When Clients Pass Away, Home Health Aides Could Use Support
By LIDA TUNESI
When an in-home aide’s client passes away, the stress is two-fold: emotional and financial. In a new study, researchers at the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy went to home care agencies to see what could be done about the problem.
While the authors found there is much more that agencies could do to help their employees, the study revealed a strong need for better financing before many of these things can happen.
Professor Emma Tsui and graduate student Marita LaMonica were authors on the article, published in Journal of Applied Gerontology.
We know that the death of clients is hard on aides, because of both grief and job loss, but so far research hasn’t asked for the perspective of the agencies that aides work for. To remedy this, the study authors interviewed 14 people in leadership positions at eight agencies around New York City, asking what measures were currently in place and what else they hoped to do.
The responses varied, but generally agencies were aware of the burden on their aides. That said, no agency had policies in place to provide emotional support, and none provided paid time off after a client’s death. What support the agencies do provide is informal and reactive—aides have to ask around for help rather than automatically receiving it. Though case coordinators sometimes ask aides if they’d like to take time off after a death, one agency noted that most aides would decline because they couldn’t afford to lose income.
This doesn’t mean that the leadership doesn’t want to provide support. Rather, the agencies, which are primarily funded through Medicare and Medicaid, all agreed that they don’t have the money to do it. The home care industry would need policy changes at both the state and federal level in order to provide paid time off after a client’s death.
The authors also suggested that researchers look into how the aides’ unions could push and work with agencies to create support systems. It would also be worthwhile to take a closer look at the potential of agencies that are embedded in larger, multiservice non-profits, since they have access to more resources and counseling professionals.