Providing care for a disabled woman without getting sued please!
February 28, 2013 11:32 PM   Subscribe

I have the opportunity to work a 4-month part-time (approx. 26h/week) contract providing in-home support for a woman who is in the early stages of Parkinson's disease, starting next Friday. I have provided intimate care like this for a family member before, but have no professional experience otherwise in this field. What should I keep in mind in terms of covering my ass with respect to liability in the contract?

The prospective client received her diagnosis back in November and has experienced a steady deterioration since. She and her husband are seeking to eventually employ a full-time live-in care-aid as her care level increases. For now, all she needs is someone who can come to her home for a few hours a day to cook meals, assist her movement (in and out of bed/chairs, up/down the stairs), ensure she's comfortable and provide companionship.

My main concern is any possible liability I might face in the event that she experiences a health crisis while in my care (e.g. a sudden injury due to her tremors or a fall). I'm aware that in long-term residence facilities for people in her health condition there are specific policies for dealing with a client who has had a fall. Care-aids are specifically instructed NOT to try move or pick up a client who has fallen, for fear of liability over inadvertently aggravating the injury until a nurse can come and make a formal assessment.

I see in the contract (which I have not yet signed) that the employers reserve the right to file an alternate suit against the contractor (me) if gross negligence is alleged -- that seems pretty standard. However I would like to request, as an amendment to the contract in writing, an explicit procedure for any health emergencies that may arise (who to contact in what order, permission to move her to a safe location if necessary in the event of a fall). Would this be a reasonable and professional request? I don't want to find myself debating what constitutes 'negligence' in the event she has a health emergency, to which I would respond in accordance with my Occupational First Aid training. Is there anyone who has done work like this who can see anything I might be overlooking?
posted by human ecologist to Work & Money (3 answers total)
I'm not really sure this falls under contract territory. Laws may vary from location to location, but working in a related, but separate, field I can say terms like 'gross negligence' applies to some serious shit. Think, leaving the home during your shift to attend to personal matters without arranging adequate care, or blatantly ignoring your charge's well being as your sit and watch tv. You kind of have to work at it to enter gross negligence territory. Stay reasonably alert and do your job well and you won't come within a country mile of anything remotely like gross negligence. If you are assisting someone and then start debating are my actions 'negligence', odds are they are not. Negligence, is pretty much actively NOT assisting someone.
(fwiw read what wikipedia says about gross negligence)

Outside of the contract you could draw up a set of emergency protocols you feel you would use in the most common situations and share these with the person you are entering the contract with. Having said that, I don't think it is really necessary to do so. It certainly wouldn't hurt for you to personally review what you would do in situations XYZ, but the fact is you are not going to be able to write down an action plan for every single thing that might occur. The best you can do is think in broad terms an adapt as the situation warrants and that is perfectly ok

Things like who to contact in what order? That is easy as well and doesn't belong in a contract. Medical emergencies 911 - after the situation is stabilized - > person's guardian.
posted by edgeways at 6:04 AM on March 1, 2013

I'm not your lawyer, I almost certainly don't practice in BC, this is not legal advice.

First of all, gross negligence is pretty hard to prove. So that's pretty reasonable, as you say and edgeways explains it a bit further.

I think an explicit procedure is a good idea to have, both in terms of your liability but more importantly in terms of knowing what actually needs to be done.

The way you could frame in in terms of the contract side is to put it as an included set of terms. It doesn't really need to be part of the contract itself, because it can presumably change pretty frequently. So the contract will say "[human ecologist] will follow the emergency procedure set out in Schedule [A] if needed". Then there's a Schedule A, which can be changed as things change.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:06 AM on March 1, 2013

Keep a log every day of what you did for her. It doesn't have to be long-- just notes on what things you did--if anything unusual happened. And be very scrupulous about money. Try to keep your boundaries. (Don't get pulled in to things you shouldn't--and it's easy to do more than you should)

Keep track of what you spend--And if you have any doubts about her health call 9-1-1 or get her to a hospital or doctor.

God Bless You it's a big deal helping out other people.
posted by AuntieRuth at 8:07 AM on March 1, 2013

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