Huffington Post: Home Health Aides Must Raise the Bar

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projects a 10-year 50% increase in the number of employed home health aides from beginning in 2008. This will result in an expected 1.38 million aides by 2018. Despite this increase in available aides, not all are equally qualified to care for the elderly, reported a Huffington Post blog post by Marki Flannery, president of senior supportive services organization Partners in Care.

The post cites Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Lee Lindquist, M.D.’s study, that found many health care agencies recruit home health aides through job sites such as Craigslist and 55% of the agencies researched hire individuals without performing criminal background checks. Additionally, the study found many agencies lie about the qualifications of their aides and do not provide training. 

Not holding home health agencies and aides accountable is a problem that must be addressed, Flannery writes.

Huffington Post reports:

As I’ve argued before, the job of a home health aide cannot and should not be done by just anybody. Home health aides perform a vital job on the front lines of health care for vulnerable seniors and others who want to live at home but are not stable enough to be on their own. Talented, well-trained aides are the best offense for keeping at-risk individuals out of the hospital and living safely and as comfortably as possible in their own homes.

When you hire a home health aide, you should expect a person who is compassionate, trustworthy and knowledgeable — which is why I recommend hiring an aide who is insured, certified and properly trained. 

A well-trained home health aide is much more likely to notice changes in a patient’s behavior or well-being and act immediately and appropriately. I am a strong advocate for rigorous screening and training of home health aides, and I find it unconscionable that regulations for this life-or-death industry vary state by state (including, woefully, none in some states). New York has relatively strict requirements for certification — a minimum of 75 hours of training

This study [Lindquist’s study] serves as an important wake-up call, both to individuals seeking home care and to the home care industry. As experts in the field, we must recognize that people searching for home care are often overwhelmed by need and emotion and frustrated by lack of consistent information, regulation and benchmarking.

Our lawmakers need to make this a priority, and laws should be changed to regulate home care services on a national level. Training, screening and supervision of aides aren’t optional; they need to be non-negotiable table stakes.

While this survey uncovered far too many “bad apples,” home health aides like Zena give us a benchmark to strive for as we seek to fill a ballooning and all-important need: caring for our loved ones as they age.

Read the full post here

Written by Erin Hegarty