As our country's population ages, more and more people require some type of ongoing medical care or at least assistance with aspects of daily living. Increasingly, people are hiring home health care providers so that they can continue to live in the familiarity and comfort of their own homes rather than move to a nursing home or assisted living community.
Many home care workers are nurses. Others are social workers. They have a variety of backgrounds, training and licenses. In 2016, some 5 million Americans were cared for by providers working for approximately 12,400 home health agencies.
These home health providers face many of the same risks as health care providers who work in hospitals and other medical facilities -- including lifting injuries, needle sticks and exposure to infectious disease and environmental hazards. However, since they work in people's homes, often alone with their care recipient, they're at an even greater risk for physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
In a recently published report about the safety issues (both for caregivers and care recipients) in home care, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) noted the importance of home care workers feeling comfortable about speaking up when they have safety concerns -- whether for their charges or for themselves. The IHI also emphasized the importance of proper and continued training for these professionals.
Home care providers typically do their work in an environment where they're isolated from others in their profession. However, the IHI report noted the importance of communicating with their agency and/or other health care providers for a team-based approach to an individual's care.
Any home care provider who is concerned for their safety (physical and/or emotional) should address those concerns immediately with their employer. It's essential to know what your employer's procedures are for reporting safety concerns and injuries. If you've suffered an injury on the job, you should find out what your options are for seeking the compensation you need for medical expenses, required time off from work and more.