Over the last four years, the term “hero” has become ubiquitous in describing various caregivers and employees we encounter in our daily lives.

Certain professions were evidently heroic: first responders, doctors, nurses, and aides who bravely reported to duty during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing care to afflicted patients while fully aware of the risks to their health.

They consistently prioritized the needs of others over their own and those of their families. In today’s blog, we’ll explore how senior caregiving has transformed since the pandemic started.

What We’ll Cover:

Investing in Labor During the Pandemic

Subsequently, other vocations began to be lauded as heroic as well: bus drivers, truck drivers, skilled tradespeople, and grocery store cashiers—essentially, anyone required to physically attend work in contrast to those fortunate enough to work remotely.

Heroes went to their workplaces, while non-heroes worked from the comfort of home.

A notable issue emerged: the majority of those who continued to work in person occupied lower positions on the pay scale compared to those who transitioned to remote work.

Cashiers and grocery store personnel, for instance, were compelled to be physically present at a single location. At the same time, white-collar middle and upper management enjoyed the luxury of working from home. But this discrepancy raised several pertinent questions:

  • Was this arrangement fair?
  • Why weren’t these individuals compensated more generously?
  • Why weren’t their working conditions enhanced?
  •  Where was the tangible evidence of appreciation?

What was initially intended as a gesture of gratitude—the label of “hero”—gradually devolved into a trite and insincere platitude. It resembled the modern-day version of an employee appreciation event featuring inexpensive pizza, generic soda, and chips.

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The “Laptop Class”

Setting aside political considerations, Elon Musk offered his perspective on the work-from-home paradigm. As the CEO of multiple major companies, his viewpoint carries weight.

Musk found it demeaning that one segment of the workforce could work remotely while another segment had to report to work daily.

Now, the debate over remote work is divisive and intricate, entailing considerations such as commuting, work-life balance, and the evolving technological landscape. I surmise that most individuals’ opinions align with their ability to work remotely or otherwise.

The “laptop class,” as Musk characterizes it, typically comprises higher-paying jobs with the added benefit of no commute, in contrast to hands-on hourly wage workers.

Balancing Gratitude With Responsibility

This point brings us to the crux of the matter: labeling workers as heroes.

I contend that caregivers are heroes to many families. In our office, we maintain a ‘wall of thanks‘ adorned with letters, emails, and notes from appreciative families expressing gratitude toward their caregivers and the supporting office staff.

This wall serves as a poignant reminder of our daily mission: to directly assist seniors and provide peace of mind to families concerned about their aging loved ones’ well-being. It humbly underscores that we are here to help, and it is a privilege to do so.

Even on the most challenging days, when everything seems to go awry, this wall serves as a reminder of our purpose, and the majority of our clients recognize the demanding nature of our profession.

Caregivers As Frontline Employees

Undoubtedly, frontline employees—memory care professionals and caregivers providing hands-on care—deserve the utmost credit, followed by the office staff supporting them.

However, if someone is to be hailed as a hero, companies must adhere to the expectations associated with that title. I caution other business owners against bestowing the hero label on their employees without addressing what is being said behind their backs.

Are employees treated as heroes?

How is their compensation?

What about benefits and bonuses?

Is there genuine employee appreciation?

How are the working conditions?

Labeling someone a hero, invaluable, or essential is hollow without substantive actions and benefits to support it.

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Remote Work vs. In-Person Work

This discussion was inspired by an insightful article from the Harvard Business Review focusing on Instacart gig workers and their response to being labeled heroes.

The study identified three groups of workers:

  • “Skippers” who embraced the hero label.
  • “Stallers” who rejected it, viewing their job as transactional.
  • “Strugglers,” the largest group, who fell somewhere in between.

“Moralizing” a job, as termed by HBR, has backfired in some instances. Stallers perceive the hero praise as disingenuous and would prefer higher pay, advancement opportunities, and better working conditions.

Home care companies face unique challenges in demonstrating appreciation. Our workers are per diem employees with fluctuating schedules. As a 24/7 operation, it’s logistically challenging to gather everyone for a grand event.

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Our “Caregiver of the Month” Program

We engage a company to gather feedback from both clients and caregivers. Often, caregivers seek acknowledgment and recognition for their exemplary work, which can be as straightforward as a phone call or a written thank-you note.

Upon receiving this feedback, we established a “Caregiver of the Month” program, along with yearly awards. During a recent staff meeting, the question arose: What if multiple memory care professionals deserve recognition?

 

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Recognizing Our Memory Care Professionals

Upon reflection, we questioned why we wouldn’t extend recognition to all deserving employees. We realized there is no downside to acknowledging and appreciating multiple caregivers for their outstanding contributions. Consequently, we revised our approach to ensure all deserving employees receive the recognition they deserve.

Is this groundbreaking? No.

Does it make us the pinnacle of home care companies? No.

However, it serves as an example of our commitment to continuously improving how we recognize and value the heroes of our organization. It demonstrates to both our field and office staff that our company values are not mere platitudes but principles we actively strive to uphold.

Dignity in Private Home Care

One such value is dignity—our foremost core value.

I chose this value in memory of my mother. As she battled cancer, she remarked that while dying was challenging enough, cancer robbed her of her dignity in the process.

I believe individuals with loved ones suffering from dementia or other illnesses share this sentiment. Hence, I constantly evaluate whether we’re treating our seniors with the dignity and respect they deserve, inspired by my mother’s words.

However, dignity isn’t solely reserved for our clients; it extends to our staff as well. This training is a cornerstone value for all of us.

We’ve adapted our services to focus on dementia specialty care, aiming to deliver superior services and adequately compensate our memory care professionals.

Key Takeaways

Yet, we mustn’t overlook the value of social currency and appreciation—a simple thank-you note or a brief call holds significance. These gestures often get overshadowed amidst the demands of running a business.
From that point forward, the possibilities are endless regarding how home care agency owners choose to demonstrate appreciation for their workers. However, it commences with modest gestures and can evolve from there, according to their discretion.

Returning to the question—”Are caregivers heroes?”—the answer is unequivocally yes—to our clients, their families, and us. But are we doing enough to demonstrate how much they mean to us? That’s the real question.

If you have questions about taking care of a senior, contact us today!

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About Us

Minute Women Home Care is a premium, non-medical, at-home care service provider that enables our clients to live at home with dignity and respect by assisting with their activities of daily living. We support families in their mission to allow their parents to age in place rather than transition to a nursing facility.

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