When engaging the services of a Home Health Aide (HHA), there's often an expectation that the HHA will offer a level of care comparable to that provided by a family caregiver. This includes a broad range of responsibilities, from housekeeping and personal care to more advanced tasks such as administering medications and performing medical procedures.
Advanced care encompasses a diverse set of activities, ranging from routine procedures like glucometer testing and eye/ear drops to more intricate responsibilities like wound care, tracheostomy suctioning, and catheterization. Families often find it perplexing that, despite providing permission and training, HHAs are restricted from performing these medical tasks, and they get upset.
The crux of the matter lies in the classification of these tasks as skilled care. Skilled care typically necessitates a provider order and is commonly reserved for licensed professionals, notably nurses. While family caregivers are often trained to perform these tasks, the expectation that HHAs can seamlessly assume these responsibilities is a misunderstanding.
The HHA's inability to undertake medical tasks isn't indicative of a lack of care or willingness to assist in every way possible. Instead, it results from restrictions imposed by the state, the agency, or a lack of required training and nursing oversight. Understanding the intricacies of these restrictions is vital to appreciating the HHA's role and capabilities.
State regulations significantly influence whether HHAs can perform medical tasks, with some states outright prohibiting such activities. Others permit the facilitation of self-administration or "hand-over-hand" assistance, allowing HHAs to support individuals in performing these tasks independently. Some states have nursing or permitted delegation, granting HHAs with advanced training the ability to perform various medical tasks under the oversight of a registered nurse.
Home care agencies are bound by state regulations but retain the autonomy to decide the extent to which they implement these regulations. Legal, compliance complexity, financial considerations, and staffing issues are factors that influence agency choices regarding the provision of advanced care by HHAs.
Required Training and Oversight
Even in states allowing HHAs to perform medical tasks, not every task is included, and not every HHA possesses the advanced training and nursing oversight required. Nurses must adhere to state laws, national nursing delegation guidelines, and the capacity for the HHA to manage the entire process. If advanced care is needed, collaboration with an agency ensuring appropriate staffing is crucial.
The HHA, despite advanced training, may not feel sufficiently acquainted with your loved one or a specific medical task, leading to discomfort. Acknowledging this discomfort is not a weakness but a recognition of the need for practical experience. In such cases, a nurse may accompany the HHA for additional training* or recommend a change in HHA.
*There is an additional charge for nurse visits.
Held to a different standard
While it might be tempting to allow HHAs to provide advanced care despite rules and regulations, this logic is flawed. HHAs, though trusted, are not more qualified than family members. Expecting them to perform medical tasks goes beyond their hired duties and holds them to a higher standard, potentially leading to blame if mistakes occur.
Trust is a cornerstone in your relationship. While HHAs may be trusted like family, the provision of advanced care is complex and fraught with potential risks. Without proper training, oversight, and adherence to regulations, neither you nor the HHA can be confident in the safety of providing medical care. Ignoring established rules jeopardizes the well-being of your loved one and limits recourse in case of harm.