Clinics. Hospitals. Schools. People’s homes.
One of these things is most definitely not like the others. As therapists, many of us have treated in one or maybe even all of these locations. But the special ones, the ones that I admire wholeheartedly, they treat in people’s homes every single day. I can say this in complete admiration because I’ve done it on two separate occasions. After the first time, I told my husband he had to remind me never to do it again.
And then I waved off his concerns and signed up again anyway.
But for real this time; never again. Because I am not a home health therapist.
At this point in my career, I am comfortable figuring this out about myself. There is a particular type of therapist suited for this job. When I was out there wandering the back roads, driving in areas my GPS swore had no real roads whatsoever, I ran into these amazing people. (And of course the handful of new graduates who didn’t know what they were getting into…and expected it to be way different…and were kind of freaking out…and wow, there really isn’t any supervision or anything, is there?)
Besides, home health isn’t just a job, it’s an entire lifestyle. In your honor, home health therapists, here are a few things you can handle, that I clearly can’t.
-Oh, you wanted to grab groceries while you were out and about? Too bad, your trunk is full of toys. And equipment. And a dried up pack of baby wipes…
-Yes, you have the ultimate schedule flexibility, in theory. But traffic and distance exist, and both of those totally get in the way. I’m sure you’ve spent plenty of time on Google maps plotting the most efficient routes between houses, all while attempting to avoid nap times and other therapists’ visits. It’s a complicated algorithm.
-You usually get paid per visit, and your hustle can yield positive results. But weirdly, going into people’s homes doesn’t always equal high productivity. People can hide in the shadows when you come knocking (no, just me?), they can fall asleep at weird times, get evicted without notice, or just aren’t there.
-Speaking of schedules, you are able to run on some weird alternate time schedule that would make a clinic therapist’s head spin. Appointments around 8:20, 11:47, and 1:52? Sure, why not!
-You assess fast food restaurants by saying, “Oh, they have nice bathrooms.”
-You tolerate crazy temperature changes that impact your tools of the trade. There’s nothing more disappointing than a melted wad of crayons, or bubbles that refuse to work when partially frozen.
-You know how to kill time in a Target if a patient cancels while far away from your own home. (If you are lucky enough to have an actual Target nearby.) Although don’t you think people are starting to assume you are stealing things based on the amount of times you enter a store and don’t buy anything?
-You venture into places you might never have gone before, under the guise that you are invincible wearing scrubs or carrying a bag of toys.
-You are somehow able to do therapy with a dog, a cat, or a sibling on your lap. All of which are attempting to sneak off with whatever you decided to bring with you that day.
-You are literally the coolest, most popular person in any daycare. (To the kids, of course, the workers are sometimes another story.)
-You’ve seen things that truly open your eyes to the way people live. From infestations of bugs and filth to impeccably clean spaces. Either way, you try not to touch too much. Besides, your blanket that you carry with you is a safe space, a clean space, and the only space you’d like to stay.
-You’re up to date on daytime television, or have been given the stink eye upon offering the suggestion to turn the TV off.
-You’ve been ushered into a back room quickly upon entering a home, or quarantined to the front room. There seems to be no in between.
-You are comfortable providing therapy on someone else’s turf. It’s like playing against a team that has home field advantage. So that moment when the child runs out of your designated play space – how far do you venture after them?
-The smells. Oh the smells. While the gesture is very sweet, I’m impressed if you have tried whatever is offered from the kitchen. And I’ve been floored by the number of people that still smoke heavily in their homes.
-You manage to carry a scooter board, 3 bean bags, a therapy ball, and a bolster under one arm, no problem.
-If you leave a home with the same amount of items you came in with, you are a miracle worker.
Going into someone else’s space is not an easy task, especially when you are there to teach families and give advice on how to change their ways for the better. But this job is so important, especially in early intervention, as you have one of the greatest opportunities to make a difference in a child’s life. Also, the fact that you go into someone’s home offers the opportunity for beautiful and strong relationships with the families you work with.
So cheers to you, home health therapists. May your gas tanks always be full, your bathrooms clean, and your drinks the appropriate temperature in your Yeti mug.