Senior citizens are often a community’s strongest supporters. They shop at their favorite small businesses, volunteer at local events and know town traditions inside and out. However, sometimes members of the senior community need some support of their own.
Aging Best, a non-profit Area Agency on Aging (AAA), is an organization that steps in to lend a hand. They empower senior citizens to be as independent as possible. A team of 142 employees coordinates diverse support services across 19 counties in Central Missouri. A smart safety culture powers their success and allows their support services to shine.
A day in the life: Senior support services at Aging Best
The Aging Best team is made up of both full- and part-time professionals. Administrators and case managers help direct services. Staff members execute programs and provide resources. Ombudsmen tend to concerns or issues that arise in long-term care settings. Together, they offer senior citizens, and their caretakers:
- Access. Seniors can take advantage of application assistance, legal services, and transportation.
- Connection. Clients are connected to supplemental services, such cleaning and in-home respite, that allow them to remain in their homes.
- Nutrition. Staff prepare meals and help plan health-conscious diets.
- Support. Family caregivers can tap in to resources, and short-term care can be arranged.
Safety risks on the job
Caring for seniors is a hands-on job. Safety challenges are present in many roles. Staff must be careful while conducting assessments in client homes or care facilities. Many team members drive across several counties a day. They attend meetings and events, deliver meals and carry out inspections. Others spend their time in the kitchen preparing meals, where knives and wet floors present a danger of cuts and slips.
This wide array of support comes with serious safety responsibility. Rebecca Nowlin, Chief Executive Officer and Nate Wall, Director of Human Resources, lead the charge.
Why safety culture shines at Aging Best
For a time, staff didn’t know the positive impact safety has on a workplace. Further, they didn’t know how claims affect employers. It wasn’t that they weren’t willing to work safely. They simply didn’t know what it meant. As a result, injuries and e-mod were rising.
The tide turned in 2019. A change in staff at all levels helped usher in new safety practices. Rich Miller, the company’s agent at TIG Advisors, remembers how the team was ready and willing to change. “We started proactively a few years ago when we met with the entire staff at a group meeting,” he explained. “We educated on the experience modification and how that affects premiums.”
Firstly, the agency helped show the true cost of claims. Then, they partnered with MEM to make the most of safety support. “Aging Best was receptive and open to this plan and the results have been good.”
Putting changes in place
Now, safety starts with agency leaders and spreads to employees in all departments and roles. Administrators and managers went through training. Then, employees were educated. The results have been positive. Most importantly, injuries and e-mod are down. With employees on board, the organization started by making some key changes to build a safety culture:
- Change the hiring process. New employees are carefully chosen. Managers ask more questions than they used to. For example, if they can perform the job duties, or need accommodation. They search for qualified people to fill open positions.
- Require yearly training. Every employee must take yearly safety training. Aging Best finds that MEM’s videos are a great place to start. Staff learn how to lift, drive and use knives safely. Further, some team members undergo extra training if their role requires it.
- Update technology. Better technology helps staff work effectively. A Client Management System helps staff stay organized. New cell phones, laptops and hotspots make work more efficient.
- Review safety rules and policies. All safety policies and procedures are reviewed and updated regularly. A standardized internal investigation process has also been put in place. If an incident happens, then it is carefully reviewed to prevent it from occurring again.
- Improve reporting process. The reporting process was refreshed. Staff are encouraged to report any incidents. They use MEM’s online portal to report incidents quickly.
The organization also takes advantage of safety opportunities, like MEM’s Safety Grant program. “Being able to apply for Safety Grants and the entire application process made everyone think about safety in a way we hadn’t before,” Wall shared.
Staying flexible in changing times
Businesses with successful safety cultures stay flexible. They are ready to make changes when needed. Aging Best stays open to safety evaluations. MEM’s Safety and Risk Services team visits from time to time. Consultant Dale Muenks has provided support for the past several years.
Aging Best has also changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID can have a significant impact on the health of a senior citizen. Staff going into care facilities closely follow safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Servers take extra safety precautions while handling food. Curbside pickup is now available. Meetings and consultations are now virtual. These changes will continue into the future; they save the company money and help minimize safety risks.
“We’ve really been preaching that safety belongs to every employee,” Wall explained. Employees have stepped up at every level. As Aging Best serves the senior community and caregivers of Central Missouri, their safety culture and service shine.