Study finds home healthcare settings have many unsafe conditions

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A recent study has identified a number of hazardous conditions found in home healthcare settings—conditions that are of special concern to both the elderly and their caretakers.

More than 700 home healthcare RNs in New York City responded to the Columbia University survey. Hazardous conditions identified in the survey included animal hair, excessive dust, mold, cigarette smoke and dampness. Rat, mouse or other vermin sightings were also reported. Poor housekeeping, which could increase the risk of infection, was also a common observation. Nearly 70% of home healthcare patients are 65 years or older, according to the report.

A total of 44% of RNs reported that their patients live in urban settings, and 40% of nurses reported feeling threatened or uncomfortable by a patient's neighborhood. The report appears in the Journal of Patient Safety, and was co-funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

There is little information on patient and provider safety in the home healthcare setting, despite the increased demand for services in the home, researchers say. A recent report found that Medicaid funding for home- and community-based services is on the rise, while nursing home population levels have remained static in recent years (McKnight's, 3/3).