Caregivers are employees too!

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Merrilee Kittelstad
Merrilee Kittelstad

If we could wave a magic wand and make all the issues that are part of the senior care industry miraculously disappear, we would have to label that wand  “EDUCATION”.

How do we address issues that arise in our day-to-day operations? We educate as part of a ‘corrective path of action.' How do we prevent issues and incidents from arising in the first place? We educate on the potential issues or problem. Education solves every problem and prevents future problems from arising.   

When we speak about education in a senior care organization our first thought is compliance training.  With all the regulatory requirements, mandates, tags for deficiencies, surveys, qa, qi, inspections and ratings, it's not surprising that our first thoughts are of courses and topics like ‘abuse and neglect' and ‘how to wash our hands.' Sometimes education of a more vanilla variety gets ignored and discounted.

In the senior care arena, all too often,  “the important gets sacrificed on the altar of the urgent.” Let's talk about an important ‘but not urgent' issue — staff education.  Statistics prove that happy employees are much more productive, compliant, and less likely to cause mistakes, accidents and turnover.   Disgruntled employees, unhappy, ignored and disregarded create a myriad of issues that don't need recounting.

An easy, cost-efficient way to make employees feel empowered, valued, and rewarded is by providing opportunities and requirements to educate themselves. Trainings to advance their career path, life skill training to make their home life easier, cross-training to increase their value within the organization all carry with the opportunity an unspoken message that they are valued and needed. This can include skills such as how to balance a checkbook, or time management. People need to be needed and employees who do not feel that way in your organization can, will, and probably already make your job difficult at best and miserable at worst. 

The average caregiver, while not acknowledged as such, has been seen in years past as a “throw away” worker. The perception is that they will turn over no matter what you do, so focus on “professionals”. Jan Wilson, a McKnight's guest blogger writes. In addition she offers ….“Provide training and development opportunities that help employees meet their long-term career goals” as one of the ways to prevent that turnover.

It's imperative to teach a caregiver how to care. It's equally important to teach them how to be a good employee! Education may not be the ‘magic wand' but comes pretty darn close.

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