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3. The Home Care Aide as Coach

When able-bodied people become disabled, either temporarily or permanently, a home care aide is often called in to assist with their care. After becoming disabled, either from an accident or an operation or other medical procedure, people often don’t feel like doing what they need to in order to recover.  They may feel too tired.  The shock or trauma of the event can make them feel hopeless and broken.   This is particularly true following heart attacks and strokes.  The patient may find it hard to believe that he or she will ever be whole and independent, again.  They may be in pain, irritable and depressed.  This can also be true of chronically disabled patients who must do daily stretches and other exercises to keep themselves from becoming even more handicapped.

The home care aide is in a unique position to help the patient recover and rediscover their independence. In other words, the aide can function as a coach, encouraging their patients to initiate and complete their exercise regimen.  The physical, occupational and speech therapists may be present a few times a day or week, but the aide is always there.  Their relationship with the patient is closer and more intimate.  They know the patient’s strengths and hopes as well as their limitations and moods.

They can encourage, or even push, the patient to wash him or herself in the shower, to stretch down and put on socks and shoes, to take that extra step, to bring a spoonful of food to the mouth.   Sometimes patients become angry when they are asked to do these things, but the aide is not a servant.  Their job is not to wait upon the patient, but to make the patient as independent as possible.  If the patient is capable of very little, even that little can help the patient regain dignity and feelings of efficacy.

The aide is a valuable adjunct in the treatment and recovery process. He or she provides the continuity of care, communicating with physicians, PT, OT, speech, and nursing, keeping things going over weekends and holidays when other professionals are away.  Properly trained, home care aides supplement the full program of rehabilitation or maintenance care.

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