yeah, I always like, love hearing in our office the family members just they feel comfortable to call us. And so we always tell them, don’t ever hesitate to call us. Um, I know some have developed this great relationship, build relationships with our caregivers, and sometimes they just they they don’t want to say everything because they’re, they’re like, yeah, I’m not trying to tattle on a caregiver. That’s a big topic in home care is that family members love their caregiver, but there’s some things that maybe they want to talk about and vent. And so our place in our office is sometimes a place to vent and talk about how you feel. Um, it’s better to, to don’t you notice? I know it’s been family members. You could tell me your feedback on this. It’s better for a family member to tell us than tell the caregiver.

Amanda: Yes, a lot of times it’s easier just the way we can broach it. You know, it’s awkward having someone in your home. And if you don’t think they’re doing, you know, like they haven’t done laundry this week, that kind of thing, you know, it’s easier for us to send out like a message, send to everyone and be like, don’t forget, you’re supposed to be doing laundry on shift. That way it’s going to everyone and they don’t feel attacked, you know, so.

Chris: Yeah, and it’s a big topic too. Light housekeeping is a topic that comes out, you know. Is it…

Amanda: What is light housekeeping? We get that a lot. Am I allowed to be scrubbing these floors?

Chris: Yeah. Am I on the other wing of the house? Why doesn’t the clients on the upswing, you know, then obviously that’s when we have the discussion. Yeah. Deep cleaning is different than light housekeeping. Yes. And home care. And that’s a whole other topic.

Amanda: Yes, it is.

Chris: But that could be as well as, uh, you know, um, you know, clients can say that about meal preparation. You know, my mom is not eating their meals and declining, but also they might not know their mom is declining and on the shift. And it was only a four hour shift. So we’ll try our best. But after, after we leave, you know, there has to be somebody else who’s stepping in to be able to make sure mom is getting her meals and so be well balanced. But that that that topic can be discussed as well too, meal preparation, for medications, light housekeeping. Now, um, we briefly talked about the portal system. And so I know that it’s a two way communication between the caregivers and the family members. So, um, how is that integrated when they first sign up with us? Is it?

Amanda: So when they sign up with us, they are sent the link through email so that they can sign in to that.

Chris: Okay. So it’s as easy as that. When a family member is sign up with us, we automatically enroll them in the family portal and then they’re instantly access. Access. What do they see?

Amanda: I haven’t been from the family side. Um, so I’m not sure, I know that they can contact us, and I know they can read their schedule. Um, you know, that’s not really part of what I do, so.

Chris: Yeah. And so that’s like, it’s it’s nice to actually to hear that because there is someone in our office that manages it. That’s actually a good thing because like you want, you see on the caregiver side. But obviously we have a whole another team member that manages what the family sees, right?

Amanda: Yes.

Chris: Because that’s a whole another conversation. But that’s exactly you hit  around the button. They get to see the care plan, the expectations, the test being performed, um, on there. And so it’s just as valuable as the caregivers knowing exactly what to do. It’s also important for the family members to know exactly what to expect too as well. So they get to see their caregivers come in. So the challenge is rescheduling. (sings da da daaaa)

Amanda: (Laughing) You want a list?

Chris: I mean, uh, you know, briefly touch point on, you know, uh, it’s always good to be transparent. We say in the office, we always say we want to be honest with our caregivers and family members about the challenges that they could face with us because we, you know, there’s no, like, best company out there. We all kind of share the challenges together, but it’s about what plan is in place that we have. So like, if you know, to share to to everyone, what challenges do family members are they up against when they’re going to receive home care services?

Amanda: It just depends. You know, they might want someone. They might want to leave for work at 6:00 in the morning. So they want like a 6 to 10 shift. It’s hard to find somebody that’s willing to get up at five in the morning and go to work, um, for four hour shifts. So they might have to change their hours. You know, we might be able to find someone lickety split. Um, other times it takes a little more time, and, you know, you might have to move things around or, hey, this person gets off at eight, they can be there at nine, and they’re a fantastic caregiver. So sometimes we have to shift things around. It’s like a puzzle. Shannon always says it’s a puzzle. The office manager.

Chris: Yeah. So like the schedule changes. That’s the big thing.

Amanda: Yes.

Chris: At both ends. Family and caregivers.

Amanda: It is. Yeah. If, you know, a caregiver might come in and want a 9 to 5, you know, we might not get that, but I might have a 9 to 1 and I could do a 1.30 to 5.30, you know, so. Yeah, we can we can work together. The caregivers are flexible and we try to be flexible as well.

Chris: That’s a good point. So family members sometimes we always say is is there a specific good time to have a start of care. But we know that the family members have to go to work too. They have to go to work. They want to feel comfortable, but usually typically starting at like, you know, 7, 8 or 9 is better than a family member coming to us and saying, we need to start the shift at four in the morning, you know, that that that’s a little bit difficult.

Amanda: That’s a hard sell.

Chris: It’s a hard sell. But so we say meet us in the middle. We can fill your shifts in, but let’s kind of adjust the schedule. And if everybody can work together, it’s kind of like just how family is when you hire us, it is like family. We’re going to ask, let’s work together, but let’s kind of see if we could adjust it to make it make sense for everybody so we can. The main the main goal is, is that your parents get care. Um, now if you had to say the best part of your job.

Amanda: So the best part of my job is I get to meet everybody, I meet all the caregivers, I meet them face to face. I get to have a wonderful conversation. I spend an hour of our lives together, um, so I can help scheduling, you know, I can be like, okay, you know this person, you know, these key points, um, they have the skills we need for this. They’re wonderful and outgoing. Sometimes we’ll get a client that wants a younger caregiver that’ll do hair and makeup and that kind of thing. So we look for a caregiver that, you know, is younger and does her hair and makeup and is willing to do that kind of thing with her client. So I like getting to meet everybody. That’s my thing.

Chris: I love that when I hear in the office, like when you do meet them and then you’re talking to the schedulers in the office, like you’re like, okay, this client I interviewed, this caregiver, this is going to be a perfect match. So that’s when the magic happens is when having the relationship with scheduling and also with with hiring a caregiver. And they both come in together and say, okay, I have let’s, let’s match these hobbies or interests together.

Amanda: Yes, exactly. So that’s what I like.

Chris: That’s great I love it. That’s great. So thank you for joining me. I think it’s so important that the community knows how to understand the process of finding the right help in their home for their family members, and also understand the challenges that they might face as well, too. But if we all work together, I think that we all could come to a common place or make sure that, you know, our family members are getting the right care they need. Thank you, Amanda, we appreciate you so much. We’re grateful for you, for everything that you do for our community. You’ve placed hundreds of caregivers with jobs.

Amanda: Yes.

Chris: Right.

Amanda: Yes.

Chris: Something to be proud of.

Amanda: Help the family with the care they need. So yeah.

Chris: Helping family members with the care they need. So we’re grateful for you.

Amanda: Thank you. Happy to be here.