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How to Reduce Home Health Care Risks: For Patients and Caregivers

With the U.S. population aging rapidly and most seniors preferring to age in place, opportunities for in-home health care jobs are growing.

So while quantity increases, you want to ensure quality does the same.

Let's look at this challenging occupation, reviewing the main risk factors regarding patient care, safety, and travel. We'll offer tips for enhancing care and lowering risk, including auto insurance for home health care workers, maintaining safety with home health care services, home safety tips, and more.

Minimizing Risks for Home Patients

Thankfully there is a lot of information available on this topic, including a caregiver's guide for in-home safety for their patients. The list is extensive, but don't be daunted. Home safety for the elderly must be a priority to mitigate accidents as well as reduce caregiver strain. This post covers risk management in-home health care to prevent accidents, improve safety, and provide caregiver assistance.

Perform a home safety assessment to Keep Patients from Dangerous Falls

An excellent place to start is doing whatever you can to minimize a client's risk of falling. Elderly home health care relies heavily on creating a safe environment. Use these in-home caregiver tips to enhance your patient's safety and quality of life.

Perform a home safety inspection by walking through all of the areas where your patient will be. Create an environment that is well-lit, de-cluttered, and accommodates your patient's movements, such as if they use a mobility aid.

In particular, remove loose rugs, chairs with rolling wheels, and stacks of papers or clothes. Also, make sure your patient wears non-slip footwear. And have items they need and want to be placed easily within their reach.

Coronavirus and caregiving

Take the Proper Precautions to Quell Patients' Coronavirus Worries

People receiving caregiver home care are understandably concerned about someone coming into their home, even if it is a professional caretaker.

To help them put their minds at ease, communicate and prove how you are taking extra safety precautions to mitigate transmission risks and keep them as safe as possible.

Start and end your day with self-monitoring. Then gear up with masks, gloves, and sanitizer. Wash dishes and utensils using gloves and hot water. Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces. And clean your hands after taking off your gloves or handling used items.

Coordinate with your patient if it's feasible to cut down on in-person visits but still provide care through telecare, such as phone and video calls. This provides a safe way to help them feel less isolated and make sure they have what they need regarding medications and supplies.

Minimizing Risks for Home Health Caregivers

In-home caregiving is a unique occupation. As well as dealing with a variety of work settings by entering multiple homes, you're performing a myriad of duties. And you can be working as a professional caregiver for a home care agency that's either small, mid-size, or a sizeable multistate corporation, or be hired directly by a family in need of an assisted living caregiver.

Given the decentralized nature of the job and the emphasis on client care, sometimes what can get lost in the mix is caregiver care.  

Physical Challenges for Caregivers

physical challenges for Caregivers

Self-care for caregivers is essential. With duties including housekeeping and daily activity assistance such as helping a client bathe, caregivers need to be mindful of their clients' safety and their own.

Do stretching, strengthening, and aerobic exercises. You want to be limber and have enough stamina to reduce injury when performing your duties.  

Mental Health Challenges for Caregivers

Mental Challenges for Caregivers

Mental self-care is also vital for maintaining good caregiver mental health. Patience, empathy, compassion, problem-solving, and optimism are skills needed for caregiving. That emotional labor is mentally taxing. It's even more so during the pandemic when therapists and friends' roles are added by clients who are having trouble coping with the increased isolation.

So watch for caregiver burnout. Be aware of the signs so that you can turn them around and not have to suffer needlessly. Signs include:

  • Becoming moody or agitated when you're asked for help or a favor.
  • Noticing a change in your sleep habits.
  • Feeling physically exhausted.

To help prevent caregiver burnout, schedule time off so you can get away and recharge your batteries. Look for a local caregiver support group for caregiver resources. All caregivers experience struggles, and it's helpful to find like-minded people who can relate to you and support you.

It's also important to retain perspective. As much as you want to, you can't be all things to all people. You're not a superhero. You're only human, and you're doing the best that you can.

Make it a daily habit to get yourself in the proper headspace and acknowledge any caregiver depression you may feel. Whatever works for you — meditation, exercise, morning devotions, affirmations, or even starting each workday with a good cup of tea or coffee and reading a few chapters in a favorite book.

Also, establish a nighttime routine that helps you get restful sleep. Steer clear of activities and foods in the evening that give you energy.

Stay connected with family and friends. If you can't see them in person, then opt for video time.

Taking care of yourself will make you a better caretaker to your clients.

Auto and Car Insurance for Caregivers and Home Health Care Workers

Typical caregiver duties include driving to your clients' residences, grocery stores, and pharmacies, and occasionally to medical facilities for appointments.

Given all this travel, you need financial protection against accidents that might occur while driving for work-related reasons.

But what kind of coverage do you need? It can get a bit complicated because it depends on what you're driving, how you're employed, and your employer's coverage. Having the right insurance for any in-home caregiver is a necessity, as your role can put you at risk of accidents.

Caregivers Need Increased Liability Auto Coverage

Caregivers Need Increased Liability Auto Coverage

The main thing you want to do is make sure you have the right amount of liability coverage.

Your personal auto insurance won't allow you to drive people around in your vehicle as a service you're being paid for. Check with the home health care agency you work with to see if you're required to have high limits.

If your agency offers you auto liability protection, you will need to get something in writing and provide it to your auto insurer. And your employer may request that your auto insurance provider attach a business-use endorsement to your policy.

If you fail to notify your auto insurance company that you're driving your auto to fulfill your duties as a home health care worker, you could face serious issues if you need to file an insurance claim.

Your insurer could determine your auto usage is violating your contract's terms and refuse to pay for damages. That refusal could leave you paying for court costs, lawyers, and other expenses all on your own.

Commercial Auto Insurance for Caregivers

Commercial Auto Insurance

If you're running a small home health care business and your business owns the vehicles, you need commercial auto insurance.

This type of policy covers:

  • Auto liability if another party's vehicle is damaged
  • Medical expenses for injuries sustained in a crash
  • Physical damage caused by wrecks, theft, vandalism, and storms
  • Uninsured motorists who cause accidents 
Hired & Non-owned auto insurance

Hired & Non-Owned Auto Insurance

If you're running a small home health care business and your business doesn't own the vehicles, you need hired & non-owned auto insurance.

This type of policy covers liability expenses for accidents that happen when a worker is driving on the job. You can purchase this insurance as a standalone policy or add it as a rider to your general liability insurance policy.

Suppose your home health care business owns vehicles but also rents or uses employee cars for business purposes. In that case, you may need both commercial auto insurance and hired & non-owned auto insurance.

Auto insurance discounts for caregivers

Auto Insurance Discounts

If you need to increase your auto insurance coverage, that will increase your insurance premium. Combine that with the fact that home health care work is not a highly lucrative occupation.

Even though home health care workers have been risking their lives to keep the most vulnerable patients out of hospitals during the pandemic, existing labor laws do not deem them as essential workers. Most don't receive free personal protective equipment (PPE), hazard pay, overtime, sick leave, or health insurance.

A home health care worker will pay an average of $2,112 for auto insurance annually. So we want to share as many auto insurance discounts as possible.

Each of these can save you anywhere from 2 percent up to 10 percent on your rate:

  • Multi-policy (also known as bundling, in which vehicle and home or renters insurance is with the same provider) 
  • Multi-car
  • Safe driver
  • Anti-theft device
  • Defensive driver class
  • Customer loyalty
  • Pay in full
  • Online bill pay
  • Senior citizen (some start at age 55)
  • Organizations (look into any car insurance discounts provided via school alumni groups, credit unions, and auto clubs like AAA)

Another consideration is raising your deductible to lower your premium. For example, doubling your deductible from $500 to $1,000 could potentially save you nearly 10 percent in premium costs. The only caveat is to make sure you have enough savings to cover paying more out of pocket if you're in an accident.

Your best option is to use free online auto insurance quote tools to compare rates. Each insurance provider uses different methods to calculate risk and determine rates, so you can look for a better deal than the one you already have.

Look into at least three insurance companies, and follow up with them about all of their available discounts — most of them offer dozens.

We hope we've done a bit to help lessen the physical, mental, and financial risks for the two million-plus home health care workers who do so much for their patients.

About the Author

Karen Condor is an insurance and wellness expert who writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, AutoInsurance.org.

About Carex Health Brands

Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.

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