The Benefits of Consistency in Caregiving Assignments
When I was working as a caregiver at a local assisted living facility, I worked with the same 8-12 residents on a really consistent schedule. Then, when I managed assisted living departments, I was taught to provide consistent staffing for resident care. I knew that there were obvious benefits for consistent assignment of caregivers, but I never had any formal training on them. I’ve recently been thinking about this, and wanted to share some of the benefits that I experienced as a caregiver, as a family member, and what I’ve found in my research on the topic.
Let’s start with the hard evidence – I found a study conducted in England that identified that skilled nursing facilities that had more consistency in assignment were more likely to have lower citations related to services. Check out the abstract of the study here. They also found that only 28% of the skilled nursing facilities that they studied had consistent staff assignment 85% of the time.
So what is consistent assignment? It’s making sure that once a caregiver is set up to work with a patient, resident, or group of residents, they will do so consistently. It’s critical that the patients and the caregiver have positive interactions and that their personalities and styles work together in this situation. Nobody wants to consistently be around something that bothers them! Companies like assisted living facilities, residential care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, home health and non-medical home care agencies should work to find caregivers that fit well with their patient population. Then, they need to have their new caregivers work consistently with their patients.
We know that there are seven days in a week, and that most people are unable to work every day of every year. Consistent assignment is when a patient has a handful of caregivers working with them on an extremely regular basis. Judy may work with the patient Monday through Friday in the morning, with her co-worker Rich working each weekend. Sam may work in the afternoon Sunday through Wednesday, with his co-worker Mary working Thursday through Saturday. You get the idea. The patient sees people on a very regular basis, and has the opportunity to get to know the caregivers.
There are huge benefits to care providers offering consistent assignment. An article at ModernHealthcare.com indicates that one benefit from consistent assignment is that staff is more engaged and the organization may not have as much turnover. You may laugh, but training new caregivers at skilled nursing facilities isn’t cheap. Training typically costs $3,000 per trainee and turnover can average 50%! Check out the Modern Healthcare article here.
Most importantly, consistent assignment allows the caregiver and the patient to form a bond. This is what I experienced when I was a caregiver. Here are just a few examples of the benefits I saw of a consistent assignment:
- You get to know the patient’s schedule – If they don’t like to wake up at 6:30am, don’t wake them up at 6:30am! You have the opportunity to learn what makes the patients and residents click, and can schedule your day to make the most out of theirs. I typically found that each resident had a very different schedule, and the trick is to find out how to make them work within your schedule as the caregiver.
- You get an idea when something may be wrong – Similar to the point above, consistently assigned staff are able to notice small changes in patient and resident behavior. Is Jean sleeping an extra hour in the morning this week? Maybe she’s not feeling well. If you can notice this, you can alert the appropriate individuals to the changes you see.
- You notice changes in physical condition – I was more likely to notice changes in eating, dressing, grooming, and changes in their body as we worked together. You may be more likely to spot a red mark on their back before it becomes a pressure ulcer that requires constant nursing treatment, pain, and unnecessary trips to the doctor! If a different caregiver showed up daily, that little red spot may go unnoticed.
- You get to know their history – getting to know someone’s past allows you to understand how they operated in past situations and how they may respond to current conditions. The more time you spend with someone, the more likely you learn about their past, which allows you to connect with them on a different level than just taking them to the bathroom and to lunch once a week.
- You get to know their family – in fact, frequently you become an extension of their family. You can guide their family as the resident changes in a positive or negative light. As families visit, consistent assignment allows them to get to know you and how you operate. When I was managing the assisted living departments, one of the first things a family member mentioned after their loved one passed away was how much they were going to miss the caregivers that worked with their mom, dad, or loved one.
So, as you look for the right care provider for geriatric services for your loved one, I urge you to think about how consistent assignment may fit in with your hunt. It really can pay off for both you and your loved one!