Stress-Related Conditions Prevalent Among Caretakers
November 13, 2020
According to the AARP, there were more than 43 million caregivers in the United States in 2019 – and this year the numbers have skyrocketed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Caregivers are sometimes unpaid (they are usually called “informal caregivers”), though millions of others hold paid, formal positions. Caretakers are our neighbors, friends, family members, spouses, or partners who provide help to others with daily activities (bathing, dressing, eating, household chores, etc.) and various medical tasks.
As home health nurses or aides, companions or nursing assistants, caretakers experience high levels of job-related stress. A recent Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) study confirms that caregivers – especially younger, millennial ones – are more likely to have behavioral and physical health conditions than the general population. The study relates these findings primarily to how much labor, emotional support, and time go into holding these positions. One in four, caregivers that participated in the BCBS’ national survey reported experiencing higher levels of stress and increased feelings of isolation and loneliness during the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
Behavioral health conditions like anxiety, major depression, and adjustment disorder are more pronounced in millennial caregivers, though caregivers of all ages are more likely to develop these disorders than the benchmark, or general, population. Caregivers are also more likely to develop potentially problematic stress-related conditions, like hypertension, tobacco use disorder, and obesity. They are also more likely to have adverse health events, which includes hospitalizations and emergency room visits.
In addition to the aforementioned conditions, caregivers face many other job-related safety and health hazards. These hazards include:
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Higher risk of illness or infection due to coming into contact with bodily fluids and blood
- Needle stick injuries, sharps injuries, and allergic reactions (most often to latex)
- Car accidents. Caretakers often drive from job-to-job, which renders them high risk for dangerous car accidents that can result in injury or death
- Exposure to infectious diseases when working closely with infected individuals or in areas with high infection rates
- Musculoskeletal disorders caused by working in uncomfortable positions and/or performing repetitive tasks. Caregivers also experience back injuries when lifting or moving patients
- Burn risks
- Workplace violence
- Chemical exposure
- Severe fatigue from working long hours or several shifts in a row
Protecting Caregivers from Injury
Luckily, there are several steps that employers can – and must – take to mitigate the dangers that caretakers and home healthcare workers often face. Employers are legally responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for caretakers whether they work in a home or healthcare facility setting. To reduce known workplace hazards, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) mandates that employers implement control methods, such as:
- Develop policies that identify when ergonomic assistive devices (such as gait belts, mechanical or electronic hoists, slings, rollers, and slide boards) are needed for a task and provide them when necessary. Employers must provide ergonomic device training to employees
- Establish blood borne pathogen control programs that meet federal requirements as laid out by OSHA. These programs help reduce sharps injuries and needle stick injuries. Employers should also give caregivers needle devices with safety features, sharps containers, and eliminate the use of needle devices whenever they are unnecessary. Employers must also conduct post-exposure medical evaluations on staff members
- Reduce latex exposure reactions by using non-latex gloves when possible or by considering the use of nitrile, vinyl, or polymer gloves. Employers should also conduct training on latex allergies and provide medical evaluations to any workers who experience symptoms related to having an allergic reaction
Caregivers provide critical services to people in need but as you can tell, they also face numerous job-related hazards. If you are a caregiver who was injured because your employer failed to uphold his or her legal duty to provide a safe work environment, you may want to file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to injured workers. If you would like to learn more about filing a workers’ compensation claim, someone at our firm can help. Contact a representative who can answer your questions online now.
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