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Verbal abuse of home care aides common: study

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Lowell, MA — More than 1 out of 5 home care aides are verbally abused, and workers who experience mistreatment are 11 times more likely to be physically assaulted, results of a recent study from the University of Massachusetts Lowell show.

Researchers collected information from 954 home care aides – who support clients with self-care and mobility in their homes – via surveys, focus groups and interviews between September 2012 and April 2013. Participants were asked about working conditions, including verbal abuse from clients and their family members, along with health and job security.

The researchers found that 22% of the participants said they had been verbally abused at least once in the past year. Two key factors were clients with dementia and inadequate space in a client’s home. Additionally, two lesser factors were clients with limited mobility and an unclear plan for care delivery. Meanwhile, home care aides who worked predictable schedules had a lower risk of abuse.

 

Verbal and physical violence can lead to depression, physical burnout and high job turnover, the researchers noted. They recommend employers implement predictable schedules – which could improve home care aides’ relationships with clients – along with policy and training interventions that target violence against workers.

The study was published online June 13 in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

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