Homecare safety during Covid

HOME HEALTHCARE DURING A PANDEMIC

Shelter-in-Place. Self-quarantine. Telehealth. Work-from-home. Zoom Meetings.  Microsoft Teams. Google Hangouts. Conference Calls.  Limited gatherings. COVID-19. Today’s home healthcare seems to reflect all the above changing work environments. We have seen the impact on patient care and the quick implementation of telehealth visits for home health in the name of flattening the curve, but the impact of COVID-19 goes beyond our patients. 

Managing homecare workflow in the age of COVID

 

Since early 2019, our organizations have been impacted by a world-wide virus through office closures and many office personnel working from home.  In consideration of the effect of COVID-19, are we taking care of ourselves as we traverse the landscape of working from home as office personnel?  What can we do as we continue to work from home to keep ourselves mentally and emotionally healthy for our organizations, field staff, and fellow employees we serve? Better yet…how do we keep our stress levels down with our family members as we continue to shelter-in-place and work from home?

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day.  It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.  By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed…And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made – that you made – and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better…”   ~ Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, an excerpt from the commencement address to the graduates of The University of Texas at Austin, May 17, 2014

When Admiral McRaven made the statement above six years ago I doubt he foresaw the state our world would be in today.  All walks of life, businesses, and entire industries have undergone changes to processes, business practices, and staffing due to COVID-19.  For the first time, home health businesses must adjust as any other industry, such as implementing remote, work-from-home processes and staffing policies for office personnel.  As the holiday season approaches with no end to lockdowns and sheltering-at-home orders in sight, how do we as remote workers ensure that we maintain our mental and emotional health?  As Admiral McRaven said, just make your bed.

Our homes have been our offices for months now. Our dining tables may not be used for family dinners anymore because we have had to establish make-shift workspaces.  We are in zoom meetings, conference calls, and our email inbox well beyond our normal office hours.  And…for those of us that are parents, we are also homeschooling our kids because they may not be able to attend a campus right now. And did not sign up for all this, right? 

We are all in this together.  We are learning together to navigate this “new normal” thrust upon us. How do we ensure as employees, parents, and friends we stay mentally and emotionally healthy?  How do we reduce the potential of emotional and mental stress?  I believe Admiral McRaven said it best, complete the first task of the day, and then you will find yourself completing another and then another. 

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  1. Set small goals or tasks every day.
    • We are so driven to set short-term and long-term business goals. Home health is built around the model of setting goals to be met within a 60-day episode. It is only natural that we look to operate on a similar level in our personal lives as we set task lists, to-do items, and goals to be met.  We can easily blur the lines between personal and work as we continue to work-from-home.
    • After accomplishing the first goal or task, the rest becomes easier.
  2. Keep your regular office hours.
    • Just because we are at home does not mean we should work beyond our normal business hours. You would “clock out” at your shift end if you were “in the office.” Why wouldn’t you continue to do so?
    • Keep your family time. Be sure to make time for something other than work or answering emails. Throw the ball in the yard with your kids and the dogs.  Enjoy a cup of coffee on the porch before the workday begins. 
  3. Your home is your office.
    • It can be easy to let the housework stack up because there is so much to do ‘at work.’ Do not be overwhelmed.  Take one day at a time and one task at a time.
    • We now work every day where we also live. It is easy to put that coffee mug from this morning into the sink to wash later.  Do not let the dishes pile up throughout the day.  What may seem like a small thing can help reduce the stress of cleanup later.
    • Do not save the laundry for the weekend. Saving laundry for the weekend causes us to experience additional stress and doesn’t allow us to experience the “downtime” that is so important to mental health.  We have spent all week working and will spend all weekend washing, drying, folding, and putting away clothes.  It is okay to take five minutes and throw a load of laundry into the washer on Tuesday or to fold the load left in the dryer over the weekend.
  4. Set some boundaries. Solidify priorities.
    • Just because our offices are temporarily located at home does not mean we are on call 24/7 (unless you are on call, of course). Think twice before downloading the work email app to your personal devices.
    • Text messaging is an easy and quick form of communication. Ask yourself a couple of questions if you receive a text message outside of office hours:
      1. Is this an emergency? (has the agency enacted its emergency preparedness plan?) and If Not:
      2. Will the world fall apart if I wait and answer tomorrow?
  1. Take a break!
    • Because our home is now our office, it can be very easy to feel like we are “lazy” or “goofing off” if we step away from the laptop, put the tablet down, or leave the cell phone in another room.
    • Step outside and get some fresh air. Take a short walk around the block during your lunch break.  Sometimes a change of scenery and stepping away from “the grind” can go miles in keeping us mentally and emotionally healthy.

The moral of the story is, go ahead and make your bed even if you do not see the point.  After all, you are at home, right? Put the coffee mug in the dishwasher so you do not have to tidy up later.  Take time out to literally smell the roses.  Home healthcare workers answer the call every day to provide excellent patient-driven care to those in the most desperate need.  We must also make sure we are healthy enough to answer the call. Take heart, after the bad day, the bed is made…and that was your accomplishment.  In the words of Admiral McRaven, take encouragement that tomorrow will be better because you completed the task of taking care of YOU today. 

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 The Alora Homecare Software Blog

Read the Alora blog for industry news, including recent news, articles, and commentaries, as well as other issues that pertain to Homecare in the U.S and beyond. For more information on this topic, or others in the homecare spectrum, please send us an email to HomeHealthSoftware@Alorahealth.com

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