Verbal abuse rampant for home healthcare aides

July 26, 2019

Caregivers/healthcare aides are a godsend for those who need them at home, but a recent US study suggests that these aides are likely to face verbal or even physical abuse from their clients, with mounting frequency.

Such abuse was observed in some 950 home aides by a team from the University of Massachusetts (UMass) in Lowell, US. More than one in five caregivers, or 22%, reported at least one incident where they had been verbally abused in the past 12 months – 17% said they had been yelled at or spoken to in an angry/humiliating tone, 10% said they were made to feel bad about themselves, 6% reported racial, ethnic, religious or personal insults and 5% said they had received verbal threats of harm.

Verbal abuse can hurt an aide’s long-term health and increase employee turnover rates, according to Margaret Quinn, study author and Director of the Safe Home Care Project by UMass.

While instances of abuse have been associated with dementia care, as a client may exhibit aggressive behaviour, Quinn thinks a caregiver loses out in not knowing how to alleviate symptoms, “In the US, home care aides are often not included in the medical team–so, including and integrating the aide into the care team, especially for clients with dementia, could help both the client and the aide.”

Quinn addresses further solutions to home care, such as predictable hours for caregivers and ample space to perform care tasks. She thinks a satisfactory job quality will greatly reduce the chances of verbal abuse and also enrich the job experience for the aides.

In addition, an Assistant Professor at the School of Nursing at John Hopkins University, Ginger Hanson, urges better understanding of the impact of the trend on home care workers, “who are also a vulnerable population often facing financial insecurity.”


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