Take the Advantage: Home Health Care
It will come as no surprise that most people wish to continue living at home while they age. Indeed, research by AARP suggests that about 90% of people over 65 wish to stay at home. It is home, after all; one does not need an excess of imagination to understand why home is preferable to a nursing home or assisted living facility. Staying at home has plenty of advantages: home health care require not provide inferior services compared to dedicated care facilities.
There is no lack of home health agencies to choose from. As the population of the United States ages, the number of people requiring care rises, and agencies have sprung up across the country to fill that need. Anyone living in a metropolitan area will have their choice of dozens of suitable providers, and even those living in more out-of-the-way places will have multiple options for home care.
Read on to learn a little more about what home health care entails and how it might benefit you or someone you know.
What You’ll Get from Home Health Care
Should you decide to engage a home health agency, they will need to assess the needs of the patient. Usually, this means that a nurse will meet with the patient and the family at her home, who will explain to the nurse precisely what services the patient needs and what her goals are. This meeting will then decide caregivers with the skills, personalities, and schedules that will work best with the patient and her family.
The care provided, of course, depends on the patient’s needs. Some patients require a complement of medical interventions: skilled nursing, physical therapists, occupational therapists, wound care, and much else that must be given by a professional. Other patients might not need medical care, but still require assistance in their day-to-day life: help to dress and bathing, transportation to doctor’s appointments, and light housekeeping. This assistance is provided by dedicated home health aides, who work under the supervision of a nurse.
Regardless of the level of hands-on care provided, the home health agency will liaise with the patient’s doctor, apprising him or her of the patient’s development and implementing any new treatments the doctor prescribes. Since home health team members visit patients so frequently, they are often the first to notice when something is amiss with the patient. This can mean a quick intervention for any developing problems.
Pros of Home Health Care
Medical professionals, researchers, patients, and families almost unanimously agree that it is best to receive care at home whenever possible. There are many benefits to contracting home health care services:
- Greater independence: Patients at home continue to look after their own needs, receiving help only for issues they struggle with. They feel more self-confident than patients residing in a facility, and the simple normalcy of being at home reassures patients that they are where they should be and recovering well.
- Hospital-level service: There is little done in a hospital that can’t be done in a patient’s home. Necessary medical equipment and medications are delivered right to a person’s home, and the home health staff can train the patient and her family in their safe use. Even intravenous therapies can be performed at home.
- Fewer complications: Research shows that elderly people recovering at home suffer from fewer complications than patients who receive no professional home care. Nurses help patients with wound care and medication management, preventing infections and unpleasant drug interactions. An occupational therapist will make the patient’s home environment safe, reducing the risk of falling.
- Respite for the family: When a patient is discharged from the hospital, responsibility for her care often falls upon her family. But they have their own lives and concerns and often lack the expertise needed to care for their ailing loved one. Home health professionals provide that expertise—and they can educate family caregivers on best practices in caring for their loved one.
- Fewer hospital trips: Regular visits from home health staff mean that they closely monitor the patient, and she always receives good care. Home health agencies always have a 24/7 helpline that patients can call when they’re unsure what to do, and on-call nurses can make an extra visit on short notice. Wearable technology allows staff to monitor the patient’s cardiac and respiratory functions even when they’re not visiting.
- Social benefits: It is easier for friends and family members to visit their loved one if she’s staying at home rather than at a facility. It is also not uncommon for patients and home health workers to form friendly bonds—this was especially noticeable during the COVID-19 pandemic when social opportunities were severely curtailed.
Challenges in Home Health Care
There are a few procedures that cannot be done at home. This includes surgery, which requires a sterile environment, and any procedure that requires highly specialized or immobile equipment.
The home health agency might recommend modifications to your home: installing handles, specialized bathtubs, or chair lifts. These can be costly, are not always covered by insurance, and are disruptive to install.
There can be a social challenge, too. Some patients find it difficult to invite strangers into their homes, particularly if the health care worker needs to provide delicate, hands-on care. The perceived invasion of privacy can be a lot for a patient to deal with. The personalities of the patient and her caregivers must be compatible. In her first visit, the evaluating nurse will take note of the temperaments of the patient and her family, and will assign care workers that will not cause any interpersonal abrasion.
Will Medicare Cover Home Health Care?
If a doctor orders home care, then Medicare will cover it. There are some limitations:
- Care must be intermittent, meaning fewer than seven days a week, for eight hours a day or less, up to 21 days. Round-the-clock care is not covered.
- The doctor must certify that the patient is home bound. This does mean that she’s strictly limited to the home, only that she cannot leave home without assistance.
- Meals delivered to the home are not covered.
- The care must include skilled medical help, either nursing or therapy. If the patient needs only personal or custodial care, it is not covered, but if her care plan includes both skilled help and personal care, it is all covered.
Within those limitations, Medicare will cover nursing, therapy, social services, and most of the fees associated with medical supplies and medication. For those on Medicare Advantage, home health care might come with a modest co-payment. Be sure that the home health agency provides you with a cost breakdown before you start to use their services. Private insurance might cover additional services beyond what Medicare will.
If you wish to learn more about home health care, UCLAHHC would be happy to answer any of your questions. Send us a message, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.