Home health care can include broad care given by skilled medical professionals, including skilled nursing care, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Home health care can also include skilled, non-medical care, such as medical social services or assistance with daily living from a highly qualified home health aide. As the Medicare program describes, home health care is unique as a care setting not only because the care is provided in the home, but the care itself is “usually less expensive, more convenient, and just as effective” as care given in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.
- Home Health Services Can Benefit Many People
There’s a misconception that home health services are reserved for people who can’t get out of bed. Home health is designed to help people in many different situations, such as those who are:
- Homebound, defined as:
- Unable to leave home without the help of assistive devices like crutches, a walker, or a wheelchair
- Able to leave home for only a short period, and leaving is a taxing effort
- Under physician’s advice to stay home because leaving home could cause their health to worsen
- Experiencing changes in how they’re able to complete daily activities
- Suffering from memory loss due to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or age-related cognitive changes
- Adjusting to a new diagnosis or a new medication
“These individuals often require specialized care, including nursing, physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy,” says Fenton. “Home health covers all of these bases, and they’re able to evaluate you in the comfort of your home.”
2. You Can Ask Your Physician about Home Health Services
Many people struggle with changing health needs because they don’t know that they can inquire about benefits. Talk to your physician about whether home health is right for you. If it is, your physician can order the home health services for you.
Ask your doctor about home health care if you or a loved one:
- Has difficulty getting to or from doctors’ appointments
- Needs help with rehabilitation after a hospital stay
- Is at risk of falling in the home
3. Home Health Provides Care for the Whole Person
“Home health can help people and their loved ones adjust to new health needs in a holistic way,” says Fenton. “In addition, home health professionals help people manage their living environment, family dynamics and any chronic conditions.”
Fenton explains that home health professionals are the “eyes and ears” for the physicians. They make sure a person’s environment is safe and can recommend when someone may benefit from additional services like physical, speech, or occupational therapy.
The goal of home health is to help you take care of yourself:
- Maintain your health and well-being: Learn how to recognize signs and symptoms so you can prevent a condition from getting worse and avoid unwanted trips to the hospital.
- Take medications appropriately: If your medications cause side effects, you’ll learn safe, practical ways to manage them. Home health professionals also check that you’re not taking two medications that do the same thing. They work with your physician to make sure the medication schedule is correct.
- Approach health holistically: In addition to medical advice and clinical support, you may benefit from learning stress reduction strategies as well as from nutritional counseling, where you learn how to eat a nourishing diet.
4. Not All Home Health Agencies Are Equal
Before you sign with a home health agency, make sure it’s certified and that employees are vetted to ensure they’re providing high-quality care. Not sure where to start? Websites such as Medicare’s home health compare allow you to search for an agency by name, location, or even the quality of their rating.
When you go for agencies, make sure to address when you or your loved one needs the care to begin. For example, if your mother needs physical therapy after a hip replacement, ask the agency: “How soon can your physical therapist come?” If a nurse says they have to assess the person first, the agency may not have a physical therapist readily available.
5. Home Health Is Designed to Help You Recover in Comfortable and Familiar Surroundings
Home health is not meant to be a lifelong service – the goal is to help you feel comfortable and confident in caring for yourself. Home health professionals get to know you and your specific needs and preferences, so they can tailor a home health plan that is right for you. You learn how to improve your health and wellness, all from the comfort of your home.
If you are recovering from an illness, injury, or surgery, skilled nurses work with you in your home to help you feel better and get back to your daily activities. You get all the care you need – from wound care to orthopedic rehabilitation – without having to travel.
If your physician determines that you no longer need home health care, social workers are available to help.They can assist you and your loved ones in planning for the next step in your care and can help you find ongoing community resources.