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Aging in Place in Unprecedented Times: How the Pandemic Is Changing Home Care

In this episode of Help Choose Home, the podcast is joined by Sheila McMackin, a licensed clinical social worker, founder of Wellspring Personal Care and founder and past president of the Home Care Association of America.

Sheila has served on the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Home Health, Home Services and Home Nursing Advisory Board, as well as the board of directors of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly, Chicago Chapter.

Topics discussed include:

  • How to best search for safe and effective home care in a post-pandemic world
  • Strategies for tackling the industry-wide staffing crisis
  • The centrality of relationships and personal trust to the home care industry

Conversation Highlights:

As consumers become increasingly savvy, they’re learning to look for local home care organizations that are licensed by state agencies. Licensing organizations often feature a table listing all the home care agencies that are licensed by that state, which is a good place to start when seeking home care.

Sheila recommends that consumers ask home care organizations if they are licensed and what kind of licenses they have.

In an industry built on relationships, it’s essential that consumers feel they can trust the organization they work with. Sheila claims the entire business of home care can be distilled down to good relationships, and encourages home care providers to be as available as possible and offer in-person meetings whenever available. This puts families at ease as they allow strangers to come into the home and care for a beloved family member.

Even with 28 years of experience, Sheila is still learning. The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged her to be even more transparent with families who have become increasingly interested in understanding the inner workings of the home care process.

By remaining open with families about safety precautions, Sheila has been able to soothe anxieties. More families are choosing home care over institutional care during the pandemic, and more families have found their home care providers through the internet.

When families are highly engaged in the care of their loved ones, even more patience and compassion is needed from the home care organization. Many family members are in emotional distress by the time they seek out home care, and it’s imperative that organizations take responsibility over the situation and offer a calming presence, especially during the pandemic.

As many parts of the healthcare system fall short during an unprecedented global health crisis, organizations are being asked to step up.

Consumers concerned about finding care for loved ones are encouraged to rely on word-of-mouth referrals, social networks and medical professionals’ expertise. Sheila’s advice to consumers is to be patient but diligent in doing their research as they navigate the home care industry, even if care won’t be needed for another few years.

After listening to this episode, you’ll come away with a greater understanding of the centrality of relationship-building in the home care industry. You may even be inspired to research home care options for your loved ones in order to better prepare for the future.

You can listen to this episode here, or on Apple Podcasts, Google, YouTube or wherever you listen to podcasts.

To learn more about the effects of the pandemic on home healthcare, listen to my interview with Jeff Bevis, founder and CEO of FirstLight Home Care. Learn about the increasing demand for and benefits of at-home senior care in the pandemic and why it’s important to have a commitment to customer service.

If this episode has been helpful, be sure to leave a five-star review and share the podcast with your friends to help us in the national effort to educate about home healthcare options! You can connect with our host Merrily Orsini, on Twitter: @MerrilyO.


The Help Choose Home podcast series is a collaborative effort by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, Axxess and corecubed to educate the public about the many benefits of the in-home care industry, which includes non-medical home care, private duty nursing care, medical home health, hospice and other in-home health and wellness services.

Access the full Help Choose Home podcast library here.

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