Community support worker’s often have little choice over the environment where they must work. It can sometimes be dirty and hazardous, which is not necessarily a reflection on the person whose home carers must visit. Often homes such as this become unkempt due to little or no family or community support; where the person who resides is incapacitated with limited mobility. Things tend to gradually deteriorate.
When a community support worker visits any home, the same work place health and safety standards apply as if the person were working in a healthcare facility. A community support worker employer must make every effort to mitigate risk of personal harm or injury for the community support worker and client.
Some community support worker risk exists with items of equipment used directly to provide mobility and support for the client’s disabilities. Often the client has their own equipment (such as bathroom or wheeled equipment) and in some cases it may not be altogether appropriate for the client’s needs, or could potentially pose harm to the carer and client.
We have visited several homes where we have seen equipment items that are corroded, damaged or faulty, being used on a daily basis. It is frightening to think that the person who relies on this equipment could easily become its victim should the equipment fail and cause injury. Additionally, mobility and disability equipment failure could potentially harm community support workers as they go about their duties caring for their client.
Community Support Worker Risk
Not limited to obviously worn or damaged items – harm may come from the use of inappropriate equipment, such as equipment with a lower weight rating than the person using it, or equipment that does not fit correctly. Cheap imported equipment which does not conform to Australian Standards, or equipment manufactured from weaker inferior materials, can pose definite risk to the community.
I think it safe to say we have heard the stories of equipment imported into the country which look the same but have been manufactured using lower quality, lower grade materials. These items invariably end up in the community thanks to Ebay or Gumtree – where they are literal time bombs for anyone unaware.
Many community care providers conduct client assessments to determine the needs for the individual. Sometimes this includes recommendations for equipment to assist client mobility or to replace equipment items which are deemed potentially dangerous. This is always welcome, but the available budget may be a limiting factor in terms of what can be possible. This is where compromises may occur and although the apparent risk may be small, the risk is not necessarily removed.
It may be uneconomical for commercial organisations to visit homes to evaluate equipment as the liability risk far outweighs any potential for financial gain let alone recouping travel and time costs. So it is mostly up to the carer organisation to assess the risk accurately and propose recommendations that enable a safe environment for their client and for their carers.
Companies such as Mobility Rentals & Sales always seek ways to help care organisations mitigate this type of risk. However, as noted above, there is a limitation commercially how much can be done by private enterprise.
For short and medium term needs, rental equipment is one answer where the right equipment (provided it meets appropriate safety standards) can be the ideal solution. Again, it is important to consider risks associated with this type of service to ensure that the hire company have traceable hygiene standards proving their equipment is decontaminated after use to ensure the next user will not be exposed to potential cross infection. This is very important as most users are likely to be in a weakened state where minor illnesses can easily and quickly become serious enough to hospitalise. See our article:Importance of Hygiene with Disability Equipment Use.
In addition to requesting proof of equipment hygiene, proof should also be provided of each equipment item having been recently tested and serviced. Electrically operated equipment requires “test & tag” evidence in accordance with Australian standards and state legislation. To further minimise risk, identify an equipment hire company who can offer infield testing for equipment that may be on long term hire for 4 months or more – this can help with the accreditation process in mitigation of risk.
Supporting Community Care
Community care organisations service providers are becoming stretched further with less funding and less staff hours to meet the ever growing community need. Therefore it is vital that community care organisations partner with commercial organisations who not only provide reliable, quality services but can partner community care organisations to be flexible to provide support even where those services may not currently exist.
This becomes more vital to the individual restricted at home by their disability (with limited mobility for travel) who greatly appreciates an organisation that steps outside the business model to do what is right even where the return may be questionable. If community care service providers partner with companies that have a genuine focus to the community need, they will find that this will allow far greater flexibility for the community support worker in supporting the at-home care needs for their client.
This type of relationship is the way forward in providing maximum benefit for in-home care to people within our community. It is important that a community care organisation do their homework to identify an appropriate service provider and genuinely engage their support to partner in providing better outcomes for the clients they care for. It is important that a partnering relationship be mutually beneficial. Otherwise it may be doomed to failure if one fails to perform or exploits the other. There should always be clear, open channels for communication and seek “win win” outcomes.
For more information regarding support for community needs contact us 1300 460 070
Copyright – Mobility Rentals & Sales 2016