Sick and elderly people may be living in hazardous conditions because they are too frail and weak to keep up the housework and they lack resources for help. A new large scale study was conducted at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Over 700 home healthcare RNs, who provide at home care for patients in New York City, participated in an anonymous survey and reported on living conditions in patients homes.
The RNs reported potentially hazardous conditions, such as mold, excessive dust, cigarette smoke, loose rugs and unsanitary living conditions.
The study was published in a paper titled “Household-Related Hazardous Conditions with Implications for Patient Safety in the Home Health Care Sector,” in the December 2008 issue of the Journal of Patient Safety.
Home health care is a fast growing segment of the medical industry. Patients can live in their homes while recuperating from an illness or surgery, with the professional, medical help provided by homecare workers. Homecare workers call on the patients to administer needed injections, to take their vital signs and to provide other medical care, as needed.
Many hospitals rely on homecare health care workers to provide the care that previously would have required hospitalization. Now patients are released to their homes, whether they have adequate family support to care for them at home or not.
When people are sick or frail, they frequently lack the strength, or energy, to perform even the simplest of tasks. This means that chores are often left undone during the healing process.
There has been very little data gathered about living conditions, according to a statement by principle investigator, Robyn Gershon, DrPH, a professor of clinical Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health.
Gershon went on to state, in a press release, that almost 70% of home healthcare patients in the United States are 65 years old or older. Patients who are elderly and frail are especially vulnerable to conditions that are unsafe. Physical and environment hazards were three times more likely to occur in households located in the inner-city urban communities, compared to other communities.
Researchers also gathered data about violence and threats of violence in households. Almost 40% of the RNs reported that they felt threatened in the neighborhoods their clients lived in. RN’s also reported that there were guns in 9% of their clients’ homes.
Poor housekeeping and unsanitary conditions were another concern noted in the reports. This could be related to the fact that frail and elderly people lack the strength to do routine household chores.
Study findings indicated that the households of homecare patients could be risky for the patients and for homecare workers.
Journal of Patient Safely: Hazardous conditions in the home health-care setting may put frail and elderly at risk. Press release dated March 4, 2009.
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