The number of home care aides is rapidly growing, expecting to account for 1.2 million new U.S. jobs by 2026. These workers support clients with self-care and mobility in their homes and can face physical and verbal abuse because of the isolated nature of their work and limited support. Such violence can lead to depression, physical burnout, and high job turnover.

Most studies on violence in healthcare focus on hospitals and other facility-based settings. To fill this research gap, a NIOSH-funded study published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicineexternal icon looked into home care aides’ experiences of verbal abuse and related risk factors. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell collected information from 954 home care workers through surveys, focus groups, and interviews between September 2012 and April 2013. The researchers asked participants about working conditions within the past year, including verbal abuse from clients and their relatives, health, as well as job security. Researchers also collected information on age, race, and other demographics.

Results showed that 22% of participants reported verbal abuse at least once in the past 12 months and that those who experienced verbal abuse were 11 times more likely to have experienced physical abuse. Researchers identified clients with dementia and inadequate workspace in a client’s home as important risk factors for verbal abuse. Unclear plans for delivering care and clients with limited mobility also were associated with verbal abuse, although to a lesser extent. In contrast, predictable work schedules lowered the risk and, according to the researchers, could possibly improve the relationship between home care aides and clients. These findings support the need for policy and training interventions targeting violence against home care aides.

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Source: NIOSH