While there are specific standards set for a healthcare worker in clinician’s offices or in hospitals, oddly there is no group or organization that sets standards for home care workers. Because of this, these dedicated healthcare workers are often at risk in several ways. They wouldn’t face some of these risks when working in a physician’s office or in a hospital and this is why it is so important to identify and address health and safety guidelines specific to home care settings.
1. When Working in Areas of High Risk
As a home care worker, you may be required to travel in and out of some extremely dangerous neighborhoods. Because of this, it is imperative that you set your own guidelines to ensure your personal safety. Some home care workers carry pepper spray or mace and others set up an emergency speed dial on their cell phones. Sadly, it is up to you to establish safety protocol such as staying in a locked vehicle until help arrives.
2. Staying Safe from Exposure to Airborne and Bloodborne Pathogens
This is something everyone is more than aware of since the onset of the COVID pandemic. While hospitals and doctors’ offices provide PPE for their nurses and staff, this isn’t something routinely given to home care workers by their agencies. You will often be required to get your own gear and if you are dealing with a patient with a bloodborne illness, for example, it is up to you to stay safe by wearing an isolation gown.
3. Dealing with Potentially Life-Threatening Situations in the Home
Not only can neighborhoods be dangerous but some homes you enter could be as well. There could be guns, knives and other weapons laying around so be prepared for just such a situation. This can be extremely dangerous, especially in patients prone to aggression. Establish guidelines on how to identify guns in a household. There is nothing wrong with asking if there are weapons in the home and if there are, it is your right to refuse care if you feel threatened.
4. Personal Safety When Caring for Aggressive Patients
This is most common among patients suffering from dementia. Do you have safety guidelines for dealing with patients who lose control due to dementia-related aggression? You obviously can’t strike back but perhaps your agency or the patient’s doctor may allow for an alternate method for getting them under control. Whether it is a sedating injection or simply walking away, this is a guideline you must set if you deal with a large enough number of aging patients.
5. Procedure for Getting Immediate Help
Another thing you may wish to establish from the very beginning is a way to get immediate help when needed. Remember, you are there alone and sometimes it might be necessary to call for paramedics while you are busy administering lifesaving first aid. A wearable with a panic button would be nice but, lacking that, have a speed dial set on your phone that would call your agency or paramedics to get help on the way without delay.
There are so many guidelines you will need to establish for both your personal safety and the safety of your patients, but if you establish them from the very beginning, your job will be that much easier and safer for all involved.