A New Level of Boston Proud: Homecare Coordination, Winter 2015

By Kevin Smith

Local news reporter set up to broadcast live from Quincy Center T Quincy, Mass., February 20, 2015: 50-mile-an hour wind gusts. Eight foot snow banks. Greater Boston is on track to experience the second-coldest February on record. Between Quincy and Raynham, we’ve received 90 inches of snow in 21 days. As I write this from Best of Care’s Quincy office, I’m staring out at the snow-buried tracks of our still-inert MBTA rail station. I see backup buses attempting to deal with lines of tired commuters. I worry about our elderly clients in their homes. And I worry about the safety of our home care staff, many of whom depend on the region’s public transportation system.

The nightmare of snow-snarled Boston hasn’t diminished our home caregivers’ dedication. When weather allows a safe commute (and often when it doesn’t), they rise many hours earlier than normal to get to clients’ homes on time.

Thanks to the efforts of the Home Care Aide Council of Massachusetts and other home care industry advocates, our caregiving staff is now exempt from the severe weather travel ban that was previously hampering our efforts to get to homebound clients.

Even when our administrative offices are closed, Best of Care’s administrative team continues working from their homes to monitor our clients and coordinate services. The processes and technologies that we’ve set up for any severe weather event are helping us ensure that over 1,000 clients and the 250+ home care aides and nurses that serve them remain safe even as the snow and ice piles higher.

Our web-based scheduling software can be accessed at any time by our administrative staff.  Our aides use smartphones, iPads, and tablets to let us know if they can safely make it to their destination. Clients’ status and employees’ availability are tracked and recorded in real time. Everyone is connected and accountable. Everyone is expected to monitor their email for status updates or service requests.

If, despite their best efforts severe weather or transportation delays prevent a home caregiver from arriving safely to a client’s home, or a client needs support outside business hours, they call our answering service. Each call feeds to an application on our on-call supervisor’s device, allowing them to adjust staff assignments or address emergencies.

Every morning at 8:06 a.m., I receive an email from the answering service with a detailed summary of all calls we’ve received overnight, which we review with the on-call supervisor. Using web-based software, we run daily reports outlining each client’s level of risk, high to low. If a client’s regular caregiver is unable to reach them, and an alternate caregiver is also snowbound, we reach out to family members or the client’s support network to come up with a plan. Depending on the level of care our client requires, we call upon our Elder Services program contacts, or on local fire-rescue-ambulance services for support in transporting the client to a location where they can receive daily living assistance or medical support until roads are again safe.

We pay close attention to homebound clients whose medical conditions demand around-the-clock attention. Before every storm, we connect with our 24/7 caregivers to advise them to bring extra food and clothing to the client’s home in the event they’re not able to leave after their shift ends. We also contact the next-shift caregiver with the same cautions. We call the client’s family or support network to discuss how their loved one will be transported and where they will go if there’s a power or water outage. During Boston’s first snowstorm of 2015, a diabetic client’s home lost power. Because roads were nearly impassible, we called the local fire department to transport him to a local medical facility.

Through our region’s weather ordeals, we are working hard to protect our clients’ health and well-being and our workers’ safety. And that’s Boston Proud in action.

About the Author

Kevin Smith is President and COO of Best of Care Inc., which provides home health care services to North Shore, Greater Boston, South Shore and Cape Cod communities.

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