Friday, May 6, 2011

Seeking Eldercare for Your Parent? Look for Happy Employees

Searching for health care for your aging parent? Consider this phrase: "The Customer Comes Second."

In 1993 Hal Rosenbluth coined this phrase for the title of his best seller aimed at business management. The book was revised in 2003. But does "The Customer Comes Second," apply to eldercare? Especially when the primary customers--you and your parents--need lots of attention and care?

For 16 years I've seen Rosenbluth's premise play out in the senior care field. I agree with his words: "Hire people who have the right personality, and then train them to have the right skill." If employees feel valued and have opportunities to grow and enjoy their work, their enthusiasm will rub off on the customers and result in excellent service, he says.

When you're looking for eldercare for your parent, ask questions of management about "employee care." Do caregivers, food servers and housekeepers have vehicles for public recognition and for encouraging each other? Are they given opportunities for in-service training? Does the organization encourage entry level workers to move up the ranks or to finish nurse's training? Does the organization hire for the right personalities and then train employees for the tasks? Are employees encouraged to have fun with their elderly clients?

Ask about staff retention. In the senior care field, turnover for caregivers is extremely high--averaging 70% or more. That means that at the beginning of a year, if 100 employees were hired the previous year, only 30 would remain. Some health care settings are able to keep their staff longer, promoting consistent care.

Carol, a daughter of a resident of our retirement community, said she moved her mother out of another local retirement community because of high turnover. "Employees were coming and going all the time. That lack of continuity was unsettling to the residents," she said.

Besides speaking with management, visit the community or care setting and observe employees in action. Watch for smiles on the faces of workers and elderly like. Listen for jokes. These will tell you whether the organization puts their people first.

Bottom line: Happy employees are more likely to treat your mom or dad like royalty. Remember Queen for a Day? That's the goal.

Note: I first read "The Customer Comes Second" when I entered the senior care field in 1994. It's well worth reading.

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