Mar 06, 2023

Why won’t home care cleaners lift heavy furniture?

Why won’t home care cleaners lift heavy furniture?

One of the biggest debates for home care cleaners is whether it’s acceptable or not to move heavy furniture when cleaning, or if they should climb up ladders to dust.

In the past, HelloCare went straight to our followers to find out their thoughts on the topic. We asked our readers if their home care service provider refused to clean underneath furniture or in hard-to-reach places.

The answer? From over 300 votes, it was 218-85 in favour of YES. Unfortunately, that was paired with some disappointment as many home care package recipients wanted to see more thorough cleaning.

Except there’s more to the debate, so we recently went to our Aged Care Workers Support Group to find out exactly why so many home care cleaners are declining a seemingly simple request.

Well, as our group member Shelley explained, sometimes it’s not quite so simple.

“When I was new, I was sent to an existing client, she expected me to put a ladder on the dining room table, climb the ladder and dust antique light fittings,” explained Shelly.

“I straight out said ‘no’. The client was trying to call my bluff, as she knew I was a newbie. They will try to get you to do anything they can.”

Thankfully most clients will not put you in a compromising position. But some will ask you to flip a mattress, wipe down their family heirlooms or clean the ceiling fan. 

Although it might seem like a quick and easy task for clients, heavy lifting or awkward climbing could pose an injury risk for workers. One accidental stumble could cause costly damage.

That’s why home care providers typically have policies in place to protect the workers from potential health and safety risks, including restrictions on moving or lifting heavy items, climbing up ladders, and using bleach when cleaning. 

Some providers don’t even permit dusting or cleaning objects like Venetian blinds! If that’s the case, home care workers must always stick to what’s outlined in a care plan.

“Clients will push to see if you will do something that you shouldn’t, and say another worker has [done it before], but in fact, nobody has,” said group member, Fiona. 

“You go in with your care plan, do as it says and if they want something extra, say to them they have to call the office.”

Fiona added that if you’re concerned about client requests, document what they say in an email and let your manager or coordinator know so there’s written evidence.

Protection and caution are essential because you never know what could happen if you’re injured lifting something against company policy. For one, you may not be eligible for workers compensation.

Service providers may not be insured if a piece of furniture was seriously damaged, either. In fact, many professional cleaners have policies against heavy lifting purely because they are not insured for household contents damage.

In addition, you may find yourself spending more time cleaning than you’re supposed to when dusting fiddly ornaments and rearranging decorations. If it’s a must-do task for a client, ask them to book a specific cleaning service to ensure there’s enough time to get everything done. 

Importantly, ask yourself whether one task could set a precedent for other care workers. Although it may seem like you are doing a favour for the client, be cautious about what you say yes to as it can often impact other workers as well.

“I once had a lady ask me to flip her mattress over, I refused, and she said ‘well the previous girl who was here did it and she’s a lot smaller than you’ – I phoned the office to report,” said Bec.

“It really irks me that some carers will do the extra that they’re not supposed to do, which leads to the client expecting it all the time.”

So if there is a space that desperately needs to be cleaned, it would be best for a client to organise a friend or family member to lift heavy furniture or climb to reach high spaces.

When you feel pressured, stick to company policy and what is outlined in a client’s care plan. By politely declining risky tasks you can avoid putting yourself in harm’s way and management can talk them through any alternative options if extra tasks are required.

And if you still feel like providing some leeway to clients, Lynda perhaps said it best in our group: 

“I know it’s not hard to do a little more if you have the time, things like dusting and moving furniture to clean around and under, but just remember if you hurt yourself you are not covered. It’s nice to just step on the chair to change the light bulb etc but you will end up broken and unemployed.”

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  1. Your examples are a bit extreme. Unfortunately the experience in our home is that aged care provider cleaners will not even do simple tasks like, bend over to move a mat to vacuum under the mat and then on top of it. Another example, will not run a long handle vacuum cleaner along a skirting board behind a desk.

    One issue seems to be that some of the cleaners are almost as old as the clients !

    There does not seem to be a simple answer, we are now using a Franchise cleaning service which fits within the price limits. A couple of months experience is good so far. I think its his own business, he is much younger and energetic.

    1. I agree Max. The people that came thru to assist our Mum were hit and miss. Some wouldn’t even wipe spills from the front of kitchen cupboards. I really didn’t know what some of them did.
      This writing up of the plan is rather restrictive too…some helpers race thru what’s written, then leave long before the allotted time, never asking if they could do something else to fill the time.
      When the list reads wipe over kitchen bench, surely that would mean moving the fruit bowl and toaster to wipe underneath same??? Wouldn’t you think that wiping the cupboard doors would be part of the job???
      As for getting the dust and midgies off skirting boards and behind furniture, that just doesn’t compute!! A vac with the head removed is such an easy solution.
      Anyway, all I know is that the system is failing our aged/disabled people in this country. We have the Care Package system and the NDIS, which all adds up to a government looking like they care, by throwing money at the problem, but as always, the money is not being used to assist those it’s meant for, but simply grows the coffers of the Care Provider companies.

  2. If cleaners paid by Home Care Packages won’t clean under or behind furniture then the dust and dirt build up. Agree there must be boundaries to keep staff safe but elderly service recipients often don’t have anyone regularly available who can move heavy furniture. Suggestion- maybe two people to clean together (male and female ) in half the time? – tricky 🤔

    1. Yep, a problem easily solved, but then that means the Care Provider would need to actually think outside the square….. that rarely happens…

  3. Age care workers are not professional cleaners. The client gets cleaning done where they live in the home 1 bedroom 1 bathroom and living area vacuumed and washed bed changed No dusting no windows done if they won’t extra they have to pay to get a contract cleaner in. Their package is for their use not everyone else that might live in the house. A lot of these age care workers do personal care , social care . Transport shopping meal prep they are NOT CLEANERS if clients want a cleaner then they will have to pay. The age care worker is there to help the client to stay in their own home and the client should realise that these workers are NOT their personal slaves. To get their job they have to do a number of courses through Taft have their needles have a current first aid certificate have a blue card have a register and insured car Play their own petrol to jobs an iPhone plus all this for very poor wages. So next time clients complain just remember this is a privilege not a I Want

  4. Home care: Cleaners are supposedly no t allowed to dust either.
    Simple solution
    Cleaning companies , not provider workers should be able to be employed on a monthly or two monthly basis. Their rates are not like provider rates.
    Easy solution

  5. I have worked in the industry and I am the carer for my parents on HCPs. Most organisations always have at least 1 person on workers comp because they didn’t follow the policies. A back injury can be a life long painful injury so I understand the no moving furniture. It horrifies me that so many think that its ok that someone else potentially injures themselves helping. No heavy cleaning is a policy everywhere for the same reasons- work place safety. However, I have heard todays cleaning services described as hygiene wipes which is not enough for a weekly clean- the basics should be covered- bathroom, dusting, kitchen, floors. You can always get a spring clean done a couple of times a year.

  6. What’s the point in having them clean, if they can’t clean. Not all people have someone who can pull out a lounge, vacuum under the mat. My experience is staff seem a bit lazy. Hire a private house cleaner a couple of hours a week. Gets the job done and works out cheaper.🥴

  7. There’s no way home care workers should be expected to move and lift heavy furniture. They aren’t removalists…
    They are to help with the every day domestic chores.
    I don’t understand why dusting isn’t allowed tho…perhaps the moving of precious items shouldn’t be undertaken, but surely the dusting of easily accessible surfaces should be done.
    I had been a Home Helper for years, and enjoyed my work, but would know when to draw the line!!!

  8. I have nicknacks on my dressers and have increased the time by 1 hour to allow for dusting properly and put the small items back. Is that allowed to be done?

  9. Some support workers will not even turn over a rug when they are vacuuming!
    And they do take advantage of clients too.
    If any of my friends who are receiving these badly needed services moan to me about how they have to clean the part under the rug themselves, I strongly advise them to call the office and speak to their case officer.

  10. I provide in home services for aged care, most of which is cleaning. Today I walked in as my manager was talking with the clients about the cleaning services we provide and she was just saying that the girls would move the couch and armchair to vacuum behind them. Hmmm? I spoke up to offer a solution that would not involve heavy moving. A long nozzle with a narrow nozzle. I was promptly told by my manager not to get involved, my comments were not welcome!? I was bedazzled by this complete lack of concern. It was belittling and dismissive. I later told her, still at the client’s house when she came to give the orders, that I would not be moving furniture. “Fine!” she said and stormed off. She acted as though I was being insubordinate. It is so not true. I work hard and always try to do more than my best. But I though I would be respected for not wanting to put my back in jeopardy. The client, happily, was supportive. There are some funny service providers out there. the experience has alerted me to the need to be clear about company policies from the start. Some have not thought it through.


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