6 reasons to understand how the aging brain affects our interactions with senior customers
One out of five U.S. families is dealing with dementia today. In 15 years one out of two families will be dealing with dementia.[i] Whether serving a multi-generational household or a couple of 65+ empty nesters, cleaning companies will encounter more seniors, and more seniors with diminished sight, hearing and other brain function and even persons living with dementia. Cleaning business owners who are able to apply knowledge about how seniors and those living with dementia see the world around them will benefit in an array of important ways.
Whether or not you choose to market this specialized service as a distinction, you will need this knowledge to serve an aging customer base better than your competitors. The extent that you succeed will be determined by two things. The first is your ability to effectively raise awareness by staff of some critical techniques that are so simple they will seem obvious with post-training hindsight. Along with that they must be able to execute fairly consistently.
The good news is, once your staff understands how the aging brain changes the person’s view of their world, empathy usually comes easily. When the representatives of your company can relate well to people suffering dementia in the homes they clean, human nature will motivate staff to continually employ these principles and techniques. The caveat is that you must build a positive internal culture to attract and retain employees who take pride in their work.
Research shows that a key criteria to long-term customer relationships is trust. People don’t trust just anyone with their most valuable possession and their most intimate belongings. This makes trust the one criteria that is judged all over again on each cleaning visit – more so than quality or price. And this is never truer than with a home resident who needs to be re-introduced to the team as a regular event during the cleaning visit.
There is a right way to introduce yourself to a person with diminished vision or hearing or cognitive ability and the proper technique will go a long way toward (1) helping that person feel secure and calm during the cleaning visit and (2) keeping the family’s satisfaction consistently high. If you are able to adapt your approach when greeting these customers you can protect against client attrition for non-cleaning related reasons.
In seems counter-intuitive but taking the time up front for introductions and making a connection with a senior in the home or a person living with dementia can help promote productivity in the home.
The movements and noises you make while cleaning can be a lot of stimulus to process at once as the brain continues to age. For a person living with dementia their disease may make it harder for them to distinguish your uniform from a health care provider. Once the person understands who you are each visit you have a better chance of getting down to business and staying focused in production.
HR experts stress the importance of recognition to keep employees engaged and happy. Cleaning companies that can establish a hierarchy of skill and a clear path for job advancement will better harness human nature toward employee development with increased job satisfaction as a natural outcome.
Specialized training on the cleaner’s role when dementia and senior factors are in play will help employees appreciate the value you place on your staff and motivates them to master new skills and earn recognition and elevated status for so doing.
Average in-home times
Because time is essential in providing satisfactory (or better) service in a home where a person is living with dementia, it is fair to build this time into your price. Most customers can justify five to ten additional minutes per visit because the value to their spouse’s or parent’s immediate well-being is clear. Although it would seem otherwise, building this time into your quote will actually save time in the long run by helping to keep the team productive and efficient.
Cognitive health depends to large degree on the immediately surrounding environment. Toxins in the neighborhood and toxins in the home can be detrimental to neurological systems. Home residents have an intimate relationship with cleaning solutions through skin contact with chemical residues, ingestion through overspray or inhalation of VOCs. You are probably not making dementia worse with cleaning agents you use but certain chemicals, and particularly the fragrances in many chemicals, can have acute adverse effects on the mood, concentration levels and physical comfort of the resident with dementia.
For their compromised cognitive processes persons living with dementia, whether elderly or not, are a vulnerable population to environmental toxins. Understanding this dynamic equips the house cleaner to make informed choices about which cleaning solutions to use and where to use them. This care to protect the health of this special population is central to the whole notion of cleaning for health.
The successful business owner adapts to external forces which affect their business. Much talk has been made of the unique needs of new populations such as millennial, multi-cultural, alternative and diverse households. Recognizing our country’s cognitive health trends and learning to meet the needs of households where seniors and persons living with dementia live is a proactive measure to promoting good business health.
[i] Snow, Teepa. The Umbrella of Dementia, Positive Approach to Care, 2017.