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Trying to Help Can Hurt

Their job is to help those struggling with illness or injury, but they are often confronted with work-related health issues of their own, a new study says. They are home health care and hospice aides, and according to a new study, employers are having trouble finding and keeping the aides, in part because of workplace injuries.

Approximately a quarter of the workers recently surveyed said they are likely to leave their jobs in the coming year. Thirteen percent of them said that they had sustained an injury while working during the past 12 months.

A co-author of the study said on-the job injuries, low wages, irregular hours and job assignments all play a role in the difficulty businesses have in finding and retaining home nursing and hospice aides. She said that by 2022, a million new home care aides will be needed, making it one of the fastest growing occupations.

The most common injuries the aides suffer are back injuries, as well as related injuries caused by lifting. A professor of economics notes that patients are often heavy and unsteady, making lifting problematic. She said the injury problem can be alleviated by lifting devices, though their use is sporadic in nursing homes and relatively rare in home care situations.

The study coauthor said one way to improve the working lives of aides is to increase their occupational training, so that they learn not only how to properly lift patients, but also how to prevent workplace violence, manage difficult patients (and family members) and practice infection control.

When a home care aide or other worker suffers a back injury on the job, and is then died workers' compensation benefits, they often face dire financial consequences. One of the ways in which they can fight for the benefits they have earned is to discuss matters with an experienced workers' comp attorney.

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