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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