For senior housing providers looking to solve staffing issues, the solution may be as simple as learning to share. At least, that’s what some people in home care—an industry facing a very similar workforce crisis—believe.
Specifically, a startup that recently entered the home care market with $3.1 million in funding is now trying to get competing home care agencies to share their caregivers. And if home care agencies can manage it, senior housing providers may be able to as well.
San Francisco-based Kindly Care has just launched Care Exchange, an online database from which home care agencies can recruit caregivers who also work at nearby agencies—but only if they refer their own caregivers to be listed in the exchange, too.
The Care Exchange is meant to help alleviate staffing pressure in the home care industry, according to Kindly Care co-founder and CEO Igor Lebovic.
“It’s not such a noble idea, it’s just that no one’s done it before,” Lebovic told Senior Housing News.
A solution for ‘heartbreak’
Many caregivers cannot meet their financial needs by working for just one home care agency. Accordingly, about two-thirds work for more than one agency at a time, Lebovic said.
“Every once in a while, there’s a caregiver who needs more hours, but an agency cannot provide those hours,” Lebovic explained. Perhaps a caregiver’s availability or skill set don’t match the agency’s current needs, or the agency doesn’t want to pay out any overtime wages. Many caregivers, as a result, end up seeking employment elsewhere.
In addition to running the risk of losing a qualified caregiver for good, not being able to provide a caregiver with the hours they request can be “heartbreaking” for an agency, Lebovic said. He created the Care Exchange to help remedy that.
Here’s how it works: When a caregiver is requesting hours that an agency can’t currently offer, the agency can refer that caregiver to the Care Exchange. Kindly Care gives the caregiver a call, and the caregiver goes through a thorough vetting process before officially being listed on the online platform.
“We require a minimum of one year of experience to be listed in the Care Exchange,” Lebovic said.
For every caregiver an agency refers to the Care Exchange, the agency gets a credit to recruit a new caregiver from the Care Exchange, Lebovic explained. The ratio is one to one; an agency will have to refer two of its caregivers to the Care Exchange in order to recruit two new people from it.
Getting agencies on board
Kindly Care officially launched Care Exchange on Nov. 16. So far, about a dozen home care agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area are involved, and more than 50 agencies are set to be onboarded this week.
When it comes to convincing agencies to join, however, Lebovic has had a tough go.
“There was definitely pushback,” Lebovic said. “It’s a bit of a controversial topic.”
Only about one-third of the agencies he initially approached with the idea were open to it, Lebovic said.
“People were either extremely excited about it and were saying ‘this is the best thing ever,’ or they were saying there was no way they would participate in it,” he explained.
The hesitancy may be rooted in how home care agencies, and perhaps how some senior living providers, view and distinguish themselves. Some agencies believe that the quality of their caregivers is the main thing that separates them from their competition. In other words, “having the best caregivers” is ultimately the product that they’re selling.
If their caregivers are a point of pride, why share them? The impending caregiver shortage may eventually change agencies’ minds, Lebovic said.
“It’s really hard for agencies to grasp that they’ll all be competing for the same people,” he explained.
If given a chance, the Care Exchange really will be a “win-win-win” for agencies, caregivers and patients, Lebovic said. Kindly Care just needs to succeed in bringing people who have been competing with one another for years together in the same room.
“It takes a village to take care of an elder,” Lebovic said. “We all need to work together.”
Written by Mary Kate Nelson