Daria Mosel loves her job.
“Every one of the people I care for has a story to tell,” says Daria. “Sometimes I’m the only person they get to talk to that day.”
Daria is a home health aide. She goes on a series of visits each day, changing bandages, checking on medications and making sure each one of the people she sees is doing well.
Daria is not a nurse. She has no specialized medical training, and if she sees a problem, her job is to report it back to her supervisor so they can dispatch someone to help. What she has, which is increasingly important as lifespans grow long and the population ages, is both a strong sense of empathy and exceptional observational skills.
“One time I came to Mrs. Domingo’s house to change a dressing,” recalls Daria. “She didn’t look like herself, she could only smile on one side. I called the nurse right away and it turned out she was having a stroke.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, growth in the home health aide field is very high, an estimated 41% over the next decade. While no specialized degree is currently necessary for this key role, there is increasing pressure for more education and training for these workers, who often are the first people to know if a patient is having a problem. In 2017, New York State passed a law known as the BSN in 10, which will require healthcare workers such as Daria to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing within ten years of obtaining their license.
The growth in this field is, in part, driven by a trend towards more home-based care for some patients. As hospitals seek ways to make their caregiving process efficient, they are moving toward shorter stays and a more home-centric recovery process. Between 1980 and 2016, the average hospital stay dropped from 7.3 to 4.5 days.
This emphasis on home care is increasing the need for people like Daria to fill the gaps between what patients can do, and what requires the skill of a doctor or registered nurse.
Home health care has become big business in the US and around the world. The number of home health agencies nearly doubled between 2001 and 2008, and that number continues to grow. These organizations are seeing the value of home health aides as a cost-effective solution to providing in-person care. And research shows that home health aides have a profound impact on the quality of life and the quality of care that patients receive.
Daria got into this profession because her elderly grandmother had lived with her family for several years before moving into a long-term care center. She knows that behind the statistics is a basic truth about her work and about humanity.
“People are more comfortable at home,” she says. “They get better faster because they don’t have to be in a strange place. But they also don’t want to be alone. That’s why I do this work.”