Home Health Care Services
Home Health Care Services are a valuable option for people who want to stay at home rather than be placed in a hospital, nursing facility or long term care (LTC) unit. These services may help patients manage their medical conditions, which include chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure and HIV/AIDS. Many of these conditions require daily monitoring of medication, doctor appointments and diet and activity requirements. In addition, many patients need assistance with the tasks of everyday living, such as bathing and eating. This type of support is offered through home health aides, nurses and physical and occupational therapists.
Depending on the patient's needs, home health aides can assist with tasks such as meal preparation and cleaning. They can also provide transportation to and from physician appointments. A nurse can also visit the patient at home to administer medications and monitor blood pressure, pulse and temperature. Physical and occupational therapists can assist patients with movement issues, such as getting in and out of bed or wheelchair. They can also teach patients to use adaptive equipment, such as a walker or a wheelchair, and instruct caregivers on proper techniques.
Home health aides are trained to recognize the signs of a serious illness and know when to contact the doctor or emergency room for help. Many aides are also certified in CPR and first aid. Home health aides and nurses are usually contracted through home health agencies, which must be licensed by the state. These agencies are often reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies.
The home health care industry has grown in recent years, primarily because hospitals are dischargeing patients sooner than they were traditionally. This can result in patients needing continued skilled medical care at home to ensure a smooth recovery and avoid unnecessary hospital visits or long-term facility placement. To qualify for home health care, a patient must be considered "homebound," meaning that leaving the home is difficult or impossible without assistance or support. The person must also be a Medicare beneficiary and require intermittent skilled nursing or therapy services. In addition, a doctor must sign a certification that the home health care plan is necessary and that a face-to-face meeting has been held.
Non-medical home care agencies for elder care are not subject to the same licensing standards as medically-necessary home health care. However, it is important for family members to find a home care agency that conducts full criminal background checks on its employees and provides a written employee handbook with clear performance expectations. Many states have laws and regulations on the books that outline best practices, such as requiring two administrators instead of one and requiring that a nurse be available around the clock for medical emergencies. In addition, a home care agency should be bonded and insured.