Amid concerns that home health aides may not be able to meet every client’s cultural needs, some big providers are paying more attention to who they hire—and how.
The need for more cultural competency among home health aides is clear, especially when working with Spanish-speaking clients. Just 20% of Hispanic Americans over the age of 40 felt “extremely or very confident” that home health aides can provide care that meets their cultural and linguistic needs, according to a recent survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
And with a growing population of Hispanic residents in the U.S., home health care providers are stepping up efforts to meet the demand.
Hiring and acquiring
Personal care provider Addus Homecare (Nasdaq: ADUS) hires directly from some of the communities it serves to avoid culture clash. The Frisco, Texas-based agency operates 111 locations across 24 states, many of which have sizable Hispanic populations.
In the Chicago suburb of Cicero, for example, many of the provider’s service coordinators and agency directors are fluent in English and other languages like Spanish or Polish. This gives them a leg up when hiring workers from local ethnic communities.
“[We’re] going into a community and hiring management and staff that are part of that community, then relying on them to reach out and recruit direct care workers,” Darby Anderson, executive vice president and chief development officer for Addus, tells Home Health Care News. “They’re able to speak to people, understand the culture and hire people who are neighbors of the clients.”
Addus also has partnered with and acquired some smaller home care providers that already serve large Hispanic populations in places like New Mexico and Las Vegas. Many of those companies have a revenue run rate between $8 million and $12 million, Anderson says.
“Their strength is that they were started, owned and operated in serving a specific culture,” Anderson says. “We let them continue to do that while we come in and provide the back-office and support functions that they no longer have to be stressed about.”
Across the U.S., Addus has an estimated 3,500 clients who speak Spanish and another 1,500 who speak another language, Anderson says.
Still, bridging the language and cultural gap is “one of the biggest challenges we have,” he adds.
Bayada Home Health Care, which is among the largest home health care providers in the U.S., also hires caregivers from similar backgrounds as their clients. Bayada has 269 locations throughout the U.S. and is based in Moorestown, New Jersey.
In Philadelphia, a city that is a little over 12% Hispanic according to the 2010 U.S. Census, Bayada caregivers, management, recruiters and even some of the executives volunteer with local organizations, participate in health fairs and march in the annual Puerto Rican Day parade to show their support, help get the word out and even potentially find new caregivers in the process.
In addition to word-of-mouth recruiting, Bayada places job ads either online or in the local Spanish language newspaper, Al Día.
Bayada’s Hispanic client base in Philadelphia has “skyrocketed” since the provider started doing its community outreach efforts a decade ago, Director Donna Russel-Kane tells HHCN. Russel-Kane manages 67 Spanish-speaking home health aides.
“We very slowly and gradually built the business on the Hispanic side,” Russel-Kane says. “We started to get more and more clients…when you do a good job, they’re more than likely to tell the next person.”
Clinical Manager Brunilda “Cookie” Sanchez, who routinely visits clients in their homes to make sure they’re happy with Bayada’s services, says it’s vitally important that caregivers and clients are able to understand one another on an intimate level, down to the kind of recipes they know.
“We have clients who will call me and say, I need somebody who can cook the type of food I like,” Sanchez says. “A lot of our Hispanic clients are from the Dominican Republic or Mexico and cook totally differently.”
To make sure they’re matched up with the right caregiver, Bayada interviews all of its clients and their families to figure out what languages they speak and what’s important to them, Director Xiomara Laboy tells HHCN. Laboy works on the nursing side of Bayada’s business in Hudson County, New Jersey.
“I think that being able to communicate with our clients in their own language is really comforting to them and gives them the security to know that we understand what they are asking for,” Laboy says. “Our transitional care managers in North Jersey are Spanish-speaking and can help ensure the communication to the family is comforting and insightful, and the transition to home care is smooth while the client is still in the hospital.”
Written by Tim Regan