Home Health Care for Dummies

In simplest terms, home health care is treatment and therapy at home that is intended to return an individual back to their previous status. The need for home health can arise from a surgery, accident, injury, stroke, heart attack or any other malady that has caused a reduction in function for an individual.

Home Health is medical in nature! There are other agencies that provide “sitters” or “companions” that may have home health in their title but they do not provide medical treatment or therapy. Some agencies can provide both types of services to meet the medical needs of a patient and also the need of the patient to have help performing daily tasks.

Components of Home Health Care

In general, home health care is made up of skilled nursing, home care aides and therapists. Let’s take a closer look at those professionals that make up a home health agency.

  • Skilled Nursing – Nurses visit patients at their homes and  can provide health assessments, monitoring, dressing changes, wound care, ostomy teaching and care, IV therapy and administration, medication management and reconciliation and safety inspections of the home to ensure that the patient is in a safe environment (to avoid falls)
  • Physical Therapy – PT’s can help seniors to recover full function or functional improvement as the result of surgery, injury, joint replacements, stroke or anything that causes a loss of functionality, primarily of the lower body (below the waist)
  • Occupational Therapy – OT’s help seniors regain their ability to perform a variety of everyday life activities.While PT’s focus on the return of mobility (the legs), the OT’s focus is on regaining skills of everyday life such as transferring from the bed to a chair, or bathing and personal hygiene. The OT is often said to focus on above the waist vs. the below the waist focus of a PT.
  • Speech Therapy – ST’s help seniors to regain lost speaking, eating and swallowing skills that may have been lost due to stroke, heart attack or injury for example.
  • Medical Social Workers – Assessment of the social and emotional factors related to the beneficiary’s illness, the need for care, their response to treatment, and adjustment to care
  • Home Health Aides – Can assist seniors with bathing, personal hygiene, some light housekeeping or meal preparation.

To Qualify for Home Health Care

Medicare sets the rules for home health care. The individual must have some kind of impaired functionality that needs improvement and a doctor’s order. The patient must be “homebound” meaning that they must largely be confined to home due to their impairments. They may leave home to see a doctor or go to church but that trip outside the home must require a “taxing effort”.

Why Home Health Care?

Home health care is written for by a doctor because the patient in his care needs assistance in regaining lost functionality. By using home health care, the patient avoids the need to travel to a doctor’s office or a facility to receive the care they require as they receive all of their care at their own home without the burdens of travel to and from offices or facilities.

Home Care Choice

Medicare regulations require that the patient chooses the home health care agency that will provide their care. It is not the doctor’s choice, the social worker’s choice or the case manager’s choice, it belongs only to the patient and their family (caregiver or proxy). See our blog post on how to choose the right home health agency.

Goals of Home Health Care

Your doctor or your loved one’s doctor will write home health orders instructing the chosen home health agency to improve and return function to the patient that they have lost through injury, stroke, heart attack or other means. This is possible through the care of the nurses and therapists at the home health agency who follow the physician’s orders and individualized plan of care for the patient. So the goals are simply focused on that, providing quality outcomes for the patient and in other words the return of function, skills or both at as great a level as possible.

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