A member of HelloCare’s Aged Care Worker Support Group on Facebook reached out, asking for their advice about how to handle this situation, explaining it’s one of the worst jobs she’s ever had.
She said the client won’t allow anyone other than her to help them clean the house.
However, the support group member has no cleaning training, and is concerned about working in such an unhealthy environment. She says performing the work is damaging her mental health.
Her client self manages his care, leaving the support group member trying to manage the situation on her own.
But is such heavy-duty cleaning the responsibility of a home care worker?
It’s not your job
Many members of the group responded with the advice that heavy cleaning is not the job of home care workers, and that ‘specialised cleaners’ should be used for cleaning up a hoarder’s home.
A number shared their experiences of cleaning whilst caring, as some of them have regular clients who are hoarders.
One member said she had worked as an industrial cleaner before working in aged care, and this was the type of work she did then. She said they are professionals.
One member of the support group said she focused on the kitchen and the bathroom, and clearing a space that allowed her to move through the house more easily.
A couple of members of the support group said hoarding in houses they had cleaned contributed to fires.
Some admitted they actually liked cleaning for hoarders, explaining it was hard work but rewarding.
Commonwealth Home Support Programmes provide specific plans for the job: one-off cleaning and linkages with specialised support services for “hoarding and squalor”.
Better monitoring and oversight of home care needed
This case demonstrates some of the problems plaguing the home care sector, as outlined in the Grattan report, which was released this week.
Home care assessment is not integrated sufficiently into care delivery or planning, meaning that consumers have trouble accessing information and finding the services they need.
“When older people get through the assessment process, many do not get enough support and advice to make informed choices to meet their needs,” the report stated.
Older people are supposed to be able to choose and buy the services they need, “but in practice participants often report a lack of choice about the carers and other staff coming into their home”.
A “team-based” model of care is needed, combining in-home domestic and community support, among other types of care, the report’s authors recommended.
They also noted the poor conditions home care workers work under, with a casualised workforce and low rates of pay. The workforce is often dissatisfied and there are widespread worker shortages.
Hearing about this support group member’s situation, it’s not difficult to see why.
Workers should be able to choose
Mable, the online platform that matches customers needing home care with workers who can provide those services, allows recipients of home care services to ‘self manage’ their care, as is the case in this situation.
It has providers who offer services like “squalor cleaning”, and consumers who need those types of services.
“The needs of a consumer are usually outlined in job posts, direct messages or the meet and greet process ahead of a support provider attending a home,” a Mable spokesperson told HelloCare.
“After discussing the needs, an agreement is entered into which outlines the terms and scope of the services to be provided.
“If a support provider believes there is a risk to their health and wellbeing or that of the client, they can lodge an incident report.”
The freedom to pick and choose work is one of the advantages of being an independent home care worker.
Home care workers can be specific about the kinds of work they want to do, and are perfectly within their rights to refuse work they feel is outside their capability, or that they simply don’t want to do.
Similarly, if they begin working in a role, they can choose to leave that role at any time.
Hoarding is a complex disorder that will usually require specialised care, both psychologically and practically when it comes to cleaning. Most of the time, it’s better left to experts.