How to Protect the Privacy of Your Clients While You're in Their Home

    As a home health care worker, it can sometimes feel like you're a guest in someone else’s home. Your clients have an expectation of privacy and at the same time have asked you into their home to perform a job. How do you maintain a balancing act between respecting their privacy and offering excellent client care?

    In some very personal ways, working in someone else's home is a little like being a guest. It's important to be flexible with your routines. While you may enjoy taking a shower first thing in the morning, your client may want to wait until after breakfast. Respecting your client’s desire to maintain a routine for themselves will help you offer the best client care possible and at the same time build trust. That said, it's also important to protect the essential tasks you must undertake before you leave. If your client needs a dressing change completed but doesn't want to do it until after lunch, you might be able to accommodate their schedule, or you may not. It's good to set reasonable goals with your client.

    As with any other time you're a guest in someone's home, it is essential you don't go rummaging through their private space. If you have a good reason to look through dresser drawers or bathroom cabinets, such as having a suspicion your client is not taking their medications, tell them what you're doing first and why. Otherwise, there are spaces in the house that are off-limits, just as they would be off-limits in your home. Set up those boundaries with your client on your first visit so they feel comfortable allowing you to walk through the house and you understand what they expect. You may find some clients don't care if you go through the kitchen cabinets or bathroom cabinets and others want you to ask every time.

    It's likely you're carrying a smartphone with you, and if you don't have unlimited data you may want to tie into your clients Wi-Fi. Although it might not appear to be as much of a breach of privacy as rummaging through their bathroom cabinets, some clients are not happy sharing their digital space as much as their functional space. It is important to be sensitive to this issue.

    Sometimes what you bring into the house can be as troublesome as going through the house. Be sure you know if anyone in the family has allergies before you walk through with a cat hair-covered sweater. Before opening the windows to let in a little fresh air, be sure it's okay with your client and it's not prime allergy season for them. Remember to ask where you should park your car when you come to visit since some clients may expect you to park in the street and others would prefer you park in the drive.

    Other common mistakes include accidentally disclosing confidential information during a casual conversation or using an unencrypted network at your clients' home to transmit health information to the agency. Even the smallest breaches of confidential information can damage your client’s privacy, your reputation and the home care agency you're working for.

    Although you and your client may become close, it's important you don't get so familiar you act like their house is your house. As you would in any other home, don't hide spills or leave the clutter behind. There are likely garbage cans in the kitchen and bath, so it's important you remember to use those. Unless you are moving furniture or kitchen supplies to assist your client with access or reduce the potential for an accident, don't move things around.

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