If you are considering employment as a home health aide, know that the job comes with risks. Since you have little control over the home setting in which you work, you can get injured while providing care to a client or find yourself in an unsafe or threatening environment. When training for the job, check out the following steps you can take to stay healthy and safe on the job.
Protect Your Back Health
Because of the amount of bending and lifting the job requires, home health aides find themselves at risk for back injuries. Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of injury while on the job.
Limit manual lifting as much as possible. Heavy clients or those who are difficult to transfer may require the assistance of two individuals. As much as the client is able, ask him or her to help in the transfer. Give the person simple, clear instructions on what to do. When a client is physically unable to assist in the move, but you can't make the transfer safely on your own, ask for help from his or her family or friends.
Avoid awkward positions and overexerting yourself beyond your limits. If you work alone, the use of mechanical transfer systems and other assist equipment and devices can help you safely lift or reposition a client. While not all clients can afford mechanical lifts in their homes, even adjustable beds and lift chairs help relieve the physical demands on home health aides caring for clients with limited mobility. But no matter what method you use to transfer a client from a bed to a chair, always give yourself enough room to work.
Practice proper body mechanics. Stand with your feet wide to balance yourself, positioning one foot slightly in front of the other. Face the client, positioning him or her as close to your own body as possible. Keep your back straight as you bend at the knees, letting your legs do the work as you move the client toward you. Avoid making jerky movements or twisting your body when you turn. Instead, pivot your entire body in the direction you want to move.
Use common sense as you work. For example, when moving a client out of a bed you can adjust, raise the bed to the height of your waist. When lowering a client into a chair or onto a bed, do so slowly. Bend your legs and don't lean over the client as you make the transfer.
Protect Your Personal Safety
Sometimes home health aides are required to visit client homes located in urban high-crime areas. If you accept an assignment in a neighborhood you don't know or assisting a client for whom you haven't worked before, there are basic safety precautions you should take.
- Get detailed driving directions to a new client's home.
- Call the client to confirm the date and time you will visit so that he or she knows when to expect you.
- Let your employer know where you are at all times.
- Stay alert to your surroundings. If you don't feel safe when you pull up to a client's home, don't get out. Drive away immediately. Call the police if you notice activity near a client's home that looks threatening or unsafe, even if you are already inside the home.
- Contact your employer if a client or a member of the client's family verbally abuses you and continues the behavior after you've politely asked him or her to stop. Maintaining a calm attitude rather than responding in a seemingly aggressive manner (e.g. talking loudly) may help defuse the tension of the situation and the person's anger.
- Try to position yourself near an exit doorway if you fear for your physical safety, especially if a client or other household member becomes upset and makes threatening gestures toward you. Leave as quickly as you can if there are indications of mental illness or drug or alcohol abuse, or there are weapons in the home that are kept unlocked.
For more tips, contact a home care company like Neighbors Home Care Services.