Understanding Home Care
Home care can be for anyone – individuals and families of all ages who are challenged by a variety of health and social problems such as short or long term illness, injury, physical impairments, mental health disorders and chemical dependencies. Generally, home care is appropriate whenever a person prefers to stay home, but needs ongoing care that cannot easily or effectively be provided solely by family and friends. More and more people, electing to live independent lives, are taking advantage of home care services as their physical capabilities diminish or they become terminally ill. Younger adults with disabilities or those recuperating from acute illness are also choosing home care.
Chronically ill and children are benefiting from sophisticated medical treatment in their loving and secure home environments. Thanks to the success of modern technology, yielding state-of-the-art medical equipment for use in the home and the technicians who are trained to operate such equipment, an increasing number of people are able to leave institutions or avoid ever having to enter them. They can be cared for safely and effectively in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by the ones they love.
You may benefit from home care services if you or a loved one is:
- In need of assistance to live independently at home
- Recovering from a recent illness
- Discharged from a hospital or nursing home, but need additional care
- Terminally ill and wishes to die in the comfort of their own home
So what exactly is an in home service agency?
To help evaluate that question it is important to know the categories of care that are available. Home care encompasses a wide range of health and social services available 24 hours a day, seven days-a-week. Home care services may be either skilled (non-medical) or skilled (medical) services such as:
- Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy
- Home Medical Equipment
- Personal Care
- Infusion and Respiratory Therapy
- Mobile Diagnostic
Who provides home care?
Certified Home Health: Provides professional and paraprofessional services which meet federal requirements, such as nursing, home health aides, social work, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy.
Private Duty Home Care: Provides services which are desired and purchased by the individual, such as nursing care, personal care or housekeeping services. Private duty services may be skilled health or non-skilled (non-medical).
Home Medical Equipment Supplier: Provides equipment and supplies, such as beds, wheelchairs, oxygen, wound care, diabetic and ostomy.
Hospice: Provides a team of health care professionals and volunteers who offer comprehensive physical, psychosocial and spiritual care for patients and their families at the end of life. Quality of life is enhanced by relief of pain and other uncomfortable symptoms.
Mobile Diagnostic: Provides x-ray, ultrasound, heart studies and laboratory services at home.
Infusion Therapy: Provides services and medication, such as intravenous antibiotic therapy.
Payment for services may be through Medicare, Medicaid or other health insurance plans. Home care may also be paid directly by the patient or the patient’s family. You may wish to talk with your doctor or friends regarding their experience with home care services. Consider all the circumstances before making a final decision when selecting a home care agency.
Licensing Home Care
Hospice agencies are required to be licensed in Michigan but all other home care agencies are not. Michigan is one of only a few states that does not license all types of home care services. Legislation (Senate Bill 221) to license Michigan home care agencies is currently pending in the Michigan Legislature but has not yet become law. Licensure is a likely next step to insuring safe quality home care. Meanwhile, certification and accreditation are two ways home care agencies demonstrate greater credibility.
Medicare-certified home care agency has met federal minimum requirements for patient care and financial management and therefore can provide Medicare and some Medicaid home health services. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) has more quality measures and other information to help you make decisions about certified Medicare and Medicaid services at CMS Home Health Compare. Keep in mind that an agency decision not to become certified does not imply that it provides poor care. In many cases, these agencies adhere to their own set of standards.
Accreditation is a voluntary process conducted by nonprofit professional organizations. It signifies that the agency has met national industry standards. Agencies may be accredited by the Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP), the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) or the Accreditation Commission for Home Care (ACHC).
Staying at home is the popular choice for elderly, disabled or injured patients. While nursing homes provide a valuable and necessary service for those with high care needs, home care can provide alternatives meet your needs in a less costly community setting. Home care is not only the low cost alternative to hospital or institutionalization, but more and more patients are choosing home care as their first choice for care.