Home health care provides some unique challenges for those working in this environment. Not only are many of the same risks associated with hospitals and nursing homes present, but household related hazards such as poor air quality, toxic substances, and aggressive pets may also be issues. Additionally, the homecare health setting cannot be controlled. Finally, many home health care providers may have limited training and experience in providing patient safety and there is no direct supervision of their daily activities.
Some of the risks associated with home health care are:
General security/personal safety hazards:
- Unsafe neighborhoods
- Violence from patients or family members
- Potentially dangerous household pets
- Lack of adequate indoor heating and cooling
- Poor air quality
- Unsanitary conditions (including insects and rodents)
Unsanitary conditions are of major concern, as they provide the greatest potential risk for both the patient and the caregiver. The frail and elderly are, by the very nature of their condition, especially at risk for cross-contamination (the transfer of pathogens through indirect or direct contact with contaminated objects, pets, and raw foods). Household laundry can spread disease, as well as dirty household surfaces.
Pathogenic microbes are present in medical waste. Disposal of medical waste provides a high risk as the home health care setting is not state regulated for transportation, storage, and disposal of biomedical waste. Needlestick injuries and needle reuse (without disinfectant) may also provide additional risks. Inappropriate disinfecting and reuse of drainage bags, catheters, and insulin syringes may result in serious infections.
Each home care setting is essentially a “worksite.” However, standards and policies for workplace protection for patients and caregivers are usually not in place. Fortunately, home health aides working for agencies that receive Federal Government spending must pass a competency test. Also, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice offers home care aide certification. Some states also have training and other certification requirements
Home health care agencies provide an important service in the field of elder care. Agencies reduce the risks associated with home health care by screening those they employ, as well as the homes in which they serve. A home safety assessment can identify risks that may lead to falls, such as inadequate lights, loose floor rugs, and stairways without handrails. According to the Home Safety Council, 20 to 30 percent of older adults who fall injure themselves seriously enough to require medical attention. This increases medical costs, as well as the possibility that person will need to be to a hospital or nursing home.
At Highland Risk Services, we are dedicated to helping you provide your clients with coverage for the unique challenges of home health care. Call us at one of our two offices in Chicago at 847-832-9100 or Lansing at 517-676-7100.