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.”