COVID has changed the world of home care and locally-owned McLeod Home Care in Lexington, SC has worked hard to look after both their clients and staff during the past year.
How do you socially distance when providing hands-on care? You don’t. Finding a way to deliver what’s needed while keeping both caregivers and care recipients safe has been a months’ long evolution.
Melisa McLeod and her husband Tim are the owners of McLeod Home Care. “It’s been a transition, getting used to all the different changes,” said Melisa McLeod. “For us, our point of view has been to be a little more proactive. Early on, we were even helping other home care agencies find PPE (personal protective equipment).”
Their agency saw a thirty percent drop in companionship hours because family members that weren’t normally home and available suddenly were able to step in for loved ones that would’ve needed paid care. With job losses, stay at home orders and changes in how everyday businesses and schools conducted operations left thousands of people at home that were used to being out during the day. However, by year’s end in 2020, they’d made up for those lost hours and even posted positive growth as the local situation settled into a new normal.
In 2019, approximately 1.4 million people were employed in the home care industry. For an idea of a common activity performed by a home care worker, a survey in 2019 showed 81% of home care clients required assistance with toileting, one of the activities of daily living (ADLs).
The Activities of Daily Living are a series of basic activities necessary for independent living at home or in the community. They are performed on a daily basis. There are many variations on the definition of the ADLs, but most organizations agree there are five basic categories.
1. Personal hygiene – bathing/showering, grooming, nail care, and oral care.
2. Dressing - being able to make appropriate clothing decisions and physically dress and undress oneself.
3. Eating - the ability to feed oneself, though not necessarily the capability to prepare food.
4. Maintaining continence - being able to mentally and physically use a restroom. This includes the ability to get on and off the toilet and cleaning oneself.
5. Transferring/Mobility- being able to stand from a sitting position, as well as get in and out of bed. The ability to walk independently from one location to another.
The level of independence is based on whether someone can perform these activities on their own or they need help from a caregiver.
Regular testing of direct care personnel became an important part of the McLeod Home Care routine. “With testing, we were ahead of the curve, as our caregivers are being tested on a weekly basis. We did it in-house through a partnership with an assisted living community and that made it easier to send our staff into the facilities by showing current test results. It’s been a bear to track, but we’ve done it,” McLeod said.
Their staff has also had priority access to the vaccine. “I do feel that people are a little more comfortable once they’ve gotten the vaccine,” she added.
The vaccine is an option for everyone on their staff, but it’s not being made a mandatory requirement. “We have given them the opportunity to be vaccinated and we are about 25% vaccinated right now. We are keeping our staff informed and anyone that has an objection to the vaccine has the chance to let us know,” she said.
The future is really interesting for home care right now. McLeod Home Care opened a new office in Lexington in 2020 and is likely to open another location in 2021 as well. “The new office in Lexington was way overdue, we were busting at the seams and have already filled it up office-wise. It has made our production 50-70 percent higher than before. I can hear other people work and the previous office was so challenging. We have lots of meeting space and it’s good to collaborate,” McLeod said.
They also have a secondary office inside Discovery Village in northeast Columbia. They’re actively hiring for care and in-office staff, as well as two more marketers.
Political changes are a potential impact on this business and many others. “If the minimum wage is increased to $15 per hour, that cost will unfortunately have to be passed along to the client. I’m thrilled that workers could get more money, but all of our expenses will go up and everybody will have to deal with that,” she said.
The unintended consequence could be that the hourly rate for care charged to clients increases to the point that the average person can no longer afford help. “A client who can’t pay $30 an hour for someone to come deliver professional-quality care may turn to a family member that’s unemployed or even fully employed and strapped for time and end up with fewer needs met and a lower quality of life,” she added.