How Home Health Workers Can Care For Themselves
A Helping Voice is a confidential phone service that provides support to people who have concerns about an older person being mistreated, exploited or neglected and uncertain about whether they should report this to Adult Protective Services. As a home care worker, we are your partner in mandated reporting which means we are here to help you.
Home health care workers represent one of the fastest growing job categories in the country. This isn’t because the job is easy, or pays a great deal, it’s because the work is necessary, and there are millions of caring people who are willing to do it. As a difficult, emotionally taxing line of work, it’s important that home health care workers take care of themselves as well as their clients. Prioritizing yourself can be difficult given all the responsibilities of a home health worker. As your partner in mandated reporting we understand how hard it is to provide care day after day, but we are here to support you. We can’t make the job itself easier, but we do have a few ideas to prioritize self-care to recover and maintain your own physical, mental, and emotional health.
It’s no surprise that Covid has highlighted some of the underlying safety issues with working in peoples’ homes. The risk to you and the risk to your patients has no doubt been a problem you’ve had to contend with and take steps to address. There was a study recently conducted by IHI (Institute for Healthcare Improvement) that found about 13% of home health providers experience adverse events such as falls, infections, and mental & emotional health problems. While many of these problems are preventable or can be mitigated, often one problem leads to another. Prevention and improved safety are the best approach to address adverse events.
What can you do to beat the odds? Driving in the snow is a very real hazard here in Maine, and something we can definitely prepare for. Do you have:
An emergency kit with some rations and first aid materials in case you get stranded?
Shoes with cleats for icy driveways
Salt to melt ice
A small shovel to clear
A blanket to keep warm
Most home health providers in Maine often drive in rural places on a daily basis, so having a plan and supplies in case you go off the road is essential to your safety. Other safety concerns around winter weather include all aspects of your physical safety during winter months. Preventing falls, for example, can be aided using non-slip work shoes or by strapping cleats on. If you have trouble with balance, there are exercises that help with balance, too. It’s also no secret that mental and emotional distress comes with the territory of home health care. Which brings us to our next suggestion...
Check-In With Yourself
It’s very important to check-in with yourself, especially when you’re very busy and struggling to fulfil all your responsibilities. However, the importance of checking in with yourself cannot be overstated. We all are aware of our emotions and mental state to some degree at all times, but when you’re focusing intently on others and the tasks at hand, you’re much more likely to lose touch with your own state of being, so try asking yourself some of the following questions on a regular basis throughout your day,especially if you’re driving from one client to another. Several of these are aimed directly at how your emotions and mental state are affecting your work, while others are focused more on you personally.
How am I feeling?
What isn’t working for me?
What do I need?
What am I proud of?
What has brought me joy today? This week?
What am I thankful for?
It’s not realistic to expect to always be completely self-aware, but if these or similar questions become a part of your routine, you will find it easier to remain alert to both your needs and your clients’ needs. The goal here is to be able to take care of yourself even as you’re providing excellent care to others.
Use Apps That Make Your Job Easier
There are several apps and websites that can make doing your job a bit easier. Here are a few that we hope you will find useful.
For When You’re Driving
One frequent complaint we hear from home health workers is the difficulty that long driving all over Maine poses. Not only does it mean you spend energy and time actually driving, but you have to track your miles and aren’t able to actively work on anything else. These apps might be able to help you.
MileIQ is an app that uses your phone’s GPS to log the miles you drive, making tracking your miles and travel time a breeze. This doesn’t save a ton of time, but it can save a ton of aggravation. If you’ve ever gotten to the end of a day and realized you didn’t write down any of your mileage and been left guessing, you know exactly how helpful an automatic tracker can be!
Google Keep is a free app that makes notetaking and setting reminders much easier. With this app you can make voice-to-text notes while you drive to make sure you don’t forget something important. Also, you can set reminders based on location. This means you can set reminders for every time you visit a client’s house, or just to remind you to pick something up at the store later. The less you have to keep in your active memory, the easier it is to be in the moment and focus on doing a great job.
If you’re an independent caregiver it can be really hard to find enough clients. This is especially true for caregivers who specialize in terminal, end of life, or hospice care. Well, now there’s an app for that. Care.com is a web platform and app that connects caregivers and clients who need care. Similar to job platforms like Upwork or Fiverr, this app helps you to find jobs and fill out your work schedule.
There are a lot of apps out there to support people in almost every industry, home healthcare is no different. Here are a few apps that might make your daily workload a bit easier.
Caregiver buddy app designed with cancer healthcare providers in mind, caregiver buddy is an app that helps you to track medications, dosages, care plans, and can connect you to the client’s healthcare team. While the app is aimed at familial care providers, it can work quite well for a professional home health care provider.
Caring Village is another app intended for familial care providers, but it’s geared towards caring for Alzheimer's patients. If you’re just starting to take care of an Alzheimer's patient, their tips, checklists, and other tools might be especially helpful for you.
Medisafe is an app that helps you to track your clients’ various medications, set reminders for administering them, and reminders about dosage. This can be a great help, especially when you have to keep track of multiple clients, or there are major changes to the medications one or more of your clients is taking.
Nothing is going to make being a Home Health Care Worker a cakewalk. We hope, however, that these tips and apps will help you to do your job well while making sure you’re well yourself.
If you’d like to learn more about our service visit our website at A Helping Voice. We are working to help home health care providers to understand what their legal responsibility to report potential abuse is. Our free helpline can answer your questions about whether you’re actually a mandated reporter and whether events you’re witnessing are actually considered abuse. So if you have questions, call us at 1-207-805-5555 9 AM - 5 PM, Monday through Friday, and we will answer your questions confidentially.