In early 2020, Michele Anstett, president and owner of Visiting Angels in West Springfield, was pleased because her business was doing well. As a provider of senior home care, she managed 80 caregivers for 50 clients.
“We were going along just fine,” she said. “And when COVID hit, it was like falling off a cliff.”
The business model for companies like Visiting Angels involves interacting with people in their homes, so when early mandates encouraged people to keep away from anyone outside their immediate ‘bubble,’ it hit the industry hard.
Even though caregivers were designated as essential workers, Anstett saw her numbers shrink to 39 caregivers who were now responsible for only 19 clients. In order for her business to survive, she continued to provide services for her clients who needed personal-care services around the clock and for those who had no family members in the area.
“Where possible, we asked family members to step in to help out,” she told BusinessWest. “At the beginning of the pandemic, there was less risk to everyone when a family member could be involved with their loved one’s care.”
Anstett also incorporated a detailed checklist of risk factors for each caregiver to review to prevent COVID-19 from spreading to them or their clients.
“I thought patients weren’t following up because of a language barrier. As it turns out, they weren’t responding because they didn’t understand the severity of the situation.”
“We talked with caregivers about the people in their circle,” Anstett said. “It was similar to contact tracing, but we did it beforehand, so people would understand what they had to consider to protect themselves, their families, and their clients.”
A Better Life Homecare in Springfield runs two home-care programs. In one, it provides personal-care services such as helping seniors with grooming, cooking, laundry, and more. The other program provides low-income patients with medical care in the home, such as skilled nursing services, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.
On the medical side of the business, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) handle many of the home visits, while certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and patient care assistants (PCAs) are the main frontline workers on the personal-care side. A Better Life also employs case workers to supervise PCAs and CNAs and to set up other resources a patient may need, such as Meals on Wheels and support groups.
When COVID hit, said Claudia Lora, community outreach director for A Better Life, she and her staff made patient communication a top priority.