The Top 10 Complaints from Clients (And How Home Care Agencies Can Prevent Them)
One simple fact of business is no company is ever 100% perfect. People and organizations make mistakes, and the same is true for home care agencies. Fortunately, most clients don’t expect perfection. But in the days of online reviews and social media, it’s important for caregiver companies to be as unblemished as possible.
Here are the top 10 complaints expressed by home care clients and ways agency leaders can prevent them!
- Unreliable Caregivers – Employee reliability is always important, but it can literally be a matter of life and death in the home care industry. Some clients are physically incapable of surviving unsupervised. Seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s/dementia and neurological disorders are particularly vulnerable.
Life is full of surprises, and 100% reliability can never be obtained. But home care agencies can take proactive measures to reduce “call offs.” First, companies must create a culture of accountability. Second, leaders should train office staff on best practices that help ensure reliability. These include strong communication with caregivers and focusing on attention to detail.
- Inconsistent Staffing – Few things irk home care clients more than having a revolving door of caregivers. Most seniors are skeptical of home care services anyway. So, inconsistent staffing makes client anxiety ten times worse!
Home care agencies can promote continuity of care by staffing reliable caregivers on cases that are well-matched with their skills and schedule availability. Office workers who only focus on short-term staffing “fixes” will inevitably lose their clients’ confidence.
- Untrained Workers – Home care agencies need to invest in training for every single caregiver. Certain curriculums are universally beneficial and can help to dramatically reduce client complaints. These include topics on disease-specific diets, fall prevention techniques and safe patient transfers.
Other education that can reduce client complains may focus on professionalism, effective communication and the use of basic medical equipment (hoyer lifts, gait belts, etc.). Clients expect caregivers to have a certain level of knowledge from day one and are very likely to complain about workers who seem “amateurish.”
- Unresponsive Office Staff – Home care agencies focus heavily on caregiver behavior for obvious reasons, but office worker interactions are nearly as important. Clients expect friendly, responsive customer service.
Phone calls should be answered without fail during normal working hours. And on-call protocols should provide an emergency safety net for weekends, holidays and overnight periods.
- Unprofessional Etiquette – Client complaints about lack of etiquette are generally directed toward caregivers, since they work in the home setting. They range from issues of dress attire to concerns about aides who bring their children to assignments. However, the most common complaints are simply issues of common courtesy.
Sometimes etiquette issues are resolvable misunderstandings pertaining to cultural differences. But they may also be more indicative of unfixable attitude problems. Agency recruiters should never hire disrespectful caregivers regardless of their experience or credentials!
- Unaccommodating Caregivers – Sometimes aides are polite and respectful but lack a “can-do” attitude. In all fairness, caregivers must decline to perform certain tasks due to issues of compliance and legality. But other times, they simply aren’t being solution oriented.
Once again, training can help prevent client complaints. Home care agencies should have polices that describe tasks aides can’t perform and then make it clear they are expected to accommodate all other requests whenever possible. Finally, caregivers should know to call the office with any questionable duty-related questions.
- Language Barriers – America is a multi-cultural society, and caregivers often represent the nation’s diversity. Home care agencies cannot—and should not—discriminate. However, language barriers can hurt quality of care and result in client complaints.
Generally speaking, clients should be afforded caregivers who speak their native language whenever possible and when in compliance with EEOC laws. But home care leaders should also use common sense. Some large metropolitan areas have caregiver populations mostly composed of recent immigrants.
The key is to set realistic (and legal) expectations with both clients and caregivers. The former group needs to know staffing realities and should be educated on labor laws. And aides need to appreciate the sensitivities of their work and must understand why clients prefer strong communication.
- Billing Errors – Sometimes clients complain about easily-preventable problems. These situations should be of particular concern for home care agency owners. It simply makes no sense to suffer a negative online review or bad social media publicity over a dumb mistake!
Very few administrative errors anger clients more than billing errors. Nobody wants to be over-charged for service. Worse yet, many seniors live on fixed incomes. Caregiver companies must take extra precautions to prevent duplicate charges (when using auto pay), invoice mistakes and inaccurate caregiver timesheets that overstate service hours.
- Poor Note Taking – Home care clients are technically the people receiving services. But there families are often the decision-makers and silent partners. Many seniors suffer cognitive impairment, so accurate caregiver and staff notes can be critical for concerned loved ones who track medication adherence, diet and general health.
Once again, formal training can teach employees how to take excellent care notes. But accountability is also important. Home care agencies should have “care managers” or other supervisors who periodically visit clients. During these meetings, they can conduct quality assurance and also review caregiver notes for accuracy.
- Low Caregiver Pay Rates – Some home care agency owners may be surprised to hear clients often complain about “low” caregiver pay rates. The rationale is that well-compensated aides provide better care. While this concern seems reasonable, it poses a problem for agency leaders.
First, clients probably don’t appreciate the overhead costs of running a home care agency and likely don’t have a good grasp of what constitutes an appropriate margin. Second, somebody who feels his caregiver’s rate is too low will question the aide’s general competency (fair or not).
Agency leaders must enforce a strict policy preventing caregivers from discussing their pay rates with anyone other than company management. Representatives should also educate clients on the high overhead costs of running a home care agency and their relatively low margins.
At the end of the day, client complaints are inevitable for even the best home care agencies. Nobody can please everyone all of the time. However, agency leaders should work to limit preventable issues. A combination of effective caregiver training, diligent recruiting efforts and strong communication will ultimately help to keep clients happy!