Many advanced chronic disease sufferers lead lives of depression and isolation. Their days are dominated by dreary hours spent alone in front of the TV set. Many have no family. Homes become enveloped in suffering and disability.
For these patients, often their greatest source of love is their home health worker. The HHW is the only person capable of extending them caring and affection.
It is not unusual for a home health worker and her patient to spend 35 hours a week, for months or even years, together. During those long hours, they share the most intimate parts of life. They share the meals the aide prepares, the quiet moments of dressing in the morning and getting undressed for bed, and even the normally private acts of toileting and bathing.
Beyond practical tasks, HHWs and their patients spend informal time together, much of it over meals or in front of the TV set, making conversation. During this shared time they enjoy humor, tell one another stories about their pasts, and even offer mutual support and encouragement in the face of difficult lives.
Patients who have grown grimly accustomed to living isolated with their fears and vulnerabilities find feelings of trust in their HHAs that they may not have experienced in years.
Patients who find no other motivation to take care of their health can become highly motivated to take medications, modify their diets, or go to the doctor to please their cherished home health workers.
This bond can, and should, become a compelling force for pill adherence and following doctors’ orders.