Home health care is a term for a variety of medical services provided to patients in the home. These services may be temporary after an illness or injury, ongoing for someone with a permanent disability or include end of life care. Personnel vary from unlicensed caregivers to highly educated licensed professionals.
Why Home Health Care?
After an injury or illness, patients may have several options for ongoing care. A skilled nursing facility or rehabilitation center may be required in some cases, but there are distinct advantages to the kind of care offered by home care agencies. First, the patient remains at home, in familiar surroundings, where friends and family are readily available. Second, home health care is – in many cases – less expensive. Third, home care is just as effective as hospital care in many instances. Highly technical equipment can be set up in the home, allowing such complex procedures as artificial ventilation and even kidney dialysis. Some risks, such as infections, are minimized when you receive home care assistance.
Who Needs Home Care?
People who need home care tend to fall into one of four categories. First is the person who has some physical limitations but wants to remain at home. These people may need assistance with grooming, meals or transportation. Next is the person recovering from an illness or injury who may need a daily visit from a nurse to change dressings or provide more complex care. The third group includes those with permanent physical or mental limitations who need nursing care and other services like physical or occupational therapy. Finally, people at the end of life need the specialized services of hospice care.
What Services are Available?
Nursing is one of the most common of all home care services. This can range from basic technical nursing tasks like bathing or a simple dressing change, to intravenous therapy, injections, ventilator management and extensive patient and caregiver education. In addition to nursing, most home care agencies offer services like respiratory, physical, occupational and speech-language therapy. Some may have pharmacists available for medication consultation or focus on a specific aspect of care such as intravenous therapy. Many also offer a lower level of service provided by unlicensed home health aides, who help patients bathe, dress or eat, provide companionship and monitor medication administration.
Whether your need is for temporary services or something more long term, home health care is nearly always an option. Discuss this issue with your doctor or advocate for a loved one if necessary. Most communities have at least one agency devoted to home care.
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As more elders choose home health care over a nursing facility as they age and begin to require supervision, family members strive to hire the most qualified caregivers for their loved ones. It can be difficult finding a qualified person for this important job. The following criteria may be helpful when looking for a senior care provider.
Working with a health care agency helps to reduce the stress and effort needed to find a professional elderly caregiver. Although many families do not need to hire someone as qualified as a registered nurse, they want someone who has a home health care certification or diploma that indicates professional education and training. Agencies recruit and screen employees for this purpose, as well as often bonding and insuring their employees.
Hiring someone with experience means that the home health care provider understands the needs of elderly patients and has successfully worked in this type of position already. It is reassuring not to have to explain everything about an elderly loved one’s care and daily needs when hiring a person who knows what to do.
Obtaining employee references is helpful in determining a prospective caregiver’s competence and capabilities. It is always a good idea to contact the references with prepared questions that will help to evaluate the caregiver’s reputation and experience.
Searching online for the employment agency or the name of the prospective caregiver may reveal interesting facts. For example, an agency like the Better Business Bureau might report complaints that have been addressed, or not. Civil criminal records are usually available to the public when searching under the appropriate municipal court dockets. Social media browsing often turns up evaluation sites for medical or health-related organizations, and Facebook may reveal personal posts, praise, or complaints about the agency or employee.
Assessing the skill of a hired caregiver can be handled in many ways. The home health care agency has presumably completed a background check on each employee, as well as checked references. Education and certifications, licenses, or diplomas should also be verified. Previous employers should be contacted to confirm employment dates and duties related to senior care. Family members should also interview a prospective caregiver to get a sense of the person’s fit for this particular position. Personality traits such as compassion and empathy may be desirable, along with punctuality, responsibility, and accountability.
Bringing a stranger into the home of an elderly person to provide daily care and monitoring can be challenging. The caregiver should be honest and trustworthy, fully able to perform the duties being assigned. Take precautions when hiring a caregiver for your loved one for the best possible outcome.