Open Access Capstone
Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)
Introduction: Home health aides undergo significantly increased physical stress in their work with minimal support which may contribute to decreased satisfaction with a home health aide position (Czuba et al., 2012). Providing frequent assistance with hands-on self-care tasks and transfers has been correlated with an increased occurrence of physical injury (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2010). Occupational therapists have specialized skills in task-adaptation, environmental modification, and proper body mechanics that can assist home health aides in maximizing their client’s function and decreasing risk of injury such as back strain. However, little is known about how home health aides perceive the daily physical challenges and risk of injury facing them. Objectives: This study sought to gain detailed information about the daily experiences of home health aides, to identify physical challenges within their work, and to determine if there was a potential role for occupational therapy in injury prevention through education. Methods: A qualitative descriptive approach was implemented using semi-structured phone interviews that were recorded and transcribed for analysis. Colaizzi’s descriptive phenomenological method was used to guide data analysis procedures. Triangulation of data, member-check, and a reflexive journal were utilized to strengthen validity. Participants were recruited through convenience sampling. Individuals were excluded from the study if they were not actively working as a home health aide at the selected agency or had not worked as a home health aide within the past year (2018) for the selected agency. Individuals who reviewed and signed a consent form were able to participate. The study was approved by a university institutional review board. Results: Participants included eight female home health aides with an age range of 35-65 years. The average experience of the participants was 6.25 years. The following themes were identified: home health aides valued the use of a client-centered approach with their clients (Know the rules and know your clients even better), home health aides assisted their clients with a wide range of ADL and IADL activities to support their independence within their home (More than Activities of Daily Living), transferring clients was considered the most physically demanding task (Would you like a hand with your transfer?), and study participants believed new home health aides could benefit from training in client positioning, appropriate use of adaptive equipment, and proper lifting mechanics in various contexts (Let’s get physical!). Discussion: Study results provided descriptive information regarding the daily occupations home health aides assisted their clients with including a combination of ADL and IADL activities. Many of these responsibilities coincided with areas that occupational therapists address within their skilled services. This demonstrates areas in which occupational therapist knowledge corresponds with the problem-solving skills home health aides implement with their clients as their needs change daily. Educational support from occupational therapists in correct body mechanics and methods for safe transfers could assist with reducing physical strain for home health aides. In addition, occupational therapists could provide recommendations to home health aides on proper equipment to utilize for facilitation of independence for clients (Guay et al., 2013). Practice Implications: The areas of overlap between home health aides and occupational therapists identified in the research study provide an opportunity for occupational therapy consultation with home health agencies in the role as educator.
Shirley O'Brien, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Leah Simpkins, OTD, OTR/L, CPAM
2019 Julia Mindlina
Mindlina, Julia, "The Home Health Aide Experience: Opportunities for Occupational Therapy" (2019). Occupational Therapy Doctorate Capstone Projects. 47.
IRB Approval Number (if applicable)