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Senior Citizen's Guide to Pittsburgh

How to Know if You or Someone You Love Needs Professional Home Care

If you or someone you love is having trouble with daily activities, whether it is due to the aging process or recovering from a medical issue, you can now get many types of help and assistance directly in your home rather than considering a nursing home or assisted living environment.

Depending on the types of assistance needed, there are two categories of professional care services available. One is known as Home Health and the other is known as Home Care.

Home Health involves medical care provided by licensed professionals, such as a registered nurse or physical therapist and is typically covered by medical insurance.

Home Care refers to supportive care, such as assistance with errands, getting to doctor’s appointments, preparing meals, bathing or dressing, doing laundry or light housekeeping, to name a few. These services can be funded through your local Area Agency on Aging; Veteran’s Administration or paid for privately. Many individuals have used Reverse Mortgages as a possible solution to funding for home care services.

In the case of Home Health, a licensed health care professional comes directly to the home to help with medical needs. Due to the advances in medicine and home health care, the type of professional that can come to your home depends on the type of care needed. For example, if you need help with understanding and managing medications or monitoring a medical condition a registered nurse can visit. If someone in the home is recovering from a stroke, a Speech-Language Pathologist can come to the home to help you re-learn verbal communication skills. Physical and Occupational Therapists can focus on physical mobility, giving you or your loved one more independence. Certified home health aides provide assistance with personal care if additional support is needed while recovering from an illness or medical condition.

Whereas in the case of Home Care, also known as home support, professional caregivers come to the home to help you or your loved one with daily activities, particularly any daily physical activities. The professional caregiver may help with cleaning the house and doing laundry, provide transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, shopping for groceries or running errands. These services are especially helpful if you or a loved one can no longer drive. In addition, the professional caregiver can help in managing the medications and the necessary nutritional needs. The professional caregiver can assist or remind an individual to take their medications and help with meal preparation to ensure you or your loved one is receiving adequate nutrition, following any necessary dietary restrictions.

Home Care services are also designed as back-up support for a family caregiver who may need to travel for a week or two or who may need some additional assistance in providing daily care and making appointments. Home Care is available from 2 -24 hours a day, depending on your needs and the agency you choose.

We all have heard the commercial, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” This is one example of the many in-home technologies now available to help with both Home Health and Home Care needs. The preceding illustration refers to a “personal response system” that alerts a family member, neighbor or emergency response service team by pressing a button in case of a fall, chest pain, intruder, etc. or when immediate assistance is needed. If individuals have difficulty remembering to take their medications, a medication dispensing systems may be the solution. Medications can be set up in this automated unit to dispense the proper dose and frequency that is prescribed by the physician. The unit gives a verbal and visual cue when it is time to take the medication. If the button is not pressed to dispense the medication, despite several verbal reminders, a family member is automatically notified by phone. Additionally, a variety of specialized te lephones and communication systems for the visually or hearing impaired equipped with larger numbers, increased volume and other innovative features help aid in independence at home.

In Home Health, there is the ability to remotely connect to patients from home by the use of telehealth monitoring. With physicians prescription a Home Health agency can install these systems in your home, monitoring heart rate, water retention, oxygen saturations and blood pressure. These measurements are monitored by the home health agency daily and patients will receive a call from the nurse if the measurements exceed normal limits set by the physician. It enables your physician to catch early signs of health decline and address them with you and your family. These systems have greatly reduced the need for emergency room visits and re-hospitalizations for patients.

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