The crisis linked to the coronavirus pandemic has had a heavy impact on many industries. Some sectors of the economy are still registering losses, and since April we have been dealing with an increase in unemployment in Poland. What is the situation in the senior care market? Has the crisis also affected you?
Dariusz Siedlecki: Faced with the dynamically changing situation caused by the coronavirus, we acted quickly and found a way to find ourselves in the new reality. We immediately implemented new recruitment procedures and emphasized maximum security. Like workers in some other industries, caregivers of the elderly couldn’t afford to switch to remote work. After all, the tutor can support his ward only through direct contact. However, thanks to the implementation of appropriate procedures, we managed to meet all the challenges. The coronavirus pandemic has increased the demand for professional home care, and we are operating at full capacity and still looking for hands to work with.
What security procedures are we talking about?
DS: It is above all a question of limiting the risk of infection from the moment of recruitment until the caregiver’s return from contract. In the spring, we introduced the possibility of remote sourcing of caregiver candidates. Travel to Germany, where we have the most clients, is done in small buses that are regularly ozonated from the carer’s home to the retirement home. We have also recently offered free coronavirus tests to everyone crossing the Oder, and for many months before departure we monitor the health of our colleagues. We can therefore be sure that only people who show no symptoms of COVID-19 leave for the contract. In addition, Promedica24 maintainers can count on the support of contract coordinators and a 24-hour emergency helpline.
Nevertheless, hasn’t the coronavirus situation aroused the concern of caregivers? Direct contact with a foreigner and a stay abroad are certainly factors that can cause anxiety.
DS: At the beginning, in the spring, there were of course some concerns, but we quickly overcame them, providing our caregivers and their loved ones with maximum support in the first weeks of the pandemic. As I mentioned, we have implemented security measures covering all stages of cooperation. It was also extremely important from the point of view of our customers. After all, the elderly people assisted by our guardians are people belonging to an increased risk group. Therefore, extreme caution is an essential requirement. Caregivers leaving for Promedica24 orders can count on us. These people are covered by public and private insurance, so if necessary, they can receive medical assistance also outside Poland.
Why do you mainly focus on providing care services in Germany in your activities?
DS: This is due to the ever-increasing demand for elderly care services in this country and the enormous interest in working in the Oder. It should be remembered that around 17 million people over the age of 65 currently live in the aging German society. Polish caregivers enjoy great trust and reputation among them. Our associates have proven themselves to be hard-working people, full of empathy and understanding for the elderly. At the same time, as our research-based experience shows, Germany is the most chosen destination for business trips abroad. This is due not only to the opportunities offered by the extremely absorbing labor market, but also to the geographical proximity of the country. Despite the restrictions, it is still possible to go to work in Germany, which is very popular with thousands of Poles. Among them are both young people who have just entered the labor market and are looking for their own career path, as well as more experienced people who have lost their current source of income due to the pandemic. Promedica24 tutors value the fact that our company offers stable, legal work and fixed compensation.
Caring for an elderly person is certainly a demanding job. What skills should an ideal candidate have?
DS: We are looking for responsible and empathetic people. Those who are ready to accompany seniors on a daily basis. The candidate does not always need to have many years of professional experience. We offer a wide range of training, both professional and linguistic, which will fully prepare any conscientious person for work. Promedica24 is open to cooperation with people of all ages. For us, it’s not age or gender that counts, but soft skills and openness to changes in professional life. Caregiver work is also an opportunity for people over 50, who often struggle with the problem of exclusion. With us, these people flourish very well, proving that their life experience is extremely valuable in the profession.
There is a belief that the profession of caring for the elderly is primarily a profession for women. Is it right?
DS: Unfortunately, this is a damaging stereotype that does not correspond at all to modern realities. Just as we will find many outstanding female specialists in the IT sector or the construction industry, we will also find many professional male caregivers. We are also always happy that so many women decide to change their professional life so far by deciding to cooperate with us. As I mentioned, at Promedica24, what matters most are the soft skills and the willingness to work. The work of caring for the elderly consists above all in establishing close contact with the person cared for, establishing a good relationship with him, supporting him in daily activities. Women and men cooperate with our company, which approaches their tasks professionally.
What are the prospects for the skincare industry in the years to come?
DS: Even if everyone is not yet aware of it, the profession of helping the elderly is subject to a profound professionalization. You can even venture to say that in a few years or a dozen years, specialist tutors will be as much in demand on the job market as specialists in the sectors concerned. This will happen because the percentage of elderly people in Western European societies will continue to increase, which will increase the demand for workers. A holistic and systemic approach to elder care will be rewarded, so that tomorrow’s caregivers can boast unique skills and experiences valued by employers. It should be emphasized that in the coming years the goalkeeper should not be replaced by a robot. The care industry is extremely resistant to automation. According to research, contact with another person and ordinary conversation is one of the most important needs of the elderly, and so far, artificial intelligence is not able to replace interpersonal relationships. However, it is to be expected that technology will support the independence of the senior (at the same time giving them a greater sense of security) and prolong the period of their independence, which will also result in the lengthening of the so-called incoming care. At the same time, it will serve to facilitate caregivers, but in fact it will not take precedence over their professional duties.
So how do you see your company’s role in all of this?
DS: The role of Promedica24 in the years to come will be, as before, to ensure a constant increase in the quality of services through the maintenance of extensive training programs and comprehensive support for associates. We still see great potential in Western European markets, especially in Germany. Perhaps soon we will be able to talk about a similar potential also in the Polish market, where we also offer our services today, but not yet on such a large scale. This is due to our specificity – culturally, we are even more inclined to take care of elderly parents by their children. Due to the increase in the percentage of elderly people, professional support will be increasingly necessary. The latest survey conducted by PolSenior showed that in 30 years, a third of our population will be made up of people over the age of 65. Already, more than half of Polish seniors between the ages of 80 and 84 say they need professional help in their daily functioning. Dependent seniors must have access to it in all circumstances. Companies like ours exist to meet that demand.