If a loved one is disabled or ill, they may be in need of daily medical care or assistance with daily living tasks. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your loved one is ready for institutional care, like a nursing home or assisted living facility. In-home care can be a great compromise that allows your loved one to get the professional medical care they need while maintaining independence and autonomy. However, having a medical worker in your home has some risks. Studies show that nurses or health care aides providing direct patient care are at particularly high risk for worker injuries. If a home health care worker is injured in your home, it could put the patient at risk, and leave you open to liability issues. Here are some safety tips to consider if you plan to hire a healthcare worker to provide care in your home.
Hire in Twos
One of the biggest things that you can do to protect your home healthcare worker and the patient – especially if the patient needs mobility assistance – is to hire home healthcare workers in pairs. Nurses and care aides in institutional settings are often required to lift or transfer patients in pairs or teams for safety, and this is a proven way of reducing the incidence of injury. Studies show that lifting teams result in a 95% reduction in lost time due to injury. It’s also safer for the patient – a nurse or aide who experiences an injury while lifting or transferring a patient is in danger of dropping that patient.
Even if you have an assistive device or mechanical lifting device in the home, you should still have two people present when doing lifts and transfers for maximum safety. If you’re hiring home healthcare workers privately, look for a pair advertising their services if possible – this can save you money over hiring two workers separately. If you’re hiring through an agency, simply request that they send two workers instead of one, especially if you anticipate that lifting will be involved.
Keep Pets Out of the Way
You can expect that your home healthcare workers are trained to deal with people, but they may not be proficient at dealing with pets. What’s more, the presence of a home healthcare worker may cause a pet to act out. A protective dog, for example, could misinterpret a transfer or hands on care as an attack, particularly if the patient is in pain or shows signs of distress. You don’t want a healthcare worker attacked by a pet in your home.
If the patient requires only part-time care, you’ll need to consider where your pet can go while the home healthcare worker is in the house. Putting them outdoors or in a spare room during the time when the home care worker is visiting should be a viable plan. However, if the patient requires 24-hour care, it may be best to consider rehoming that pet.
Reduce Home Hazards
Throw rugs, loose boards in the stairs, and clutter on the floor can all be hazardous to both mobility-challenged patients and their caregivers. An aide who trips over a loose rug while assisting a patient walking could easily injure themselves and cause the patient to fall at the same time. Make sure that the home is free of obstacles and that surfaces are in good repair.
If your culture or preference dictates that guests remove their shoes in your home, you’ll have to make an exception for your home care workers – patient care in bare feet could be dangerous, and your home care workers need their shoes to provide traction and support during lifts, transfers, and other procedures. If you’re worried about cleanliness, consider providing disposable shoe covers for your nurses and aides instead.
Healthcare worker safety is directly linked to patient safety, so it’s in everybody’s best interest to make sure that the home care workers you hire are safe in your home. By taking a few precautions, you can ensure a safe and healthy environment for your loved one and your home care workers.