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What Is Home Care?

With nearly half of seniors needing help with their daily activities, home care services are increasingly becoming a crucial part of care for America’s aging population. As rising healthcare costs become a more present factor in American decision making, individuals who need elderly care, or who have a loved one who needs care, are looking to home care as the answer. What is home care? Home care offers a wide variety of services that are provided in a patient’s home rather than at a dedicated facility. In illness or injury, home care is typically more affordable and convenient than staying at a hospital or moving to a nursing home.

Home Care Defined

When a person requires assistance on a regular basis, home care provides an optimal solution. Home care enables people who have special needs (such as people with a disability, people with chronic illnesses, or older people) to recover from illnesses or injury, or just maintain a sense of independence as they age while living in their homes.

Home care includes almost any type of care needed, from personal care (such as help getting dressed, light cooking and cleaning, etc) to health care (such as care for chronic illness provided by a home health aide). How home care services are paid for depends heavily on the type of care received. Post-Accute care is generally covered by insurance plans, while help with domestic chores are paid for out of pocket.

The Difference Between Home Health And Home Care

States differ in their requirements of home care providers, causing some ambiguity of terminology within the industry. In some states, there is a difference between the terms home care and home health care.

Home health care refers to care administered at home by a healthcare professional, such as a visiting nurse. In contrast, home care mostly refers to private duty providers who are not medically certified.

In other states, there is no clear difference between the two. For the purposes of clearing up any ambiguity, we at 1-800-HOMECARE™ do make the distinction between home care providers and home health care providers.

According to the Private Duty Homecare Association, private duty home care involves a variety of non-clinical and clinical services that can be rendered in the home. These services help people who need home care to maintain their independence while keeping safe. For example, people receiving private duty home care may receive assistance with cooking or doing laundry. This approach allows people who use home care services to be empowered with a sense of independence.

On the other hand, medical home health care is aimed towards caring for people who have an injury or illness. Home health care is just as effective as care provided in a skilled nursing facility or hospital, but it has the advantage of being cheaper and more convenient. Some home health care services rendered include injections, wound care for surgical wounds, monitoring the illness of a patient, and providing caregiver education.

State Regulatory Differences

Every state has different laws pertaining to home care. Even adjoining states can greatly differ when it comes to home care laws. For example, Delaware requires home health agencies to perform an FBI and statewide background check for all individuals providing home care, while Maryland only requires a statewide background check. Thus, it’s important to verify the home care laws of the state where care is needed.

State regulations dictate everything in home care laws from the nurse certification process to required licenses. For example, most states require home health care agencies to screen candidates carefully and even do a background check, but some states, such as Alabama and Wyoming, do not require background checks. By verifying the applicable laws of a particular state, families can make appropriate decisions regarding the best location for their loved ones who need care.

Nurses to Know: Visiting Nurses, CNA’s, and HHA’s

When receiving home health services, it’s important to understand the types of caregivers who may visit your home. The most common caregivers are visiting nurses, certified nursing assistants (CNA’s) and home health aides (HHA’s). While all types of caregivers share some similar duties and responsibilities, there are a few differences to note.

CNA’s help home care patients fulfill basic needs, such as bathing patients or combing patients’ hair. CNA’s also work under the supervision of a registered nurse and need some form of training. Although formal training, such as obtaining a bachelor’s degree, is generally not required in every state, some form of training is, such as obtaining a certification.

HHA’s have completed advanced training that is approved by their state of licensure and can also provide medication to patients. They help home care patients with personal care activities, such as grooming, and health care, such as changing bandages. Some states also permit HHAs to check for the vital signs of the patient or provide medication when supervised by a doctor, nurse or other healthcare providers.

Visiting nurses are trained healthcare professionals who can provide specialized healthcare services, such as mental health counseling, vaccination and pain management.

What Can Home Care Offer Me?

What is home care’s advantage? Typically, home health providers focus on treating illnesses and/or injuries first. They check vital signs, offer advice to patients and family caregivers, administer vaccines, monitor nutritional health, and check home safety.

Home care providers will do light chores around the house such as dishes, laundry, etc. They may also provide a means of transportation for visiting friends, running errands, or going to a doctor’s appointment. In addition, meal planning and preparation can be overseen.

Hygiene and personal care are on the priority list for home care providers to ensure optimal quality of life and health for your loved one. They must coordinate and communicate effectively not only with the patient, but with family and doctors as well.

Caregivers can become close friends, even a part of the family. Finding the right caregiver who is qualified and possesses the right personality for your family is paramount. Choosing to stay at home gives you the option to pick a care provider in comparison to a nursing home that has already hired staff.

The Cost Of Care

What is home care’s cost? When care providers come to you, you only pay them for the services that they provide. There are no extra fees generated under the roof of a facility that cares for dozens of other patients. You pay for only what you want. An average monthly bill for transitioning to home care is about $1,200 per month as opposed to a skilled nursing facility quoted around $12,000 per month.

In the face of rising health care costs, in-home care is providing quality care for less. Our healthcare system is experiencing budgetary problems unlike ever before. Alternate options like home care are providing a way to circumvent or alleviate the burdens with which our government is grappling.

Typically, home care services are paid for by the patient and/or the patient’s family. However, many public programs like Medicare and Medicaid can cover some service providers. Home care providers that do not meet the requirements of these public services may have to be paid out-of-pocket.

Where Would You Rather Live?

Would you rather live in your own home or a nursing home? AARP finds that 90% of Americans want to stay at home, and who can blame them? In-home care gives families peace of mind while allowing the elderly to age in a healthy way at home. At a retirement home, residents are confined to schedules and must adapt to living in a strange, new environment. The stress of moving to a new home could invite unwelcome anxiety and potentially illness. Moving away could isolate a senior from familiar faces, which is the last thing they would want or need.

Learn More

What can you do to learn about home care and whether it is right for you? The National Association for Home Care & Hospice is a great resource for learning about the regulatory landscape of the home care industry. Life transitions can be difficult, but they don’t have to be. At 1-800-HOMECARE™ we strive to provide relevant information, resources, and access to high quality home health and homecare agencies in your area. If you are looking for home care services, access our guide, “10 Questions to Ask A Home Care Provider.