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A home health aide is a trained healthcare professional employed by the family members or friends of a patient in order to provide long-term assistance for the personal and health-related needs of a patient. The job is different from a registered nurse because he or she works only under the supervision and advice of a nurse or therapist who specializes in the condition of the patient. Usually, an aide’s services are required for months or years, or for as long as the patient is in need of direct assistance and supervision.

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Home Health Aide Certification Guide

Working as a home health aide with mentally ill patients requires a special sensitivity to the needs of the mentally challenged. Too often, people tend to think of the mentally challenged as being somehow inferior and as such, they tend to talk down to them. However, what the mentally ill really need is what anyone else needs - they need someone who will take them seriously and make sure their needs are met while giving them as much freedom as possible.

Just What Is Mental Illness?

Before we can begin to discuss how to work effectively with mentally ill home care patients, it's important to understand what mental illness actually means. Let's start with the most basic definition and then go into a more detailed explanation. At its most basic, mental illness means that someone is incapable of functioning independently in society due to some kind of problems with how they experience the world emotionally. Exactly how this manifests itself and what the issues are do require additional explanation however.

Some indicators that a person may be mentally challenged include:

  • Inability to Develop and Maintain Healthy Relationships - Many mentally ill people find it difficult or impossible to create healthy interpersonal relationships.

  • Lack of Impulse Control - Another common problem for mentally challenged individuals is a lack of impulse control. Many mentally challenged individuals will for example do things in public or even in private that mentally sound people won't do (i.e. scream out loud at no one in particular, cause damage, public urination, etc.).

  • Inability to Tolerate Anxiety and Frustration - We all deal with anxiety and frustration on a daily basis. However, those who are mentally challenged often find that they cannot handle any (or very little) anxiety and or frustration in daily life.

  • Inability to Respect Others - Finally, many mentally ill people find it difficult to respect others, in terms of private space and or in terms of regular verbal abuse.

Your mentally challenged patients may also experience changes in behavior which are of a positive nature. Thus, it's important to note when and if such changes occur and to note changes in personality, either for the good or the bad.

While you should note environmental factors surrounding such changes in behavior, it's important not to draw conclusions on your own as to what precipitated these changes. Instead, you should note only the facts and allow mental health professionals to make such diagnoses.

Making Sure Patients are Cared For

It's important as a home health care worker working with mentally ill individuals to make sure that they are complying with their treatment regimen. This means for example that you need to ensure that the person is taking their medication on time and in the correct doses.

You must also watch carefully to ensure that dangerous behaviors do not put your patients in harm's way. When danger does present itself, you should call 911 to get emergency workers to help deal with the problems rather than attempting to deal with it on your own. For example, if your mentally challenged patient overdoses on sleeping pills, you should call 911 immediately rather than try to induce vomiting on your own.

Provide Patients with a Path to Recovery

Finally, your role as a home health care worker is to facilitate the patient's path to recovery. This means that you work with them to ensure that they will have the right kind of support to deal with their problems and that you help to keep the family involved as well in the recovery of the mentally challenged patient that you work with as a home health care worker.

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Home Health Aide (HHA) Training

HHA Training Requirements

Those who are interested in becoming home health aides should be at least 18 and have clean backgrounds (backgrounds checks are common). Depending on your state, formal training is not always required. However some clients and almost all health aide agencies require training. The home health aide agencies that hire you will train you themselves. You must also be willing to work varying hours. Some HHAs only work a few hours a day while others live with their patients and are on call almost all day.

The job mostly consists of taking care of individuals who can no longer look after themselves whether because of age or disability. As an HHA you will need to give medication, take temperature and perform other basic medical services. Some aides may be required to do other basic tasks like laundry, grocery shopping and helping patients bathe.

1) Clients sometimes express religious beliefs with which the home health aide does not agree. In dealing with these situations, which of these understandings should the aide use as a guide?

A. Clients have a right to their own beliefs, which should be respected.

B. Clients should be told not to discuss their beliefs with aides.

C. Aides should explain their beliefs to clients.

D. Aides should pretend to have the same beliefs that clients have

(The answer is A)

Overall, HHA is one of the fastest growing jobs in America today. This means higher pay and more opportunities for anyone interested in joining this field. Although there are many sources for obtaining information and training in HHA, http://myhhatraining.org is a recommended starting point for anyone seriously interested in the field.


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