The fastest-growing sector within the health care industry treats patients where they live—literally. With workers serving an estimated 7 million patients and growth projected at a whopping 66% over the next 10 years, home health care risk management has never been more important. The huge growth rate, combined with the dangers that are present in the myriad premises where workers help their patients, unfortunately results in challenges for the caretakers. Workers who travel to homes have reported encountering many potentially irritating, harmful, or truly dangerous substances and situations, such as:
• Cigarette smoke
• Rats or mice
• Caustic, irritating chemicals
• Peeling paint, which could be lead-based
• Extreme temperatures
• Unsanitary or unsafe conditions in the premises
• Extreme clutter
• Aggressive dogs or cats
• Firearms on the premises
• Crime or violence in the neighborhood where the house is located
The presence of toxic substances, such as cigarette smoke, peeling lead paint, asbestos, mold, etc., even poor air quality (all of which can be present in older homes that may not be well vented or cleaned regularly) is a situation that occurs far too frequently with elderly patients who are not able to perform upkeep the way they used to. Workers who must provide services in such settings could find themselves suffering from a variety of negative health effects, such as nasal infections, skin conditions, and development of resistant organisms. Exposure to pets can lead to bites and scratches, or disease if those pets are infected. Excessive clutter can result in a deluge of heavy objects suddenly shifting, injuring or even trapping a worker.
Home health care risk management is challenging because every house is, in a sense, its own workplace—yet the typical workplace protections and supervision are normally not in place. Documenting risks and hazards to your own health as you work in someone’s house is the first step in addressing these problems and reducing their future occurrences. Talk to a professional insurance agent about coverage that will help provide a comprehensive protection package as you perform the vital work that your patients depend on.