Home Health Aide Training Part 7: Performing Simple Measurements and Tests

Simple measurements and tests

While a home health care aide is rarely a registered nurse and is never a doctor, you will still need to know how to perform certain basic tests and measurements in order to help ensure the health of your patients. Here are some of the more common tests and measurements that you’ll need to perform:

Diabetes

When dealing with a diabetic, you will have to perform a number of different tests in order to ensure that they remain healthy. For example, you may have to check blood sugar.

Checking blood sugar requires two steps. First, you’ll need to insert a test strip into the glucose meter. Wait for the machine to beep and for the blood drop symbol to be displayed. Once it does so, you will need to prick the finger of your patient with a fresh lancet. These are typically inserted into a device which makes it easier to prick the finger. Apply a drop of blood to the edge of the test strip and wait for the device to display the total measurement of sugar in the blood stream.

Depending on the doctor’s requirements, you may need to administer either glucose or insulin to your patient to help them normalize their sugar levels. It is important to consult with the doctor as to what acceptable numbers are, however the rule of thumb is that any number below 80 is considered too low while any number over 170 is considered too high. However again, it’s important to check with the doctor so that you know what procedures to take depending on the measurements.

Once you have finished checking the patient’s blood sugar, you should remove the used lancet and test strip and dispose of them in a biohazard container. Be sure to clean the finger with an alcohol swab and then dispose of that in the same container.

Blood Pressure

Another common test that you may need to perform and record is the blood pressure test. While it is possible to do this using a stethoscope, as a home health care worker, you will be much more likely to be working with an automated blood pressure meter. These machines measure the level of blood pressure and the pulse of your patient automatically. In order to use the machine, you need to lift the patient’s sleeve up and wrap the sleeve of the blood pressure meter around the upper part of the arm (above the elbow). Push the button on the machine and record the results. Be sure to perform the test 2-3 times, especially if the readings seem abnormally high or low as blood pressure can change from moment to moment.

Checking Weight

You may also need to check the weight of your patients and record this information on a regular basis to be reported to the doctor. You can use an ordinary bathroom scale to do so.

Measuring and Administering Medication

Another common requirement for the home health care aide is helping your patients to administer their own medicines. Often, this simply requires you to know how to count the number of pills that they need to take. Be sure to check the labels and the doctor’s instructions to make sure that the patient is taking the appropriate amounts. Pay close attention as well to the timing of various medications. For example, some medications are meant to be taken specifically at night or in the morning. There are also some medications meant to be taken on an empty stomach while others will require being taken with food. The instructions for each medication should be included on the bottle, so this will generally be easy to do.

Administering Insulin

When working with diabetics, you may need to administer insulin shots to your patients. This requires several steps. First, you’ll need to measure the amount of insulin required. Plunge the needle into the insulin container and slowly pull the plunger upward while checking on the amounts that are going into the syringe. These will be clearly marked on the side of the syringe. Be very careful not to over-administer insulin. Remember that it is always possible to administer additional insulin, however it is much more problematic to correct an overdose.

Next, clean the area where the insulin will be administered with an alcohol swab. This is usually on the thigh. Use an alcohol swab to accomplish this. Plunge the needle of the syringe into the thigh and inject the entire amount of insulin into the patient’s thigh. It is generally not necessary to ensure that you are inserting the needle specifically into a vain. Once you have done this, immediately put the used needle and syringe into a biohazard container for safe disposal. Used alcohol swabs should be similarly disposed of.

Measuring Liquids

When administering liquid medications, it’s important to use exact measurements for these medications. Often, the medication will simply require a teaspoonful or tablespoonful. However, if there are specific amounts required, you should be provided with a measuring glass so that you can check on the exact amount that needs to be administered.

Precautions

Always remember when dealing with your patients that precautions must be followed in order to ensure both your own safety and that of your patients. Common precautions include:

Using Latex Gloves – Always wear latex gloves when handling human waste or fluids. This means that when needles must be administered or blood drawn (i.e. for glucose tests), you should protect yourself and your patient by wearing disposable gloves. These gloves should be disposed of after each use.

Keep it Clean—Whenever injecting anything into your patient or drawing blood from your patient, it is important to clean the affected area with an antiseptic swab once you are done. If necessary, be prepared to apply a bandage as well to control bleeding. You should also wash your hands with antibacterial soap before handing any medications for your patients.

Follow Instructions—Some medications have very specific instructions for their usage. Be sure that you understand them and follow them exactly when administering them. The same holds true for basic exams that you may need to perform.

Don’t Perform Tests You Don’t Understand—Finally, if you are unsure of how to do something, do not guess at what needs to be done. Consult your supervisor or the attending doctor to ensure that the tests and measurements are performed correctly. 

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