As the name suggests, a live in carer is someone that will live in the client’s home. They will complete a range of care duties from personal care – such as washing, dressing and going to the toilet – to managing medication, shopping, household chores and trips out of the house.
Live in carers with the appropriate level of experience and training can also provide intensive personal care assisting individuals with specific needs such as dementia, Parkinson’s and rehabilitation from hospital.
The role requires a highly dedicated, compassionate person; someone with a balance of dedication and reliability, combined with sociability, good humour and common sense. Being a live in carer also presents certain safety challenges that should be addressed in a risk assessment.
We’ve highlighted the biggest risks that live in carers are likely to face.
Carers are at high risk of musculoskeletal disorders as a result of their daily client care activities. Transferring or repositioning as well as dressing or bathing patients may require force and awkward posture. Most people are too heavy for manual handling, putting the carer at risk of injury.
In human health and social work, there were an estimated 60,000 work-related cases of musculoskeletal disorder (new or long standing), which is around a third of all ill health in this sector.https://www.hse.gov.uk/Statistics/industry/health.pdf
In addition, some of these movements involve extended reach, bending and twisting the upper body while handling the patient. Other activities may require the carer to support their client (or just their leg or arm) in the same position for a prolonged time.
General domestic duties can also involve activities that require awkward postures, excessive bending, kneeling on hard surfaces and lifting items. The repetitive nature of these movements while working as a live in carer can result in painful disorders of muscles, tendons and nerves.
Employers have a responsibility to ensure that proper health and safety information, instructions and training for work activities are provided to care workers. For example, carers should never try to hold a client in a standing position or stop them from falling; instead, they should control the client’s fall to the floor (as trained).
Using mechanical aids, such as hoists, to move the patient and heavy objects, will help to remove many of the manual handling risks. When manual handling is required to transfer and reposition clients, carers should know the proper techniques to use.
Typically, client’s homes are not adapted to care worker’s needs; many suffer injuries because they trip, stumble or step on objects in their way. Good housekeeping, such as tidying wires by grouping them and keeping pathways clear, is an important factor in maintaining a safe work area for live in carers.
Similarly, the environment outside the home may present slip, trip and fall hazards. Pavements, particularly uneven ones, steps and poor lighting are common culprits for accidents. These risks are heightened when the carer is preoccupied with the safety and wellbeing of their client who is more vulnerable and likely to be less stable.
The presence of pets and other animals also needs to be taken into consideration. Any free-roaming pets should be herded into a separate room, where possible, when the carer is moving the patient around the house and outside.
Unless dealing with clients that have a mental illness, it is unlikely that live in carers will experience violent behaviour from their patient. However, those will special communication needs or conditions such as dementia may act aggressively out of confusion or frustration. In some cases, clients may be angry because of their health situation and dependence on others.
Research has shown that care workers have reported short- and long-term psychological trauma, including anxiety, depression, fear of returning to work and disturbed sleep patterns, as a result of an attack from a patient.
A live in carer may be more affected by such aggressive behaviour because they are in such close quarters. Carers should be trained to recognise specific triggers and given methods to minimise violent behaviour. Equipping them with a personal safety device that is linked to an alarm receiving centre will provide them with peace of mind that assistance can be summoned in an emergency.
Although there are many benefits that are associated with being a live in carer such as the ability to build client relationships, free lodging and constant companionship; it can have a detrimental effect on mental health in certain circumstances.
Live in carers might experience a sense of feeling ‘penned in’ within someone else’s home, subsequently finding it difficult to relax. Depending on the client, a live in carer might not have the freedom they would allow themselves in their own home.
Being the main person responsible for the health and wellbeing of a client can lead to additional stress and pressure to provide the best level of care possible. This may lead to the carer working longer days when they should be resting, resulting in mental and physical fatigue.
In the unfortunate event that a patient dies or becomes seriously unwell, there needs to be a support system in place to help live in carers who are likely to have forged strong and meaningful relationships. Offering them the opportunity to discuss their feelings with a psychologist or other mental health practitioner enables them to process their emotions.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines a risk assessment as “a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people.” For most businesses, a straightforward five-step approach is sufficient:
The Peoplesafe service is available to provide safety to those working in risky situations, including live in carers. For more information about how we can help, contact us on 0800 990 3563 or complete our online form.