April 19 2019
Tips for Being Respectful of Your Patient’s Home While You are Caring for Them
Caring for a patient in their home shifts the usual patient-clinician relationship in many ways. It takes them out of that clinical and sterile environment of a hospital and into their own surroundings. You are able to help your patients feel more comfortable by having them at home while healing or at the end of their life. It also allows patients to remain closer to their family, which provides a great support structure for someone who is ill. However, it also changes the relationship between you and the patient. The patient is not changing their schedule to fit the physician’s office schedule. Instead, you are arranging your day around what works for the patient and their family. You are also entering their home to care for them, making you the guest instead. And this means taking extra steps to be respectful of your patients’ homes while in them.
This may require a mindset change for nurses who are new to home care. In home care, patients and their families have input into all aspects of care and related decisions. In their own home, a patient has all of the rights. They can wear what they want when they want, wake up when they want and so on. In-home care is truly patient-centered.
These tips will help you mind your manners while caring for your patients in their own homes.
Call to Confirm
Before even stepping a foot in your patient’s home, call ahead of time to confirm your visit. Not only can it serve as a helpful reminder the family caregiver who might be so busy with caring for their loved one that an appointment may have slipped their mind, but it can also help you reschedule if needed. Sometimes, a patient may need help more immediately or may not be up to a visit that day. It also allows you to assess that day’s situation and perhaps what you should be discussing with your patient and their family caregiver during that visit.
You are the Guest
Remember that you are the guest. Use the same manners you would if you were visiting a friend or family member at their house for a social call. Since home care is patient-centered, ask a patient before doing anything to make sure it is okay. Such as asking if you can sit in a chair across from them instead of just plopping down in it. You may never know if that chair holds special meaning to the patient or is an antique in poor condition that shouldn’t be sat in anymore.
Respect Other Cultures & Religions
You will meet so many different people while caring for others. This makes it important to understand some cultural norms that may different from your own. For example, many Japanese do not wear shoes in their homes that they wear outside. In many cases, they have special shoes they wear only inside. And there are many people whom just do not like shoes on their carpet and ask that you take your shoes off at the door.
However, it is important for you to wear shoes while on the job. Not only does it protect you from stubbing your toes, but it also provides you support and grip when lifting and transferring patients. You can be respectful of your patient’s home by wearing disposable booties (with rubber grippers on the bottom so you don’t slide on slick surfaces like tile) over your shoes when in your patient’s home. Or you can have an extra pair of shoes that you leave at your patient’s home that you only wear while you are there.
When you visit a new patient’s home for the first time, you might consider asking ahead of time when confirming the appointment if you need to wear a different pair of shoes while in their home. It is also a good idea to have some disposable booties on hand. When you enter a patient’s home, ask if they would like you to wear the disposable booties over your shoes before continuing with your visit.
You will also want to be aware of any other cultural or religious tasks that your patients may do in a day, such as evening prayers in Islam. It would be rude to ask to schedule an appointment during a time of day that you know your patient and their family may be busy with those daily tasks that are important to them.
Knowing the culture or religion of each of your patients not only is helpful in prescribing treatments and care, but it can also help you be more respectful of your patients. For example, a patient may need a new dietary plan based on health issues, however, if your patient is Jewish, it is important to remember that the new dietary plan must also be kosher.
Get to Know the Person, Not Just the Illness
Knowing a bit about a person’s life or culture can also be helpful in understanding the actions of an elderly patient in hospice with dementia. Many dementia patients or those near the end of their life, begin to look back on their life and re-evaluate it. This is a normal process for someone at the end of his or her life. However for dementia patients, they can confuse reality with their memories and essentially relive parts of the past. This can be especially upsetting for someone who is a Holocaust or World War II survivor, as it could be very scary for him or her. Knowing this can help you to care for this patient in a more understanding manner and it also allows you to help better explain to family caregivers what is happening, making it less scary for them too.
Overall, it is just important to remember that you are the guest. Use the same manners you would when visiting a friend’s home. Also, get to know your patient’s on a deeper level. It is also important to learn about other cultures so that you know how to handle yourself if different situations or to be respectful of norms that may be different from your own. Not only can you have a more personable relationship with your patients, but it will allow you to offer better care for them.