A Compassionate Approach

Kinder Caring

Like all the Kinder Caring management, Ms Blake is a Registered Nurse but surprisingly, no medical background or qualifications whatsoever are necessary to own and operate a home care business. “There’s no rules and regulations, anyone can start up,” she explains. “You don’t have to be accredited.”

The shocking truth is that Australia’s home care industry is full of unqualified home care operators prioritising profits over people’s health and wellbeing. In fact, many home care providers today are operating out of the back room of a suburban house! The difference in Kinder Caring service starts from the way a client is received when they make their first phone call to the office, and continues with recruiting and retaining the best possible carers.

When elderly people are stripped of their dignity and their sense of independence, it is nothing short of a tragedy. For every underfunded and understaffed nursing home out there, there are thousands of untold stories of neglect and abuse. “Some of the stories are horrific,” says Ms Blake. “I could write a book. It would be horrifying though, some of the things I’ve seen… Even in home care, you see people being neglected.” From her prior experiences working in nursing homes, Ms Blake could see that the needs of the elderly were being met with a regimented approach; people were being treated like numbers and not given choices.

The impetus to start Kinder Caring came about when Ms Blake was the Director of a nursing home. A financially independent woman in her nineties with a private room upstairs had a succession of mini-strokes. “I believed that we should get her a carer upstairs in the room that she was used to. I wanted to get her a carer to get her out of the room and give her some quality of life.” At the time, Ms Blake went to every agency around and could not find anyone to do the job. Ultimately, the woman had to be moved downstairs into a room shared with dementia patients, which was understandably traumatic for her. Ms Blake knew that there had to be a better way, and went on to establish Kinder Caring.

With offices in Sydney, Melbourne, and Queensland, Kinder Caring provides the elderly, sick, disabled and dying with endless options for care specially tailored to suit the lifestyle and spiritual and cultural needs of the individual. Service options range from one hour to 24-hour care and are available 365 days of the year. The three hour Discharge Home Safe Package has been developed to take clients home from hospital and get them settled in safely. A Kinder Caring staff member will go to the hospital, liaise with the discharge planner, meet the client, bring them home and set them up in the house. Clients can arrange to be picked up with their own car or a company car. Many post operation clients are now using this fuss-free service, which can include cooking and shopping. The organisation is also providing more disability care now, due to growing need.

People in need of care come from all walks of life; a client could be a first time mum who needs a hand. “For a mother with a baby, more often than not we would only put in people who are mothers or have experience with children.” Sometimes a client will come from a non-English speaking background. “With the people that we have we can usually match them up with those who can’t speak English. If we haven’t got a match for them we will recruit.” Many of the Indian and Filipino carers on the books are Registered Nurses in their home country, and can communicate with clients in their native language. All of the Registered Nurses and carers at Kinder Caring are police checked and insured. “The success of the entire business rests on matching the right carers with the right clients. For example, we have a lot of male carers and sometimes they’re requested over the female ones,” remarks Ms Blake. “That’s a question we always ask, ‘Would you like a male or female carer?’”

When taking on a new client, Kinder Caring always sends out a Registered Nurse to conduct an assessment to determine the needs of the person. “You can always get a much better idea of the people if you go out to meet them and they develop much more confidence in you. That’s why we always like to use experienced Registered Nurses… More often than not, these people have experience working in nursing homes and other aged care settings.”

It is a challenge for Kinder Caring to compete with fly-by-night operations on price alone. “They haven’t got the overheads that we have because they don’t have the big offices and can undercut us,” explains Ms Blake. “They can accept payment in cash. We have to compete against these sorts of people who are not regulated, don’t have the overheads and can charge what they want. They never come under anybody’s eye really; they can do what they want.” Quality care does not come cheap, particularly in situations where 24-hour care is required, but Kinder Caring strives to make it more affordable for families. “People might be able to get an Aged Care Package if they’re lucky (although there’s always a waiting list for that) and then we’ll subsidise or substitute it. To make it cheaper, we try with our 24-hour clients to have a live in carer who does eight hours of active work but has to stay on the premises for twelve. A lot of elderly or sick people don’t really require more than eight hours’ work, so long as you’re there to keep them safe.”

The home care industry is changing all the time and OH&S is a key issue. Workers’ compensation claims have put a strain on Kinder Caring in the past and Ms Blake emphasises that a client’s home must be safe for both the client and the carer. “We haven’t had many claims but the claims that we’ve had have been big claims,” she explains. “I think that the rules around workers’ compensation need to be reviewed because carers can get away with anything. The case managers are changing all the time; you’re always speaking to a different case manager. The other problem that we have now is dealing with all the Fair Work orders.” Many carers are now signing up with up to four different agencies because they cannot work back-to-back shifts with one agency anymore.

Dealing with inexperienced competitors, compensation claims and Fair Work orders aside, finding the best possible people to send into clients’ homes is still the most challenging – and most critical – part of the business. “We really make an effort to get the right people into the right jobs; that’s the hardest part. We have a stringent interview process to make sure we get the right people.”

With more double income families, there is now a much wider market for home care. There is also an increased demand for palliative services, with more people wanting to pass away at home. People sometimes fall through the cracks of the hospital and nursing home system because no one has informed them of their options, but being a Registered Nurse like all the Kinder Caring management, Ms Blake has insider knowledge that can make a world of difference to a person in need. “People like us who know the system can explain it to them,” she says. For example, before taking out home care assistance, take the time to check out the agency thoroughly. “You need to read the terms and conditions carefully.” Ask if the carers are insured and police checked. Ask if the agency is accredited and find out what sort of systems are in place to check up on clients and recruit staff. Most importantly, make sure that the carer provided has the appropriate experience, skill set and personality.

Today, Kinder Caring is no longer involved with Veterans’ Affairs and does less government work overall for several reasons. The government jobs tend to be short-term work, which makes it difficult for carers to earn a decent wage and is not cost effective. Many other home care providers have headed in the same direction, particularly with giving away Veterans’ Affairs. People have been knocking on the door interested in buying Kinder Caring or acquiring the organisation as a part of an equity. There are no plans on the horizon yet but ultimately, Kinder Caring is focused on providing some of society’s most vulnerable citizens with quality home care.

At what may be the worst time in a person’s life, being able to receive care in the comfort of the home means being able to maintain some sense of control and normalcy. The team at Kinder Caring has found that the simple things, like having a client’s spouse or pet around, makes them less fearful of what they are experiencing. “We’re here to help people,” Ms Blake says simply.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

June 19, 2018, 8:20 PM AEST