To the Editor:
Janet Specht's editorial ("Nurse Aides - The Word is Respect," November, 1987) was very timely and brought out a very valid point concerning undervaluation of nurse's aides. This must be attended to and addressed. However, we must not stop with the nurse's aide's role in the nursing home, but continue on to her role in home care, where the title changes from nurse's aide to homemaker home health aide.
Presently, there is a home care crisis. This crisis has not attained the public notoriety that both the hospital and the nursing home crises have. Home care has not been able to grow as fast as the needs of the everincreasing elderly population. There is a critical shortage of homemaker home health aides today.
The homemaker home health aide is the key person in the implementation of the home care plan. It is the homemaker home health aide who provides the essential, basic services that enable people to remain in their own homes. She is often the pinnacle person in determining the success of home care, the backbone of the entire home care movement.
Homemaker home health aides are also as undervalued as the nurse's aides in the nursing home are. They are paid very poorly. They more often than not lack the benefits that a nurse's aide working for an institution would receive. Their work environment is not as stable as the one in which a nurse's aide works. They do not have the back-up or support a nurse's aide in the nursing home would have. Their job is often demanding. They suffer from poor self-image. The general public often confuses their work with maid, housekeeper, or companion work.
The numerous issues of home care must be addressed. I believe we should start with the role and importance of the homemaker home health aide. Time is a crucial factor. The elderly population is increasing faster than the services and funding for them are. Time is also a crucial factor to the quality of life for many individuals. Going without the much needed and basic services a homemaker home health aide provides may mean the difference between health and ill health, recovery and relapse, independent living and institutionalization, positive self-image and poor self-image, or depression.
We need to give the homemaker home health aide the respect and support she much needs. We need to educate the public to her very important, crucial role in home care.