Home Health Aide Training Part 1: Working Effectively With Elderly Home Care Patients

Caring for our seniors is perhaps the greatest responsibility we have. Those who walked before us have given so much and made possible the life we all enjoy.

 

John Hoeven

The first thing to realize about working with elderly home care patients is that what they are dealing with is a completely natural and ordinary part of life. Every single man, woman and child on earth is destined to become elderly, assuming their lives aren’t cut short by some unforeseen catastrophe. It’s important to understand this and to be able to effectively communicate this to your elderly home care patients because they may feel as if they have become a burden and feel as if they should be able to take care of themselves at this age. 

We All Rely On Others

When dealing with your elderly home care patients who may feel guilty about being a burden, the first thing you should remind them of is that everyone on the planet relies on others. After all, we can’t all be farmers, doctors, electricians, cooks and a thousand other professionals that we all rely upon to help us get through our day, regardless of how old we are. When one considers this, it’s perfectly natural that elderly home care patients would also need to rely on someone – after all, it’s part of being human to rely on others.

A Need to Feel Independent

Elderly people who require home health care generally realize that their health is starting to fail. However, in spite of this, as noted above, they may well feel as if they are becoming a burden on others. The key to solving this problem is allowing them to do the things for themselves that they are able to do.

While it may sound crass to invoke the car salesman’s mantra (a classic line from a car salesman is that you should pick the color so that you are given the illusion of making a choice, even though the salesman has now taken away your choice of whether to make a purchase), it is an appropriate analogy here. In essence, your elderly patients, in spite of their failing health need to be able to feel a sense of independence in whatever way they can.

Now, while you obviously cannot simply leave them alone, you can allow them to a certain degree of freedom so that they feel as if they are not completely dependent on outside help for their everyday needs. For example, you may need to prepare their meals for them, but they may be able to eat on their own, without the need to be spoon fed like a child. Or you may need to help them into the bathtub, but they can then scrub themselves once they are in the water.

Dealing with Family

Another issue which you may face when working with elderly home care patients is the family issue. In today’s modern society, family often isn’t close by to help take care of elderly parents. This means that they’ll generally rely upon you as the home health care professional to help take care of them and to report on their condition. You need to be able to communicate clearly with your client’s children to explain to them the issues that they are facing and what is being done to address these issues.

Indifferent Family

The flip side of the family issue is the indifferent family. In this situation, your elderly home care patients may well have been abandoned by their children, who have moved on with their lives and for various reasons want nothing to do with their parents. This can be an emotional issue for your clients and one that you’ll need to be comfortable helping them with so that they can move on with their lives.

Cultural Issues

You may also find that working with different elderly home health care patients means dealing with vastly different cultures and religions, both from your own experiences and from one client to the next. It is important to respect these cultural and religious boundaries and to understand them well enough that you don’t cross any lines while working with your clients.

Reporting Unmet Needs

Often, when you are hired to work with elderly home health care patients, you’ll find that your employment is on a part time basis. In these cases, you would come into the home several times a week to help them with cleaning and preparing food, but you are not required to live in the home with your clients on a full time basis. However, it is possible that when you work with these patients that you’ll find that there are various medical and or psychological needs which are not being met. In this case, it is important to understand that you need to contact the family and or your supervisors to ensure that your clients are receiving proper care.

At the same time however, it’s also important to remember that you are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your patients. This means a constant balancing act where you don’t divulge information which they may not want divulged while at the same time ensuring that information which must be provided to the appropriate people is provided.

Common Health Problems Related to Aging

While the cultural and psychological issues are extremely important to understand when working with elderly home health care patients, it’s equally important to have at least a basic grasp of some of the issues that your patients may face from a purely medical point of view. Some of the common problems associated with aging include:

  • [wikipop]Immune system issues[/wikipop]
  • [wikipop]Respiratory system issues[/wikipop]
  • [wikipop]Cardiovascular system issues[/wikipop]
  • [wikipop]Skin problems[/wikipop]
  • [wikipop]Musculoskeletal system issues (i.e. loss of bone density)[/wikipop]
  • [wikipop]Sensory issues (poor eyesight or hearing)[/wikipop]
  • [wikipop]Digestive issues (many foods which your clients may have eaten in the past may no longer be appropriate now that they are aging)[/wikipop]
  • [wikipop]Urinary issues[/wikipop]
  • [wikipop]Endocrine system issues[/wikipop]
  • [wikipop]Neurological problems[/wikipop]
  • [wikipop]Reproductive issues (i.e. problems with sex drive)[/wikipop]
  • [wikipop]Memory problems[/wikipop]
  • [wikipop]Cognitive issues (trouble understanding things that are going on around them)[/wikipop]

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that when dealing with elderly home health care patients, you become something like a parent and a companion to these people and as such, you must be fully cognizant of all the issues they are dealing with. This way, you’ll find that you will gain their acceptance and trust and you will have that much easier of a time dealing with them.

 

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