By Mary Leitner, Home Health Aide, T.O.N.E. Home Health Services, Inc., Detroit, MI
A home health aide is someone with a clear understanding of the plan of care for the patient, as well as sympathy and empathy. This consists of communicating with each team member, such as the RN, PT, OT and LMSW, to insure the plan of care comes together for the good of the patient.
Patients often have a tendency to be a little closer to their aides then the rest of the team. They tend to communicate some key issues without knowing it. For example, I had a diabetic patient whose glucose levels would spike, and no one on the team could figure out why. The patient would take his insulin on time every day and the caregiver cooked well balanced meals. But through normal conversation with the patient, I found out that his son worked at a bakery and would bring goodies home every other night – which would cause the spike in glucose levels. I spoke to the nurse, who then spoke with the caregiver and doctor. The insulin was adjusted for evening dose and all was well.
While caring for the patient is my most important role, there are times when just listening to other family members can be helpful. Sometimes the family member or caregiver may be the only person taking care of the patient. As a home health aide, you may be the only outside person the caregiver sees all week. In this case, being a listener can go a long way.
I had a patient with a daughter and a son who were her caregivers. Sometimes a family member is so close to the patient that they overlook what they are saying. For example, the son did all the leg work (taking the patient to appointments, grocery shopping, and running errands). The daughter made the appointments, cleaned the house, and cooked the meals. The patient felt she was being heard. When the daughter would make a doctor’s appointment the mother (patient) would say, “I’m tired of getting stuck in my arm. Look at it, my arm is black and blue.” The daughter heard, “I’m tired of going to the doctor because they are not helping me.” I suggested to the daughter and son to check with the doctor to see if the injections could be given in another area besides the arm for now. I also encouraged them to maybe take her to her favorite restaurant, just to give her something positive to look forward to. Going on a car ride around the area before her appointment might also brighten her day.
Being a home health aide, you always have to remember to work efficiently to get everything done that you need to get done, in addition to getting everything done that the patient wants and needs. Three ways to work efficiently is to distribute, prioritize, and simplify tasks. Also, be realistic. You may not be able to get everything done, even if you plan carefully. Reassess your schedule during the day. Don’t be afraid to change your plan. It is better to accomplish the highest priority tasks and let others go unfinished than to do everything half way. The key to success is to be flexible.