Home Health Aides: The Forgotten Necessity for the Older Population

By Aaron Stapleton, Queen City Homecare; Chapter Chair, HCAOA Ohio

The idea of “frontline workers” has been amplified as the pandemic has spread. When you hear the general public talk about frontline workers, rarely do you hear about the home health aides. These are the everyday workers who are giving baths, assisting with feeding so the client gets nourishment and helping the client to properly clean up after toileting, as they can sometimes no longer do these themselves. These tasks many people believe are below them to do, but these are the tasks that keep our elderly population out of the hospitals and safely in their homes every day. These tasks, if not completed, would increase our hospitalizations due to falls, UTI’s, and malnutrition among other things.

This would be the worst case scenario in good times. The pandemic has changed drastically the scope of the “worst case.” It becomes more and more clear that the preventative care given by home health aides saves lives. Just as we will never truly know how many lives were saved by swift actions taken in March by Ohio Governor Jim DeWine, we may never truly know how many lives the preventative care of a private duty home health aide saves.

When I started Queen City Homecare eight years ago, the home care industry was known as little more than sitters and companions -individuals who would make sure their clients wouldn’t get lost or would have someone to watch the Price is Right with. I knew the true value of having home health aides in the home, not just for safety but also to give our clients the best quality of life day after day.

I immersed myself in the business and made it a mission to show the community the value of home care. It wasn’t long after I started the business that I realized that our opportunity as a business and as an industry was not just to increase the quality of life for our clients—it was just as important to increase the quality of our employee’s lives.

Fast forward a few years and a pandemic later and I believe we, as an industry, are showing the community and the country how valuable home health aides are and the necessity of home care. Our industry has been known as “non-skilled” due to Medicare definitions for years. Think about that for a minute, how would you react if the work you did was considered “non-skilled”? These are the people that fill an extremely large void in our community by caring for our largest population. Without this, much of our elderly population would not be able to live their lives as safely as they do now.

It is imperative that you fight for these workers now so they are still able, and willing, to care for us in years to come. We had to fight to even be considered as health care and essential, we had to prove our worth just so we could show up to care for the population that needs it the most. I say we give the workers, and the industry, the respect it so deserves. No longer should these workers be called “non-skilled” but rather “support care workers”. No longer should the industry be looked upon as a secondary option to health care, but rather a primary option to preventative care.

These front-line workers deserve to be recognized not only during a pandemic, but at all times as they are giving loving care to a population of older and disabled adults who would not have the quality of life they do otherwise. Home care is a necessary service in the health care system. It is time the industry and their employees are recognized.