Physical work load, physical capacity and strain among elderly female aides in home-care service

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Abstract

A study was undertaken to investigate physical work load, physical capacity, physical strain and perceived health among elderly aides in home-care service. A secondary aim was to compare the work load and strain between the two main types of home-care service available in Sweden today. Work tasks and their distribution among 20 elderly aides (aged 45–65 years), working in open home-care service (clients living in their original flats or houses) and at service apartment houses (clients living in private flats constructed for the elderly and handicapped with service functions) were observed during whole work days. Heart rate and number of steps taken were also measured continuously during the whole work day. Oxygen consumption and work postures for upper arm and back were measured during parts of the work day. The results showed that home-care work is characterised by long periods of standing and walking and that postures potentially harmful for the low back and shoulders occurred frequently. Average physiological strain measured as relative oxygen consumption and heart rate during the work day did not exceed present recommendations. Average physical work load and strain in open home-care service slightly exceeded those in service apartment houses because of more frequent cleaning and walking outdoors. Many aides in this study showed slightly reduced physical capacity, and musculoskeletal problems were common. Many elderly aides in home-care service are probably exposed at work to high risks of overexertion and impaired health as a result of high postural loads in combination with other known important factors, such as time stress and lack of equipment.