6. How Patients see Home Health Aides – The Aide as Slave/Servent

In this series of blogs, we are discussing ways that care receivers look at their aides or caretakers. In this section we will look at the Aide as servant or even slave.

“Anita! Pick up these clothes I left on the floor. I need them ironed!”

“Anita! I’ve told you many, many times, I like the toothpaste to cover ALL the toothbrush bristles. Can’t you ever get it right?”

“Anita! How could you buy this brand of spaghetti?  Don’t you know the store brand is just as good?”  [shortly after] “Anita!  You got the store brand of raisins.  Don’t you know, the quality is never as good with the store brands?!”

Who is this person? I have seen a number of patients who believe that they are hiring a servant, or worse, a slave, when an aide arrives to take care of them.  They are wrong twice.  First of all, they aren’t usually paying, Medicaid is.  Second, an aide has very specific tasks, based on the patient’s particular deficits and needs.  This list of tasks is almost always outlined on a document sent by the agency providing the service.  This list never includes:

  1. Taking abuse (being spoken too rudely or roughly
  2. Taking care of the patient’s spouse, children, pets or friends
  3. Providing cordon bleu cuisine
  4. Heavy cleaning (like ironing, window washing) or
  5. Mind Reading

But let’s for arguments sake, allow that an aide is a type of servant. Dealing with servants is a skill that takes training and experience.  Even rich people who grow up with servants don’t always do this well.  And many people, who themselves worked in the service industry, even as home health aides, forget all they learned and experienced when they are now receiving care.  There is an ancient expression which explains the proper attitude to take with servants:   “Noblesse Oblige.” As many of you know, it means nobility obliges you to act nobly,” that is, to treat the less fortunate (those who depend upon you) with respect.  When you are in charge of someone whose livelihood depends upon your good will, you are obliged to treat them civilly.  That doesn’t mean you let yourself be taken advantage of or otherwise mistreated.  It means that you call your aide by whatever name they invite you to use, you say please and thank you, you apologize for providing any extra work, and you don’t demand they do anything that they are not supposed to do.  By the same token, the aide should call YOU by whatever name you choose, provide the services they are supposed to, bring their own food, stay off the phone for most of the time, (apologize if there is a communication difficulty), and treat you politely and civilly.

Many “care receivers” believe that if you cut some slack with the aide, they will get something back. Please look at a coming blog called Negotiating with your aide, to see more on this topic.

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