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by Elizabeth E. Hogue, Esq.

Joyce Grayson, a home health nurse for Elara Caring, was murdered on October 28, 2023, in the home of a patient where she was providing services. Ms. Grayson was reported missing by a family member to the local police department. The family member was also able to track her last location to the home of a patient she was scheduled to visit at 8:00 a.m. on the day of her death. The patient resided at a halfway house for convicted sex offenders. Police have not yet formally identified a suspect in Ms. Grayson’s death.

This horrible news reminds of steps that staff members and providers can take to protect their staff members:

  • Staff members should be sure of the locations of patients’ homes and have accurate directions. · Employees should contact their supervisors in the event of threatening circumstances.
  • During visits, employees should remain alert and watch for signs of possible violence; such as verbal expressions of anger and frustration, threatening gestures, signs of drug or alcohol use, or the presence of weapons.
  • When employees are verbally abused in patients’ homes, they should ask the speaker(s) to stop. If verbal abuse continues, caregivers should leave patients’ homes and notify their supervisors that they have done so. · If possible, caregivers should identify more than one exit from patients’ homes and keep a clear path to at least one of them.
  • All employees should read or reread The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker and take action when their instincts tell them that they should be fearful. · Management should develop a written policy of “zero tolerance” for all incidents of violence, regardless of source. The policy should include animals! The policy must require employees and contractors to report and document all incidents of violence, no matter how minor. Emphasis should be placed on both reporting and documenting. Employees must provide as much detail as possible. The policy should also include “zero tolerance” for visible weapons when caregivers are present in patients’ homes. Caregivers must be required to report the presence of visible weapons.
  • Agencies should develop quality indicators that improve efforts to protect staff. Indicators in quality and safety standards should include patient assault and other instances of violence or threatened violence. The results of these indicators should result in violence prevention plans and training programs in de-escalation of violence.
  • Data systems should be strengthened to monitor the exposure of staff members to aggression. More resources should be invested in measuring aggressive events and specific factors that resulted in exposure, such as patient type.
  • Ongoing education should be provided to protect staff. Education should focus on intentional actions that staff members must take to recognize, document, and counter threatened or actual violence.

The Connecticut General Assembly recently passed a law to increase protection for healthcare workers that does not include home care providers. Now lawmakers are calling for extension of the legislation to include home healthcare staff. Martin Looney, President Pro Tempore of the Connecticut State Senate told the CT Mirror: “More and more care is going to be provided in a home setting, which is generally a good thing. But if that is true, we need to make sure that the people who are providing that care are safe.”

Amen to that, Mr. Looney! Let’s get to it!

©2023 Elizabeth E. Hogue, Esq. All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any form without the advance written permission of the author.