As people approach advanced age, it’s important for those individuals and their families to consider the variety of home health care options that currently exist.
Home Health Care
For persons who need medical assistance but don’t require hospitalization or nursing home care, home health care services offer a cost-effective alternative that allows patients to remain in the comfort of their own home without foregoing the treatment they need.
There are two types of at-home care, typically provided to older, disabled or convalescent patients: skilled care and supportive services.
Home health agencies provide and help coordinate the care and/or therapy your doctor orders. Services, given by a variety of health care professionals, include skilled nursing care as well as other skilled services such as physical and occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, and medical social services.
Working with the doctor, the home health agency creates a written plan for your care. It tells what services you will get to help you reach and keep your best physical, mental, and social well being. The agency staff keeps your doctor up-to-date on how you are doing and updates your care plan as needed.
The goal of short-term home health care is rehabilitation. It helps you get better, regain your independence, and become as self-sufficient as possible. The goal of long-term home health care (for chronically ill or disabled people) is to maintain your highest level of ability or health, and help you learn to live with your illness or disability.
Home health care is provided by various private profit- or non-profit agencies, hospitals or public health departments. The consumer has the right to choose his or her home care company. Private agencies are the most common providers.
Supportive services include assistance with personal needs such as walking, bathing, dressing and so forth, as well as with chores such as shopping, making meals, light housekeeping. Such services are typically provided by agencies specializing in Companion/homemaking.
Case/Care Managers specialize in helping the elderly and their families identify their needs and fashioning and coordinating a plan that makes the best use of all available resources.
Medicare Coverage of Home Health Care
Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans cover some medically necessary home health care. If you meet certain conditions, Medicare covers part-time skilled nursing care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, home health aide services, medical social services, durable medical equipment (such as wheelchairs, hospital beds, oxygen, and walkers), medical supplies, and other services.
A booklet, Medicare and Home Health Care, explains in more detail what Medicare covers, and has other important information about home health care and payment issues. If you have other insurance, check your policy to see what is covered.
You can pay out-of-pocket for services that aren’t covered by insurance. Personal care and support services may be covered by insurance if you are also getting covered skilled care, such as nursing care or physical therapy.