The trend toward home health care in the United States continues to grow. The increased life expectancy and aging population play a major role in this trend. It is said that nearly 80 percent of senior citizens are living independently at home. These services could help them to remain independent longer.
It is not only the elderly who could benefit from these services. The ages and circumstances of the patients vary widely, from pediatric to geriatric. The type of assistance also varies broadly depending on the needs in each situation. For example, a patient may need only some short-term help with recovery after surgery. The main thing is that that care is all delivered at the patient's home.
Although health care assistance at home may not be the best alternative for everyone, there are several benefits. Patients often recover more quickly in the familiar surroundings rather than in a hospital. Feeling more independent, many people are likely to be more involved in their own treatment. It is more convenient to the patient and the family or friends who are helping them.
The program is not always well understood. Some patients are not offered the opportunity to receive the support and should ask their doctor about it. Some people are under the impression that it is full-time care for as long as it is needed. In reality it is only part-time or intermittent care, based on the patient's condition and the doctor's orders. Visits generally last about hour or less. Family or friends may still need to help out.
A home health agency works with the doctor to coordinate a plan of treatment with the patient. They will send a staff member to the house to help decide which services are needed, how often they are done, and who will provide them. The arrangements are made based on doctor's orders and patient's condition.
Some examples of the services provided by the agencies include skilled nursing and physical or occupational therapy. Special aides and medical social services are sometimes needed. And medical and safety equipment is often installed in the home.
A few examples of the skilled nursing care provided in the patient's residence include medical assessment of the patient's condition and patient and caregiver education on diet and medication. Others could include wound care from surgeries or bedsores; intravenous infusions; and injections. Hospice care is also provided in the home.
Other expert treatments may consist of physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy. Physical therapists teach exercises for overcoming an injury or other physical challenge. Speech therapists treat patients with speaking or swallowing disorders. Occupational therapists assist with cases such as stroke patients and developmental disabilities.
There are other types of services, too. Medical social services can assist in emotional support and finding available community resources. Aides can assist with bathing, dressing and daily activities. Other services might even include some cooking, laundry, shopping and light housekeeping for the patient.
The patient has the right to choose the home health care agency. Sometimes the choices are limited by insurance restrictions or agency availability in the patient's community. Agencies may vary greatly in their operations and in what they are able to provide.
For those people eligible for home health care, the costs are generally covered by Medicare or Medicaid or other private insurance, based on their requirements. The medical costs are generally lower. Managed care plans often only allow a certain number of visits. If benefits run out, the staff may need to teach the patient or a family member how to continue the treatment.