All posts by Admin

Spring Activities to Boost Seniors’ Mental Health

With longer daylight hours and warmer weather, it’s a great time to shake off those winter blues. Many people have been stuck indoors because of COVID-19 and the cold, which can increase feelings of depression and loneliness. We’re taking a closer look at some ways to boost your mood while enjoying the change in seasons.

Simply spend time outdoors. Just getting out and breathing in the fresh air and soaking in some natural sunlight can do wonders for your mood. Go for a walk around your neighborhood or sit out on your porch with a good book. Watch as the trees bud, flowers bloom, birds build nests, and more critters emerge.

Plant flowers. Spruce up your yard by turning over old soil, pulling weeds, and planting some of your favorite flowers. Choose bright, colorful blooms that make you smile and make your space look more alive. You can even mix and match plants of different types and heights.

Start a garden. A garden can give you something to look forward to every day. You can slowly watch the seeds turn into plants and then enjoy your favorite vegetables as they grow and ripen. You can grow everything from tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers to peas, carrots, and peppers. Choose veggies you love to eat, or even some new ones that you’ve been wanting to try. Don’t have a lot of space for an outdoor garden? Consider container gardening instead!

Make a birdfeeder. You don’t need to spend money on anything fancy when you can make a birdfeeder at home. You can use a plastic water bottle or milk jug, a paper plate, a tin can, some scraps of wood, or other materials that can hold birdseed or berries. Use some string to tie it in a tree, or secure it to a railing or windowsill. Count how many different types of birds come to enjoy a snack!

Have a picnic. Pack up a blanket, some water, and your favorite foods and go on a picnic. You can spread out in a park or nature reserve and take in your surroundings with a family member or friend. It’s also a great way to socialize while social distancing because each person can have their own space.

Go to an outdoor event. As the weather gets nicer, more organizations are shifting events outside again. You can listen to music, take in a show, watch a movie, participate in a fitness class, or do other activities. Ask around to see what is happening in your area.

Move exercise outside. If you’re tired of staring at the walls of your house as you exercise, take it outside instead. You can do yoga, stretches, cardio, aerobics, biking, swimming, hiking, running, and countless other types of exercise while enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, and change of scenery.

Take steps to boost your mood this spring and get involved with a variety of activities. An in-home caregiver can not only provide you with companionship but can also escort you on outings, help you find different classes to sign up for, and assist with a range of daily activities. Contact Always Best Care today at (855) 470-2273 to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how you could benefit from available senior services.

What You Need to Know About Osteoarthritis

A common condition that affects many seniors is osteoarthritis. Because this type of arthritis develops over time as the cartilage between joints begins to wear down, it is usually associated with aging. While it can be bothersome, there are also some ways to help manage symptoms and allow you to continue doing many activities that you enjoy.

What Joints are Affected?

Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, but many seniors feel it in their hands, hips, knees, or lower back. These are joints that are often used a lot throughout the day and therefore experience more wear and tear. With repeated motion, the tissue and cartilage that protects the ends of the bones and keeps them from rubbing against one another break down.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Two common symptoms are pain and stiffness in the affected joints, but they can come and go. You may feel sore and stiff when you first wake up and try to get out of bed, or after sitting for a while and then transitioning to standing. Once you are up and moving, these symptoms may diminish.

You may also notice:

  • A grating feeling in the joint due to the bones rubbing against one another. It may pop or crack.
  • Poor range of motion and not being able to fully extend or move the joint.
  • Swelling and tenderness due to inflammation of the surrounding tissue.

The joint may become sore and painful by the end of the day because of a lot of movement during the day. It’s important to find a balance between being active and resting. Listen to your body.

Managing Osteoarthritis

Weight management: One way to help manage symptoms is to maintain a healthy weight. This can ease pressure and stress on your joints which may in turn reduce wear, pain, and inflammation. Focus on eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise.

Exercise: It may seem counterintuitive to exercise if you have joint pain, but staying active and promoting increased flexibility can actually help. Not using your joints can cause them to become even stiffer and more immobile. You want to keep strengthening and stretching your muscles and improving your range of motion.

Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy can also be beneficial to help you adapt and learn alternative ways of doing things to compensate for issues caused by osteoarthritis. You may find adaptive equipment reduces strain on your joints and makes certain tasks easier.

Medication: Your doctor may also prescribe medications to help reduce inflammation and swelling, ease pain, and support joint motion. Sometimes injections are used to add extra cushioning and fluid in the joint. Eventually, joint replacement may be recommended if more conservative measures are not helping and osteoarthritis is significantly impacting your quality of life.

Assistive Care: Partnering with an in-home caregiver can also help by providing you with the level of support you need to continue aging in place as safely and comfortably as possible. A caregiver can assist with a wide range of daily living activities from wake-up routines and meal preparation to light housekeeping and escorting you on errands.

Contact Always Best Care today at (855) 470-2273 to schedule a free consultation and find out how an in-home caregiver can benefit you if you’re living with osteoarthritis.

Always Best Care CEO: No Silver Bullet to Home Care’s Staffing Problems

Home care operators have had to work around plenty of new challenges since last spring, from sourcing personal protective equipment to securing Paycheck Protection Program loans. Yet an old operational hurdle remains the toughest to overcome: staffing.

Even amid the pandemic, most home care businesses have managed to grow. That growth has continued in 2021 for many, including the Roseville, California-based Always Best Care, a PE-backed home care franchiser with hundreds of locations nationwide.

To capitalize on current and future growth opportunities, home care providers will need to perfect the art of recruitment and retention, Always Best Care CEO Jake Brown told Home Health Care News. There’s no single silver bullet to doing that, but there are several common-sense actions savvy providers can take now to win the hiring game.

HHCN caught up with Brown for an inside look at Always Best Care’s recruitment and retention practices. Highlights from that conversation with Brown are below, edited for length and clarity.

HHCN: It has been a while since we last connected. What does the Always Best Care system look like as of April 2021?

Brown: As of this moment, we have 213 locations in 29 states. We’re in 100-plus markets overall. In our franchise model, we’ve traditionally had three possible offerings for owners to consider. Those three offerings are non-medical in-home care, assisted living referral services and home health care. I would say that the majority of our business, the core of our business, is the non-medical in-home care area. Assisted living referral services are a relatively small percentage — and it got even smaller last year with the onset of COVID.

I imagine that segment saw some turbulence last year.

It definitely took a hit. It’s slowly but surely rebounding a little bit. The home health segment is also a very small percentage of our overall network. We actually only have three of our franchise owners that have become involved in that. There’s nothing right now in terms of expansion in that category, just given the current environment.

It was an up-and-down year for a lot of health care providers, but many home care organizations have reported growth since last spring. How about Always Best Care?

It was a good-news story for us as well. We experienced solid growth in 2020. We ended the year system-wide at $171 million, which was an increase over the prior year when we did $163 million. So, yes, we saw solid growth in 2020, and it’s continuing to be even better in 2021, which is exciting. We experienced an even higher rate of growth in the first quarter. During Q1, we were at $45.5 million, which was up compared to the same period a year before, when we did $41.8 million.

We have every expectation that’s going to continue throughout the year in 2021.

What are the factors driving that growth? At HHCN, for example, we’ve reported on how more people are beginning to value non-medical home care for its ability to lower costs.

I think that’s absolutely an accurate statement. Some of the acute care organizations or facilities out there, they, all of a sudden, realized just how necessary it is to try to slow down the onslaught of patients into their facilities. It almost feels like overnight, they realized that non-medical in-home care is a good way to help accomplish that goal. At the same time, there have been a lot of issues with long-term care facilities, with clients and patients wanting to migrate out of those places.

There is just clearly a stronger emphasis on being able to be at home right now.

I know you said revenue was up in 2020 and in the early part of this year, but what about growth in the form of new franchise locations or territories?

We had a great Q1 in that respect, too. We actually added five locations in Q1 alone. If that continues, that’s going to put us at a better growth rate than in 2020. We’re excited about that, getting off to such a good start. If that continues, we could increase our number of units by 10% or more. So far, so good.

There’s no shortage of things that you could pick to answer this question. But what do you consider to be the biggest challenge in home care right now?

Without a doubt, the biggest challenge in home care is the availability of really good caregivers. It has obviously always been a challenge in our industry. The demand for care at home continues to go up at a sharp rate. The aging population that needs care continues to grow at a rapid rate. But the number of people who are available and willing to supply that care doesn’t match up. It’s your typical supply-and-demand imbalance.

Those factors already existed, but then you throw on top of that the whole COVID-19 situation, which had a significant impact on the availability of caregivers. Government-funded programs, including more robust unemployment benefits, moved some people out of the workforce. Meanwhile, many other industries outside of ours are vying for this same type of worker. They’re potentially willing to push up pay rates. It’s been a challenging 12 months on the workforce side. If you asked almost any of our franchise owners the same question, that’s it — they’d also say it’s the availability of caregivers.

A lot of providers are forced to turn away clients. Has Always Best Care had to do that?

I would say not so much, fortunately. We’ve mostly been able to care for everyone who needs our services, but not without a lot of pain. Our owners are pretty resourceful and tenacious. They’re always working to fulfill the demand for the services. Sometimes, it may be a difficult job. It could be costly. Sometimes, it may involve, “Okay. Now we’ve got to start paying overtime to meet the demand.” Or it may mean, “We’ve got to scramble just to find somebody.” For the most part, we’re able to manage the crises as they arise. That claim is supported by our growth. We have a significant percentage of our franchise owners growing, which they couldn’t necessarily do if they were turning down business.

Speaking of investing in the home care worker, that’s something that President Joe Biden has talked a lot about — how all Americans should be able to receive care in the home if they want it. It’s more than just talk at this point, too, with the American Rescue Plan and the American Jobs plan both including home-based care provisions. What’s your take on all of that?

It has been interesting to follow. I’m on the board of directors for the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA). Just before talking to you, we scheduled some time to get together as a board to talk about this topic. We’re working to develop our position.

Putting details aside, the one thing I can say is that it’s great to see. It’s great to see home care front-and-center on a national level. But before we get too excited, we have to really understand what these new policies look like. We have to weigh the pros and cons. The American Jobs Plan’s language presents maybe more opportunities for home care workers to unionize. That proposal offers up $400 billion for home- and community-based care, but we need to know exactly how the money would be funneled and directed. But again, it’s nice to see home-based care is coming to the forefront and being recognized as a core component of the continuum of care. And, you know, it’s great that home care professionals are actually being recognized.

The non-medical home care industry is largely private pay. Is there a way to direct the money where private-pay services are truly recognized? Is there a way to maybe set aside funds to directly reimburse those services? This industry is an essential part of the overall care continuum that allows for aging in place. Whatever needs to be done to support private-pay home care organizations, let’s figure it out and do it. I also want to note, though, that a lot of our franchise owners are involved in state Medicaid programs. So, in that regard, we’re not totally unhappy with what we’re seeing.

Circling back to the recruitment and retention point, what is Always Best Care doing to attract and keep its employees?

All of our home care franchise locations are independently owned and operated businesses. As such, they apply their own techniques to achieve that. Corporately, we try to do what we can to drive success in that area. There’s no silver bullet. It’s a function of doing many things consistently. But we’ve tried to assist our franchise owners by driving some lead generation. Our marketing department invests both time and human resources. We use various platforms like Hireology and Indeed. We have a focus on social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We have monthly newsletters that we generate for our franchise owners that we direct toward home care professionals and potential home care professionals. We’re constantly working with our franchise owners to take a look at what they’re doing locally to maximize recruitment — just all the little things that ultimately add up.

Equally important to getting the lead is figuring out how to convert that lead to a hire, so we’re also constantly working with franchise owners on things like timely follow-up with candidates to securing appointments and interviews. From lead generation and conversion, the question is, “Great. We’ve got this person hired, but how do we retain them?” We actually developed an entire caregiver-centric training program.

What we know helps retain caregivers is understanding what their schedule wishes are. The No. 1 item is flexible schedules and convenient assignments. The No. 2 item is ongoing training and certification. You have to have an education program. It almost goes without saying, but the third item is competitive wages. You’ve got to be able to compete and understand what’s going on in your market. Under that, there can be multiple things like maybe a daily-pay option or possible performance bonuses. Lastly, you have to look at what benefits you’re providing. Do you have a recognition program? Do you have a caregiver-satisfaction program? Do you offer health insurance or 401(k) programs?

Let’s shift gears entirely and talk about a big topic over the past couple of weeks: private equity in health care. What has your experience been with private equity?

It has been a very excellent experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Gemini and Plenary. Our deal was done in April 2016. It has just been a great experience since. It has been, I would say, a value-add to our organization. They bring a fair amount of strategic value.

Another thing that we’ve been reporting on pretty frequently here has been the M&A activity that we’re seeing in the home care space. A couple of major deals have happened in 2021.

I did see the two big deals that I think you’re talking about — Seniors Helpers and Home Helpers. I actually communicated with both Peter Ross and Emma Dickison after I heard about them. We’re a pretty close-knit group. I haven’t heard anything else. But, of course, you never know. There was obviously kind of a flurry of activity back in the 2015-2016 timeframe. You may see a cycle again. I think typically these things are held close to the vest until they actually come to fruition.

Any other predictions for home care this year?

I think there’s probably going to be increased regulatory emphasis on non-medical home care. States or governmental bodies may try to increase rules and regulations around licensure requirements. From our perspective, we embrace that. We think that’s a good thing. We believe that helps bring even greater credibility to our industry. Always Best Care is in 29 states. There are a lot of differences from state to state, and we think stronger consistency would be beneficial. Beyond that, I think telehealth is going to continue to play a huge role, with its usage probably growing even more. We’re actually right now doing a pilot test on a telehealth platform. I think the Medicare Advantage plans will continue to evolve. I think non-medical home care will carve out a more prominent standing in that space.

This article in the news >>

Flu vs. COVID-19: What’s the Difference?

For years, October through May has been known as flu season, because that is the time of year when cases are the highest. But this year, another disease is out in full force as well: COVID-19. While there are some similarities between these two viruses, there are also some notable differences.

Seniors may be at higher risk for developing more serious cases of COVID-19 or experiencing complications from the virus. Since these diseases are caused by two different viruses – the influenza virus and the coronavirus – it is possible to be infected by both at once. It is important for seniors to be aware of potential symptoms and let their doctor know if they believe they may have either disease.

Similarities Between the Flu and COVID-19

It can be difficult to differentiate between these two viruses because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified numerous overlapping symptoms including:

  • Fever/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pains or body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting or diarrhea (more common in children)

Differences Between the Flu and COVID-19

Loss of taste/smell: One major difference in symptoms is that COVID-19 can cause a loss of taste or smell, and this not common with the flu. If you notice that you suddenly have trouble smelling your morning cup of coffee (and it’s not just because of nasal congestion), or foods taste differently than they normally do, you may want to let your doctor know so that you can be tested for COVID-19.

Incubation time: Another difference is that you typically begin developing symptoms of the flu within one to four days of exposure. With COVID-19, it can take anywhere from two to 14 days for symptoms to develop. In addition, COVID-19 appears to spread more quickly than the flu.

Presence of symptoms: With both the flu and COVID-19, individuals can range from asymptomatic to mild to severe cases. However, it appears that COVID-19 is associated with more severe illness than the flu, though this can vary from one person to the next. COVID-19 currently has a higher rate of mortality than the flu, and seems to cause more significant lung damage.

Treatment: There are a few antivirals that may be used to treat the flu and reduce symptoms, but currently only one antiviral – remdesivir – has been approved to treat COVID-19, and its effectiveness is still being studied.

Vaccinations: The flu vaccine has been around for decades. It changes every year based on what strain of the disease scientists believe will be most prevalent. The COVID-19 vaccine was just released in December 2020, and received an emergency use authorization. There are currently two vaccines being administered with more in development. Much like the flu vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine could prevent you from getting the virus or reduce the severity of the illness.

Preventing the Flu and COVID-19

To reduce your risk of contracting either of these viruses, the following safety precautions are recommended:

  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Wipe down commonly touched surfaces with an approved disinfectant.
  • Stay at least six feet away from others when possible.
  • Wear a mask when social distancing is not possible.
  • Avoid mass gatherings and poorly ventilated areas.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, eyes, or nose as much as possible.

If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting tested. The tests for influenza and COVID-19 are different, so you may be tested for both if your doctor is unsure. Continue practicing good hygiene and safety to reduce your risk of becoming ill.

Always Best Care takes safety seriously, and all in-home caregivers follow strict protocols regarding COVID-19. They are taking appropriate steps to protect themselves and the seniors they care for. To learn more or schedule a free consultation, contact Always Best Care at (855) 470-2273.


Why Getting an Annual Flu Shot is Essential for Senior Health

Flu season is in full swing, but if you haven’t already gotten your flu shot, it’s not too late. You can still get one now to help protect you during the coming months. According to the CDC, “People 65 years and older are at high risk of developing serious complications from the flu compared with young, healthy adults.” Also, given the current coronavirus pandemic, it is even more essential for seniors to take precautions against getting sick.

The flu virus is constantly changing, and scientists update the vaccine each year to align with what they predict the most common strains will be. That means that you need to get a new shot every year. Although it does not guarantee that you will not get sick, it can help lessen the severity of symptoms if you do.

Even though you have likely been exposed to more flu viruses during your lifetime, as you age, your immune system weakens leaving you more susceptible to illness and complications. In battling the flu, you could be at higher risk for developing pneumonia or bronchitis, which can be difficult to overcome. This puts a lot of strain on your body and can lead to hospital stays and lingering effects.

A Flu Shot Just for Seniors

Recognizing this increased risk, scientists have developed specialized flu shots just for seniors. The high-dose vaccine contains four times the amount of antigens as the standard flu shot. The adjuvanted flu vaccine contains a substance that also boosts immune response and can help ward off the flu virus. Studies have shown that this can be an effective way of helping to prevent illness in addition to usual safety precautions such as regularly washing your hands and avoiding contact with people who are sick.

In addition, individuals who are age 65 or older can also get a pneumococcal vaccine to help protect against pneumonia, another common illness that often develops during flu season as well and that can be a complication of the flu.

Staying Safe

Talk to your doctor about which flu shot may be the best option for you, and whether or not you should also receive the pneumococcal vaccine. Many insurance plans, including Medicare Part B, cover flu vaccines at no cost to you. There are also many sites that provide free or low-cost shots because they want to help people stay healthy and reduce their risk of contracting the flu. Keep in mind that it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective, so the sooner you get it, the better.

Continuing to wear a mask and practicing social distancing can also help to reduce not just the spread of the coronavirus, but also of the flu. It can add another layer of protection and keep you from spreading as many germs if you happen to be sick.

To minimize your exposure and ensure that you’re still receiving the level of care you need, hiring an in-home caregiver can be beneficial. This allows you to have someone there who can help you with a wide range of tasks and provide the support you need to safely age in place. Call Always Best Care today at (855) 470-2273 to schedule a free consultation.