Onboarding Caregivers: Eight Steps Every Caregiver Should Employ When Meeting a New Client

by | Feb 6, 2018

CareAcademy - Onboarding Caregivers

At the risk of starting with a cliché, first impressions are everything, and it’s no different the first time a caregiver meets their new client. Your caregivers are not only on the front lines, but they also serve as your brand ambassadors and set the tone for your agency’s reputation and relationship with your clientele. That’s why it’s important to standardize your client engagement process with a formal onboarding process. This ensures that every caregiver follows best practices in making a positive and lasting impression each time they walk through the door of a client’s home.

Before Sending Your Caregiver Into the Field

Onboarding caregivers is a critical first step in developing talent and building long-term client satisfaction. Take the time to outline your agency’s expectations process, policy, and even culture. Don’t be afraid to be specific, even with the obvious. Your caregivers are representatives of your agency’s brand. Provide them with a checklist of actions and prompts that provide a clear framework for client engagement.

When onboarding caregivers, consider focusing on these subjects:

  • Professionalism: What does that mean in your agency? How does it carry over to clients, their families or third-party interactions like physicians?

  • Attire: What should a caregiver wear? Do you require scrubs? Do you provide a uniform?

  • Communication: What level of communication do you expect caregivers to have with your agency while on the job? How often do they need to communicate with you, if at all? What is your cell phone policy?

  • Technology: What tools does your agency provide to track medications, issue a report and ensure patient safety?

  • Training: What level of certification or training does your caregiver need to engage with clients? How do they access it? How often is it available? Do they have access to training while in the field in case an issue comes up?

  • Privacy: Be sure to review the HIPPA laws to maintain client privacy and confidentiality.

When onboarding caregivers, it’s also important to discuss best practices for meeting new clients. Establishing firm guidelines helps set expectations and ensures that the first impression is consistent, welcoming and appreciated. Since caregivers may have one or more clients, it’s a good idea to provide them with a checklist that will serve as a reminder. Keep it short and simple and perhaps provide pocket size versions so they can keep a copy in their wallet. Here’s a sample checklist that you can adapt to suit your agency’s needs and culture.

8 Steps to Remember When Meeting a New Elder Client

  1. Arrive on time. Arriving too early can be disruptive to routines. Arriving late is never advisable.

  2. Be friendly: Always maintain a positive and warm attitude. When you arrive, introduce yourself and your agency and share your contact information. Your goal is to be inviting and build trust. If your elder client is fully cognitively intact, very active or even has dementia, your friendly smile and welcoming voice will go a long way.

  3. Ask for a tour. Remember that you are entering a client’s home to ask them to show you around – even if they are living in a small space. Ask questions during the tour as this helps you get to know the home’s layout and assess the client’s mobility and true cognitive ability.

  4. Know client preferences. Find out what your client likes so you can provide them with their creature comforts (i.e., favorite chair or food, favorite book or television show, etc.) Doing so will show them that you are listening and care about their needs. Acting on this information will build trust, avoid potential problems, and help you anticipate their needs or points of agitation.

  5. Be respectful of their space. At first, you will be a stranger in the home so don’t just make yourself comfortable. For example, if you need to put something away ask, “Where does this go?” It’s a small way of offering the elder client independence while respecting their privacy.

  6. Take notes: Keep a journal of observations separate from a care plan to note small details about their preferences or information that helps you better understand a client’s needs. This is especially helpful if an elder client isn’t verbal or able to communicate well.

  7. Say goodbye: When it’s time to leave, make sure your client has everything they need and knows that you are leaving. Remind them of when you will be returning and the agenda the next time you arrive. Consistency and repetition provide the assurances they need in what can sometimes be a very difficult situation.

  8. Keep communicating. Even beyond the first day, keep asking questions to make clients feel in control and to open the lines of communication. Stay in touch with family members and communicate as directed by your agency. If there are any problems, be sure to communicate early and often with the appropriate parties.

To end with another cliché, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Ensure that your onboarding program includes not only the technical aspects of delivering great care but also the intangible skills that are integral to the success of the client-caregiver relationship and the longevity of your agency’s brand.

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