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It is important to recognize professional caregivers, especially during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. November is National Home Care and Hospice Month, and it is a time to honor those who work in the home care and hospice field, including doctors, nurses, physical therapists, aides, companions, and social workers.
Hospice care is needed when people are nearing the ends of their lives because of chronic illnesses. When the transition is made from treating and curing a disease to caring for the patient, hospice workers may be called in. These workers help patients and their families enjoy their remaining time, helping the patients pass away without pain. These services combine medical care, pain management techniques, therapy, and emotional support.
Hospice is not only for older populations, but also for the terminally ill as well. It can take place in a hospice facility, in a hospital room, or in the patient’s home. It can be short and last a few days, or may be longer, depending on a patient’s status. Respite hospice workers take over temporarily for caregivers, providing them with much-needed breaks. After a period of time, the caregiver can return to attend to their loved one. It is estimated that only 20 percent of hospice patients report that they are depressed.
Many people with age-related health issues, chronic illnesses, disabilities, and other impairments prefer to remain at home instead of living in a nursing home or other facility. Though it may not be possible, it is often a good alternative that can provide them with more independence. Trained home health aides can administer medications, check vital signs, clean wounds, and change bandages. They can also check respiration and pulse rates and offer assistance if the person they are caring for falls ill.
Home health aides must be trained by other aides, licensed practical nurses, or registered nurses. Depending on the state, formal training from a home health care agency or a community or vocational school may be required. A home health aide who is employed by an agency that gets Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements must complete state-approved training, followed by evaluations. Licensure may also be required.
Personal care aides are not licensed to provide medical services, but they can help with cooking, cleaning, personal grooming, and running errands. Some aides are contracted to stay overnight as needed or on trips. Home health and personal aides can live in the home with their patients or work by the hour.
Many patients and their families prefer home care aides because of the prevalence of nursing home abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), an increasing senior population in the United States has put pressure on nursing homes. Understaffing, poor screening, and other factors all contribute to patient abuse. Victims can end up with wounds, bruises, broken bones, pressure sores, and nutrition issues. There is also the increased risk of premature death. In some nursing homes, residents are injured by other residents, as well as the staff.
In-home patients can also become victims of abuse by aides, caregivers, and even family members, so it is important to have someone regularly check patients. Establishing a network of caring friends, family members, and medical professionals can help.
Even when aides and caregivers have the best intentions, the people they care for can still get hurt from slip and fall accidents and medical errors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 300,000 older Americans end up in hospitals every year with hip fractures, and 95 percent of these are from falling accidents. Falls are also the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
Home equipment, like nebulizers and walkers, can pose tripping hazards if left in the wrong places. Aside from this, in-home patients can have medical conditions that increase the likelihood of falling. Not being able to eat or exercise enough can lead to poor walking abilities, weakness, and poor balance. This can be worsened by the medications they are taking. Hearing or vision problems also make it harder to function and move.
Home safety hazards can be hidden or obvious. If there are cracks in the floor, uneven steps, debris, or slippery floors, these can be addressed. Throw rugs are another slip and fall hazard, so they should be removed. Bathrooms should have grab bars installed next to the toilets, bathtubs, and showers, and stairways should have sturdy railings.
It is also a good idea to have slip resistant shoes because shoelaces are known tripping hazards. Regular exercises can help improve balance, and extra lighting will make it easier to see. Seniors also appreciate it when objects are within reach. Keeping the phone, glasses, and other needed items on the nightstand is a big help.
Having someone regularly check patients is one of the best safeguards. Visitors should look for safety hazards, and see if there is enough food and other supplies. Having an updated list of the patient’s medications, and an understanding of their side effects is also essential. If abuse is suspected, one should immediately contact a lawyer.
If you suspect a loved one is being abused in a nursing home or hospice center, one of our dedicated Bear nursing home abuse lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow can help. We proudly protect elderly loved ones against abuse. Contact us online or call us at 302-834-8484 for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Bear, and Milford, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Middletown, Dover, Milford, Hillsborough, Lewes, Rehoboth, Elsmere, and Seaford.