The effects of COVID-19 reduced demand for in-home care due to fears about the disease and increase of care being provided by family members, while at the same time sidelining scores of caregivers due to the lack of demand, and the alternative - getting paid more by taking unemployment. These twin impacts have created a down-turn for many home care providers that most want to overcome in 2021.
COVID Depressed demand while scattering caregivers
It was already challenging to find caregivers and keep them prior to the pandemic. Balancing the two-sided equation of growing client demand and strong caregiver availability can be illusive. With caregivers getting enhanced unemployment benefits, which in many cases are larger than their regular paychecks, the need to win them back is going to set up even more competition than what was seen before 2020.
Normal is Waiting on the Vaccine
Even though the new normal may not be exactly what we experienced before 2020, the return to a future growth trend for home care depends on something completely outside of the industry's control - vaccine distribution.
AARP has a helpful chart showing the status in each state, but it is certain that many seniors or their families won't be calling for in-home care until they've been vaccinated.
Demand surge will follow the specific roll-out in your state, beginning with the completion of vaccines for both caregivers and older seniors. Some believe that this demand will be a significant growth spike because of the amount of pent-up need. A return to demand will occur with different timing in each state. And the return to a growth trend will occur locally based on how your state rolls out vaccinations within your service area.
But not everything is on hold
During the shut-downs, slow-downs and social isolation, people didn't just stay the same, they've changed. Two changes that impact home care are:
- the increased awareness (fear) of health issues, and
- an increase in reliance in online resources for information.
These things are true of all age-groups, including seniors. While most home care agencies have been attentive to announcing their COVID responses and precautions, most have yet to adapt for the big changes in what people expect in the online experience.
Seniors broke the national record of online grocery orders early in the pandemic, and their online engagement has zoomed (pun intended) far beyond previous trends. Everyone - is finding the services they need, and evaluating them - online.
While You Wait - Reposition for Growth
While the 2020 disruption has caused lots of challenges, it also creates an opportunity to reset in some important ways. Brand loyalties have been shaken up for both caregivers and clients. Many people have tried lots of new solutions for a variety of purchases and services during the pandemic, and lots of that flexibility will remain in the market.
Clients and caregivers are open to new possibilities - but that means you have to position your business to attract and win them.
With the surge in demand that will follow wide-spread vaccination of seniors and caregivers, it is the home care companies that have effectively positioned themselves to hire caregivers and win clients that will be able to respond most quickly.
A fresh look at your competitive marketing position can pay off in both client and recruiting growth.
Market position comes from a combination of key factors including
- your brand story,
- the online experience you provide for both both caregivers and clients,
- and how you establish a competitive position in your market.
Together, these elements make up the journey that you want both clients and caregivers to experience online. It starts with better online visibility to ensure that people can find you when you search, and then it's all about how you engage them.
It's important to understand that people are conditioned to expect that their online experiences will be as good as their streaming media, online banking and shopping.
Most home care agencies need to revisit the online experience for recruiting. A single page on your website, or just a list of open positions does not make for a employee buyer's journey.
The way you position your website and follow-up must have the same personalized impact as all the popular online services. They are focused on customer preferences - delivering what people want - not just on selling their business.
A return to previous case loads is waiting on the vaccine in many places. While this process works its way through the states, home care agencies should take the time to prepare to be better at their two primary growth requirements by refreshing their employer and client market positions.