In a productive society, laws and ethics guide our behaviors. Ethics are basically the understanding of what is right and wrong. An ethical HHA will have a sense of duty and responsibility towards others and their clients. An upstanding HHA will always try and do what is right. But if ethics informs us of what we should do, laws inform us of what we MUST do. Laws in most societies are based on ethics. In a general sense, governments establish laws to help people live peacefully among one another and to ensure both safety and order. Therefore, when someone breaks the law, they may be punished with fines or jail time.
When it comes to health care, laws and ethics are incredible important overall. They protect those who recieve health and put their trust into healthcare providers. Similarly, laws also protect those who give care from liability and other frivolous claims. Every home health aide and other health care professionals as well should be guided by a code of ethics. In fact, almost all medical institutions maintain a code of ethics as a part of their company policy. Furthermore, successful HHAs understand the laws that apply to their jobs and industry.
Here are some great examples of ethical HHA behavior:
- Always being honest
- Protecting the privacy of their client
- Never accepting tips or gifts
- Never becoming personally, reomantically or sexually involved with clients or client families
- Reporting suspected abuse of clients
- Following the care plan / care assignment faithfully
- Refraining from performing unassigned tasks
- Reporting all client incidents and observations
- Providing documents that are accurate, timely and on time
- Following standard healthcare precautions
There is also a concept called Clients’ rights. Clients’ rights speak to how clients are entited to be treated. They provide an ethical code of conduct for healthcare providers and workers. Home health agencies will always provide a clients’ rights list to a prospective client and in fact, review each right with the client directly. This ensures that clients fully understand their rights and what they can expect in an ethical sense from their care. Many states take this a step further and require that HHA agencies must provide their clients with the phone numbers for abuse hotlines. It is a law that an HHA must report suspected client abuse.
Here are some ways you can help to protect client rights:
- Watch for signs of abuse and neglect and report them immediately to your supervisor
- Get clients actively involved in the planning of their care
- Always explain what a procedure is and does before performing it on the client
- Never, EVER, physically, mentally, verbally or sexually abuse a client.
- Respect a clients refusal of care request BUT make sure to report this refusal to a supervisor immediately
- Inform your case supervisor of the client has questions or concerns regarding the care plan
- Be truthful when reporting and documenting client care
- Never talk or gossip about a client
- Always knock and ask permission before entering a clients room or home
- Do not open a clients mail or look through their belongings. There are times this may be specifically approved in the care plan however.
- Do not accept gifts or money from the client.
- Respect your clients proerty at all times
- Report any observations regarding a clients current condition or care.
ABUSE AND NEGLECT: HOW TO OBSERVE AND REPORT
Physical Abuse – unexplained injuries including but not limited to burns, bruises and bone injuries.
Emotional Abuse – Complaints of anxiety, signs of abnormal stress, withdrawl from others or routine, fear of family members, friends or authority figures
Neglect – Signs that indicate a lack of care when the HHA is not present such as diapers or bedding not changed or lack of food in the house.
Negligence is a legal term that indicates the failure to provide proper care for a client which then results in unintended inury to said client. Some examples of negligence might include:
Not noticing that your client’s dentures are not fitted properly. This in turn has caused the client to stop eating properly and drives the client towards malnourishment.
Failing to replace a hearing aid battery. This could lead a client to miss a smoke alarm or tornado alarm. In the event of said alarm, the client would require the help of a neighbor or someone else close in proximity to save them.
Not observing that a clients eyesight is worsening. Corrective measures are not taken and the client stumbles, trips and falls and ends up injured.
Respecting confidentiality means keeping private things private. As a HHA you will often learn confidental – read private – things about your clients. This could include things like the state of a clients health, finances and even their personal relationships. Ethically and legally it is your responsibility to protect the private nature and confidentiality of this informatio. This means you should not share this information with anyone outside of the direct healthcare team for the client in question.
In 1996, congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This act has been further revised in the years 2001 and 2002. One of the main reasons this law was introduced was to help bolster the confidentiality and security of medical information.As a result, all healthcare organizations had to take new and improved steps to protect their collective client information. As it currently stands, agency stakeholders and care providers can now be fined or imprisoned if they do not properly follow the rules established by HIPAA to protect privacy. This applies to all health care providers including nurses, doctors, HHAs, and any other members of the care team.
So under HIPAA, the law states that a clients information must be kept private. This information is now referred to as protected health information or PHI. Examples of common protected health information are things like names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers and client case or medical record numbers.The only people who should have access to this information are the people who must have access to this information to provide care or do their job. This may include office or back office staff who process records and run billing.But even so, all of these people must protect this information so that it does not become known or used by anyone else – so that it remains confidential.
As a HHA, HIPAA laws mean that you can not provide any information to anyone about a client unless they are directly involved in the clients care. This can be sometimes sidestepped if the client gives specific approval (consent) or in rare cases, the law requires the HHA provide a piece of information. For example, if a client neighbor asks how the client is doing, the HHA should respond with something like “I am sorry, but I cannot share that confidential information with you”. This would be a correct response to such a situation where anyone without a legal reason to need the information asks about the client. The HHA need not be snotty or unfriendly, but the HHA must remain firm in their client confidentiality requirements.
Maintaining this confidentiality is both a legal and ethical obligation. It is how we respect our clients and their clients’ rights. As a HHA, you need your client to trust you and talking about their confidential business will destroy that trust (and is also illegal). Simply put, discussing a clients personal affairs with anyone other than your supervisor, or a member of the client care team (both family and professional), violates the law and is illegal. Just don’t do it.