In Illinois, there are more than 81,000 people working as home care aides. This is double the amount of workers we had a decade ago, and it’s expected that number will grow as people are living longer and the elderly population in Illinois is increasing.
These workers are saints. The job duties vary, but are pretty much hard everywhere. And it’s not just elderly people who are being cared for. Many home health aides help the disabled with acts of daily living. Here are some of the job duties per the Illinois Department of Human Services:
- Personal Assistant (PA): Provides assistance with household tasks, personal care and, with permission of a doctor, certain health care procedures. PAs are selected, employed, and supervised by individual customers.
- Homemaker Services: Personal care provided by trained and professionally supervised personnel for customers who are unable to direct the services of a PA. Instruction and assistance in household management and self-care are also available.
- Maintenance Home Health: Services provided through a treatment plan prescribed by a physician or other health care professional. Other services include nursing care and physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
- Electronic Home Response: Emergency response system offered by hospitals and community service organizations. This rented signaling device provides 24-hour emergency coverage, permitting the individual to alert trained professionals at hospitals, fire departments, or police departments.
- Home Delivered Meals: Provided to individuals who can feed themselves but are unable to prepare food.
- Adult Day Care: The direct care and supervision of customers in a community-based setting to promote their social, physical, and emotional well-being.
- Assistive Equipment: Devices or equipment either purchased or rented to increase an individual’s independence and capability to perform household and personal care tasks at home.
- Environmental Modification: Modifications in the home that help compensate for loss of ability, strength, mobility or sensation; increase safety in the home, and decrease dependence on direct assistance from others.
- Respite Services: Temporary care for adults and children with disabilities aimed at relieving stress to families. Respite services may be provided for vacation, rest, errands, family crisis or emergency. Services may include personal assistant, homemaker or home health.
Basically every one of these tasks puts workers at risk of injury. The top one we see is a back injury from lifting a patient who loses their balance or isn’t cooperative. But literally in the last 25 years, I’ve seen just about any injury possible. This includes slip and falls on floors wet from bodily fluids, injuries from being attacked by a patient, burns from kitchen accidents and car accidents while running errands. All of these events (and more) are covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.
Unlike workers in a factory or office setting, most home health care aides have accidents with no witnesses. As a result, two things are really important:
- You need to notify your employer/agency ASAP about what happened. We highly recommend that you do so in writing so you can prove that you gave notice. Some of these organizations are sketchy and don’t treat their employees like people. They will certainly lie if they think it will save them some money.
- Get medical treatment right away and be very clear in telling the doctor how you were injured.
Because these are work injuries, it doesn’t matter if you have health insurance or not. All of your treatment should be covered by the work comp insurance of your employer. This means no co-pays and no out of pocket expenses. In addition, if the doctor takes you off of work, you will be compensated for your time off until you are better. Many home care workers have two jobs. As long as your employer knew about both jobs and approved of it, you should be paid based on your wage loss from both jobs.
Risk wise, the biggest issue we commonly see is aides who return to work before they are ready. If you have a torn muscle in your shoulder or a herniated disc in your back, doing this work will likely just make it worse. And of course as mentioned, some of the employers are shady and will fight cases when they shouldn’t.
This showed up in a recent Illinois Workers Compensation Commission trial. The worker was assigned to a client and was given specific duties which included bathing, dressing, preparing meals, housework and undefined “outside of the home” tasks. One day she drove the client and her son to get food and there was a car accident. Somehow the insurance company fought the case even though outside of the home tasks were part of the job. This client had mobility problems and going with her on this trip was providing help. There was no company policy against it and it was of course reasonable for her to do so.
So in the end she won her case, but had to deal with a bogus denial before it happened. Fortunately, she had an experienced attorney in her corner who knew how to properly represent home health care aides.
We have helped hundreds of injured home workers throughout the years and would be happy to help you. If you would like to speak with a lawyer for free, you can contact us any time at 312-346-5578. We help workers everywhere in Illinois.