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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.
7 Reasons to Become a Home Health Aide
One of your most important jobs as a home health care worker is going to be preparing food for your clients. There is a great deal to know about this and unfortunately, even though much of it is information which we all should be aware of, the reality is that many people tend to be ignorant of this information. Here's what you need to know:
The Basics of Nutrition
There are three basic building blocks for virtually all kinds of nutritive food on the planet. They are:
Under the USDA food pyramid, complex carbohydrates such as whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains and similar products should make up the bulk of the diet for most of your home health care patients (the amounts will vary depending on the specific diagnosis of your patients and the doctor's instructions).
Note that sugar and candy are also considered carbohydrates, however these are "simple" carbohydrates meaning that the body breaks these foods down much more easily and as such they are not the best choice for everyday foods.
The second building block of nutritive food is made up of protein. Protein includes most kinds of non fatty animal flesh (lean beef, ham, venison, etc.) as well as most fish, poultry and certain kinds of vegetable products. Under the USDA food pyramid, these should be more limited in the diet of your home health care patients.
Finally, fat is the third building block of nutritive food. There are a large number of kinds of fats, including saturated fats, poly unsaturated fats and mono unsaturated fats to name just a few. In most cases, fat is recommended to be limited as well in the diet of your home health care patients. There are however exceptions for certain kinds of fat which can be beneficial. It's important to consult with the doctor if you're not sure which kinds of fat are allowed on your patient's diet.
Find Out How the Client Likes Food Prepared
It's also important to find out how your client likes his food prepared. For example, there's nothing wrong with providing your client with extra spices, assuming that there are no health considerations (i.e. if the person is suffering from gastrointestinal problems, it's generally not a good idea to give them spicy foods). Remember as well that your choice of cooking utensils may be somewhat limited, so be sure to be creative in preparing food for your home health care clients.
What to Watch For
As a home health care worker, it's part of your job to watch carefully what your client eats. If they are showing a pattern of eating less than they usually do, it may be a sign of a problem which should be reported to your supervisor.
Finally, when shopping for and preparing food of your home health care clients, it's important to follow best practices when doing so. For example, you should store fresh milk, eggs and the like in the refrigerator. Meat products should be stored on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to avoid the possibility of contamination from drips. Fresh fruit and vegetables need not be refrigerated until they turn ripe. You should also be sensitive to pricing and use coupons whenever possible to save your home health care clients money on their food bills.
Oftentimes, as a home health care aide, your job will include helping a patient to prepare food. While the standard rules of food preparation do apply for most of your patients (i.e. following the Food Pyramid), there are also a large number of different modified diets, some of them quite complex that you may need to follow. Here's what you need to know:
Increasing or Decreasing Intake of Certain Foods
The most common type of modified diet simply requires either an increase or a decrease in the intake of certain kinds of foods. For example, a patient suffering from chronic high blood pressure may be advised to decrease the amount of sodium in the diet. This would entail more than leaving the salt shaker in the cupboard. You also need to check the nutrition information on all prepared foods for the total sodium content that they include.
Other times there may be a need to increase intake of certain foods. For example, some patients may need to have in increase in the amount of protein they take in. Again, consulting the nutrition information on prepared foods will be important. It's also important to check on which whole foods include high concentrations of the necessary items (in the case of protein, most lean meats and poultry will be high in protein).
Specific Foods Not Allowed
Other times, you may need to consider that specific foods will either be allowed or not allowed. For example, some patients may require a gluten free diet which means ensuring that all wheat based products are specially prepared to be gluten free.
Chopping Food-When chopping food, you should use a clean knife and a cutting board. Avoid chopping other foods on the same chopping board where raw meat was cut. When handling raw meat, remember that wood cutting boards will absorb the liquids from the meats and so should be avoided.
Keep Things Clean-In all cases, all equipment used to process food for your patients modified diets must be kept absolutely clean. This means for example that you must be careful to wash equipment once you've used it and not allow it to sit and dry.
Storage-If foods that you have mechanically prepared for your patient's modified diets must be stored, be sure to keep them in air tight containers and to make sure that foods are kept fresh by either freezing or refrigerating them rather than simply leaving them in the cupboard.
Prevent Bacteria-Finally, pureed or cooked foods should be served right away or frozen to ensure that bacterial infections cannot form on them. Hot foods should be served while still hot and cold foods should be served cold to ensure that they are safe. Never serve meat which has been left out of refrigeration for more than two hours and be sure to keep dairy products and eggs refrigerated as well.
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