Home Health Care: Safety and Awareness Issues
Synopsis: Information on important safety issues for home healthcare workers as well as safety guidelines for patients receiving home care.1
Author: Thomas C Weiss Contact: Disabled World
Published: 2013-09-09 Updated: 2016-04-08
The home healthcare industry in America is one that is certain to grow as the population ages. One of the issues with home healthcare is safety, not only for the people who receive care at home, but for health care workers as well. Ensuring the safety of everyone involved involves more than one article can possibly cover, yet there are some issues this article will approach.
Also referred to as domiciliary care or social care, is health care or supportive care provided in the patient's home by licensed healthcare professionals. It is often referred to as home health care or formal care. Often, the term home health care is used to distinguish it from non-medical care or custodial care, which is care that is provided by persons who are not nurses, doctors, or other licensed medical personnel.
One of these issues has to do with scams involving people who use disguises and false information in order to gain access to a person's home. These people have no intent other than to harm people financially, physically, or by stealing a person's property. Seniors and people with disabilities who receive healthcare at home are at risk of home invasion scams involving criminals who present themselves as being nursing assistants or home health aides.
There are individuals in society who prey upon people who need home healthcare services. These criminals show up at the homes of seniors and people with disabilities wearing medical scrubs carrying false badges or presenting other information that supposedly, 'proves,' they are home health aides, nursing assistants, or even nurses. These criminals by showing, 'proof,' of who they claim to work for, desire to enter a person's home and either attack the person, investigate the person's home for a future robbery, or gather the person's personal information with the goal of stealing the person's identity.
Common security measures do not deter these criminals. They believe that if they present themselves as aides or nurses with an official appearance and some kind of badge or identification they can simply come right into a person's home. Senior and Disability home healthcare clients need to learn to identify the specific badges and people they are accustomed to seeing from their home healthcare service.
Chart showing ways fake aides or nurses try to give themselves authority
Some of these criminals who present themselves as being aides or nurses might go so far as to offer to call their supposed, 'supervisor,' to calm the fears of home healthcare clients. The call such a criminal makes is usually to an accomplice. If the criminal offers to let you speak to their, 'supervisor,' tell them that you will call the company yourself. Ask for their name and do not allow them to use their own phone. If they insist, call 911 instead.
Become familiar with the aides and nurses you work with. If an aide tells you they are going to take some time off, ask about the aide who will be providing care for you while they are gone. If the aide does not know, call and ask your home healthcare service for the name of the aide you will be working with. If you do not know the aides, nurses and the home healthcare company you are working with - you are asking to become a victim of the kind of criminal mentioned.
Hiring Private Aides
While home healthcare agencies are many times a good choice for people who need frequent in home care services, some people choose to privately hire aides or nurses. The process can be tricky - agencies usually pre-screen employees for background checks and perform drug use checks as well. Allowing a stranger into your home on a consistent basis can be stressful; taking into account that the people involved with many times be left alone with a loved one and have access to valuable items means you can never be too careful. If you decide to hire aides or nurses privately, one of the things you need to do is get a background check on the person you may want to hire.
The majority of states in America have background check departments, often within their state police office. It usually costs between $10-20. Contact your local police department and learn about the process, it is usually as easy as requesting a background check application form and getting a copy of the applicant's picture identification. The form is usually mailed to you and the after you send it back the police will return anything that is on the applicant's criminal record in the state.
If the applicant has lived in another state, you might be able to get the same type of record from their prior residence. Federal background checks list every offense a person has ever been charged with in America and are performed by the FBI and may be a hard thing to ask for. The applicant will have to request the record check themselves.
You can also request drug testing from applicants. You will need to contact your local hospital or laboratory and have to pay for the services, often around $50 for each test. You can purchase testing kits at your local drug store. The test kits are OK in a pinch, but they are not as accurate as having the laboratory testing performed.
Something you might want to be very aware of after you have hired a new aide or nurse is to take care not to leave documents with your identification or the identification of loved ones laying around your home for anyone to see. Identity theft is a very real issue and it could take as little as a credit card bill left lying around to get someone started towards stealing your identification and causing you enough headaches and worries to last for months or more.
Basic Safety for Home Healthcare Workers
Home healthcare workers are presented with a number of safety risks such as falls, overexertion, hostile pets, car accidents and more that make their jobs more dangerous than ones in hospitals. The injury rate in home care settings is approximately 50% higher than it is in hospitals according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some different tips can help home healthcare workers to remain safe and free from injury as they make house calls.
Remain Aware of Your Surroundings: Unlike a controlled hospital environment, working in a person's home is unpredictable and aides and nurses need to remain aware of their surroundings. The risks of providing home care are the very reasons many aides and nurses love this kind of work. It is a consistent variable - you never know what you are going to see.
Avoid Overexertion: Back injuries from moving or lifting people are one of the greatest risks to home health aides, nurses and other home healthcare workers. To avoid such injuries, some healthcare agencies use a buddy system that permits two workers to team up and provide care for heavy or difficult to transfer people.
Practice Good Body Mechanics: For home healthcare workers who work alone, practicing good body mechanics is a must. Take full advantage of transfer systems and additional assistive devices. Keep a reasonable pace and a certain amount of flexibility in your daily schedule so you are not tempted to take shortcuts that may lead to an injury.
Watch Where you Step: More than one aide, nurse, or other home healthcare worker has experienced an injury after stepping on a loose board, bad stair step, or other dangerous place in a person's home.
Keep Your Shoes On: Do not remove your shoes in a person's home because you might slip or stub your toe. You may step on a piece of glass or a nail. To be culturally sensitive to people who prefer that guests take off their shoes, wear disposable surgical shoe covers, or leave a clean pair of shoes at the person's home to be worn only while you are there.
Chart showing basic safety practices for aides and nurses
It is also important to be aware of hazards such as slippery bathroom floors or cupboards that are open, which have the potential to cause injury. Follow some basic safety protocols such as:
- Locking your bag in the trunk of the car
- Keeping your car windows closed and the doors locked
- Ensuring that someone knows where you are all the time
- Having an extra set of keys in case you lock yours in the car
- Ensuring you have detailed directions to a new person's home
- Keeping your car in good working condition with a full tank of gas
- Confirming with people you will provide care with over the phone before visiting
- Pulling onto the shoulder or into a parking lot instead of attempting to drive, talk on the phone and read directions at the same time
If you are driving into an area that is high-crime and you see activity near to the home of the person you are going to visit, drive a few blocks away and call the person or your supervisor to find out how to proceed. Do not stop in front of the person's door, it makes you look vulnerable. Pay attention to your instincts, most of the time it is not imperative that you make the visit at that specific moment. If you feel bad about the situation, call your supervisor or the police department. Do not go into a situation where you feel you will not be safe. If you feel threatened, leave immediately.
Resources and Citations:
Patient Safety and Quality in Home Health Care
Home health care is a system of care provided by skilled practitioners to patients in their homes under the direction of a physician. Home health care services include nursing care; physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy; and medical social services. The goals of home health care services are to help individuals to improve function and live with greater independence; to promote the client's optimal level of well-being; and to assist the patient to remain at home, avoiding hospitalization or admission to long-term care institutions.
Healthcare Safety provides environmental health and safety services to University Hospital, Long Island State Veterans Home and affiliated off site medical facilities. Services provided are employee occupational health and safety training, respirator fit testing, industrial hygiene and safety evaluations, facility surveillance rounds and facility audits.
Home healthcare is healthcare provided in the client's home. Home healthcare workers provide hands-on long-term care and personal assistance to clients with disabilities or other chronic conditions. These workers, who may be home health aides, personal/home care aides, companions, nursing assistants or home health nurses, are employed in patients' homes and in community-based services such as group homes.
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