Multiple hands of home health aides setting a table, serving food, and cleaning.

The Pros, Cons, and Search of a (New) Home Health Aide

It's been 14 years and multiple sclerosis has impinged my life and not in the best of ways. The loss of fine and gross motor skills and fatigue has significantly impacted what I can and cannot do. Just the thought of - and definitely living with - such a challenging trajectory can certainly be distressing, overwhelming, and woeful.

What does a home health aide do?

This is why it's so important for me to focus on managing my MS and its effects by creating an atmosphere that helps me feel my best. One of those ways is with the support of a home health aide. She assists me with the areas of my daily life that I would love to still do, but are now nearly or fully impossible for me to do anymore. I have an aide for housekeeping and laundry services, shopping for food and other household needs, preparing and serving meals and snacks, running errands, and personal services such as bathing, dressing, and grooming.

Benefits of having a home health aide

The primary advantage of utilizing in-home care - both physically and mentally - is that it's an excellent way to maintain quality of life. Physically, you're able to preserve your energy. Mentally, it's satisfying to be in your own dwelling amongst your own things with one-on-one, personal care with your very own aide. Often, this creates strong bonds of trust, comfort, and friendly aide/client relationships which extends to the client's family. A good client/aide relationship is emotionally beneficial.

In my case, where I also have children whom reside with and help me, having the additional support of an aide to manage caregiving responsibilities helps to avoid them getting 'caregiver burnout' which is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. This can occur if family caregivers become overwhelmed handling every need, every task, all the time. Home health care can be just the support they need to help manage caregiving responsibilities.

Challenges of having a home health aide

There can also be cons to in-home care. Aides that lack the necessary skills for this position can cause the client to suffer increased stress levels. For instance, needs differ from client to client so what worked for one individual may not work for another. A good aide will be cognizant of this. They will tailor physical stamina, in addition to the fruits of their training, to apply the necessary interpersonal, adaptability, organizational, time management, and technical skills that are appropriate for their client. The client suffers if they do not.

Another example is an outside influence in your home, where you should feel most comfortable, can already be disconcerting should you feel as if you're losing your independence or you're a private person like myself. Trust me, MS continuously challenges me to find a balance between pride and humility. Unfortunately, sometimes it's just difficult to find the right person.

A home health aide break up

And recently, this: "I put my two weeks notice in on Friday" blurted my home health aide of a year or so early one morning. I was stunned, totally caught off guard and I'm sure if she could have seen my face, she would have seen those emotions on it. Luckily, I was in the shower tucked securely behind the curtain and because my voice didn't betray me, I was able to keep an even tone with my simplistic response of "Ok". We then had a conversation where she apprised me of her personal reasons that prompted her decision to leave. And I understood because life happens. And she understood my dismay which included, but went beyond her leaving.

Finding the right home health aide for my MS needs

While I wish her all the best in her future endeavors and will miss her immensely, my distress lies in the coming days post her departure when the task of finding a new aide will be at hand. It was just a very long time with many unsuccessful candidates before my resigning aide arrived. I recall the candidate who argued with me about changing my trash bags daily then nastily lectured me on wasting money by doing so. One who only wished to chat her entire shift away. And the candidate that broke both my vacuum cleaner and my commode seat. Let's stop there.

I enjoy having an aide that 'gets' me and the job, but I'm just not looking forward to the process - again - of getting 'there' with someone new. Yet, from a client perspective, even with the cons, I am still an advocate for in-home care. The advantages, my life, make it worth it.

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