The One Thing a Home Care Aide Should NEVER Say to Your Senior

home care aide
The #1 red-flag phrase by home care aides? Read on to find out.
Image source: Flickr user Stephan Mosel

If you’ve done your due diligence, you probably went through a lot of work to hire the right home care aide for your loved one. You checked their credentials, made sure they were from a reputable agency, and saw to it that they established a rapport with your elder. You’ve informed them of their duties and responsibilities, and you believe them to be the most capable person for the job. But do you know the one thing your home care aide should never say to your senior? “Do it yourself.”

When seniors need assistance

The entire reason to hire a home care aide in the first place is to see that your senior has the assistance they need throughout the day. From getting up in the morning to washing up at night, the aide should be there when you can’t be to help with ADL’s, or “Activities of Daily Living.” There is good reason to hire such professionals: accidents and injuries around the home can prevent your senior from living a comfortable and independent life. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, adults 55 and older are more prone to becoming victims of falls, and the number of fall deaths among those 65 and older is four times that of all other age groups. Let’s take a look, step-by-step, at what can happen when an aide constantly says to a senior, “do it yourself.”

“Do it yourself” can spell disaster

Something as simple as standing up can mean falling and breaking a hip without the right assistance. If the senior isn’t holding onto something steady (a walker, a person, etc.), and their muscles are weak or their balance is off, a fall can easily result. An oversight in making sure an environment is safe for an elderly individual may also lead to an unfortunate accident if they attempt to do something on their own. The same risk applies to a senior who tries to feed themselves unassisted. If your loved one suffers from a condition that makes their hands shake, they won’t easily be able to get food into their mouths. This makes an unsanitary mess at best (and a possible recipe for infection), and deprives them of essential nutrition at worst. They may also accidentally burn themselves if they’re unable to sense how hot food or beverages truly are. Dressing often presents another challenge to the elderly, who may have conditions like arthritis, or are unable to extend their limbs far enough to put on particular items. Without appropriate dressing for the season, they’re vulnerable to catching contagious illnesses, which can be fatal depending on their age and other ailments.

Exceptions to the rule

Like all rules, the one about never saying “do it yourself” has exceptions. You do want to encourage independence to whatever extent the senior’s health and abilities allow. For example, if they are capable of walking but choose not to for long periods, the result may be leg and hip muscles becoming atrophied. So if your senior received “homework” from a physical or occupational therapist to practice a particular skill, or certain activities were cleared by a physician, those might constitute exceptions. When I worked in a nursing home, we used to have the phrase: “Use it or lose it!” This meant that if the senior didn’t do whatever physical activities they were capable of, they weren’t likely to retain those abilities. Unlike younger people, older bodies have limited powers of recuperation. Once a skill is gone, it’s possible it will be lost forever.

Hire a home care aide who knows what to say

An experienced home care aide will know which situations call for him or her to offer assistance (most) and which are exceptions to the rule (few). Take the time to not only observe the aide when she’s with your senior, but also follow up later and ask the senior questions. Did the aide meet all their needs? Did she offer assistance before it was asked? Before long, you’ll know if the aide is aware of the right and wrong way to work with your senior.

If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.

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