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Do you or someone you love use the services of a home care aide?  Nearly 50,000 people—mostly women—work in this growing occupation in Massachusetts.  You may be surprised to learn that recent data show that home care aides are twice as likely to have asthma compared to people who work in other jobs.

Image for postAsthma is a chronic disease that affects the lungs and can make it difficult to breathe. Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. We’re not sure why home care aides have more asthma, but there could be a link with their work.  Home care aides assist elderly, disabled or recovering clients in their homes.  They are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, dust, and pets.  Very frequently their visits include cleaning bathrooms and kitchens, using cleaning and disinfecting products that may cause or worsen asthma.

The good news is there are steps you can take to protect home care aides.  Use less harmful cleaning products.  Never mix bleach and ammonia.  Soap and water work well for cleaning dirt, dust, spills, grease and crumbs.  Don’t smoke at all—but especially when the home care aide is there.  Engage in discussions with the home care aide about her health and safety and ways to have effective communication, for the sake of the client and the home care aide.

More tips on protecting the health of home care aides:

Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides recommendations on keeping the home environment safe for both home care aides and clients.

University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Safe Home Care Project conducts research promoting health, safety and well-being of home care aides. They developed a module on cleaning for clients with asthma and wrote an article for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission’s newsletter.

Written By:

in the Occupational Health and Surveillance Program

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