As a home health aide with VNSNY Partners in Care, Sashana J. had spent months trying to get her full-time client Henry* to change his diet. At age 85, Henry has diabetes and recently had a stroke that weakened one side of his body. “Because he couldn’t move about easily, he’d put on significant weight, which affected his blood sugar levels and put him at risk for bed sores,” says Sashana.
Henry’s doctor had warned that he would have to be moved to a nursing home if he didn’t lose weight—an option he very much wanted to avoid. To help him slim down, Sashana urged him to skip his beloved sugared drinks and bread products—but with little success. “He insisted on eating whatever he wanted,” she recalls.
That all changed this past summer, however, when Sashana took the new health coach training class that Partners in Care is offering to its HHAs. There, she learned the technique of motivational interviewing, in which the caregiver helps the patient set their own goals for better health, then collaborates on a plan to get there.
“I’d been asking Henry to do what I wanted,” Sashana explains. “My health coach training taught me that it’s all about reaching the patient’s own goals. Once we were both clear about Henry’s desire to remain living at home, I was able to remind him of what he needs to do to accomplish that.”
Sashana quickly got Henry to agree to eat smaller portions, substitute water for sugared drinks, and consume more vegetables. Henry began shedding pounds and, with Sashana monitoring his medications, stabilized his blood glucose.
For Sashana, her health coach training has transformed her HHA work. “I’m so much more involved in my client’s well-being,” she notes. It’s also inspired her to begin taking nursing classes. “I always knew that my path lay in health care,” she adds. “Now, my health coach skills are letting me help others in a more powerful way.”
* The patient’s name has been changed for privacy.
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