What Is Home Care?
Home care encompasses a wide range of health and social services available 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. Services may include:
Who can benefit from home care?
You may benefit from home care services if you or a loved one are:
- Recovering from recent illness
- Discharged from a hospital or nursing home, but need additional care
- Terminally ill and want to die with dignity in the comfort of your own home
- In need of assistance to live independently at home
Who provides home care?
Many services can be part of the home care team, depending on your individual needs. One or more of the following types of providers may be beneficial to you:
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 Health—Provides services which are desired and purchased by the individual, such as nursing care, personal care or housekeeping services
Home Medical Equipment—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 in the home.
Infusion Therapy—Provides services and medication, such as intravenous
Who pays for home care services?
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.
How do I select the right agency?
- How long has the agency been serving the local community?
- Is the agency certified by Medicare? A Medicare-certified home care agency is one that has met federal minimum requirements for patient care and financial management and therefore can provide Medicare and some Medicaid home health services. 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. It is imperative that you consider all the circumstances surrounding an agency's home care services before making a final decision.
- Is the agency accredited? 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).
- Does the agency provide literature explaining its services, eligibility requirements, fees and funding sources? Individual agencies may provide specific information about themselves. Many providers supply patients with a detailed "Patient's Bill of Rights" that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the providers, patients and caregivers alike.
- How does the agency select and train its employees? Does it protect its workers with written personnel policies and malpractice insurance? Does it check references and criminal records on new employees?
- Are the agency's nurses or therapists required to evaluate the patient's home care needs? If so, what does this entail? Are the patient's physicians and family members consulted?
- Is the patient's course of treatment documented, detailing the specific tasks to be carried out by each professional caregiver? Is a copy of this plan given to the patient and his/her family member and updated as changes occur?
- Does the agency assign supervisors to oversee the quality of care patients are receiving in their homes? Whom can you call with questions or concerns? How are problems followed up and resolved?
- Does the agency take time to educate family members on the type of care that is being provided?
- What are the agency's financial procedures? Does it provide written statements that explain all the costs and payment plan options associated with home care?
- What procedures are in place to handle emergencies? Are the agency's caregivers available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
- How does the provider ensure patient confidentiality?