What Is Home Health Care?
Home health care includes skilled nursing care, as well as other skilled care services, like physical and occupational therapy, speech-language pathology (therapy) services. Services may also include medical social services, and assistance from a home health aide (when needed by people also receiving skilled care).
These services are provided by a variety of health care professionals in your home. The home health staff provides and helps coordinate the care and/or therapy your doctor orders. In support of your doctor’s orders, home health staff develops a care plan, which is a written plan for your care. It tells what services you will get to reach and keep your best physical, mental, and social well being. You have a right to participate in planning your care and treatment. The home health staff keeps your doctor up-to-date on how you are doing and updates your care plan as needed. Home health agencies cannot make changes to the care your doctor orders for you without your doctor’s knowledge and permission.
Home Health Patient (YOUR) Rights
As a patient of a Medicare-approved home health agency, you have several rights and the home health agency must provide you with a written copy of them. They include the following:
- The right to choose your home health agency, although for members of managed care plans, the choices will depend upon which home health agencies your plan works with.
- The right to have your property treated with respect.
- The right to have your family or guardian act for you if you are unable.
- The right to complain to the agency or the State Survey Agency about your treatment or care if it not provided, or staff shows disrespect for you or your property.
- The right to be given a copy of your plan of care, so you can ask questions about the type of services and staff the home health agency plans to provide to you and how often you can expect those services.
The need for home health care has grown for many reasons. Medical science and technology have improved. Some care that was once provided only in a hospital can now be delivered at home. Also, home health care is usually less expensive and may be as effective as care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility. And just as important, most patients and their families prefer to stay at home rather than be in the hospital or a nursing home when their condition allows them to be cared for at home.
Since home health care is part-time and usually temporary, patients (and their informal caregivers) need to learn how to identify and care for possible problems, like confusion or shortness of breath. While you get home health care, home health staff teach you (and those who help you) to continue any care you may need, including medication, wound care, therapy, and managing stress. Even if a patient's health condition (such as heart failure or diabetes) is not expected to get better, patients can improve how they manage and live with their illness.
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.
What you should expect from the home health staff when they see you in your home.
It is important that home health staff see you as often as the doctor ordered.
At each visit, the home health staff should:
- Check what you are eating and drinking
- Check your blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and breathing
- Check that you are taking your medicines and treatments correctly
- Check your safety in the home
- Teach you about your care so you can take care of yourself
- Coordinate your care. This means they must communicate regularly with you, your doctor, and anyone else who provides care to you.
Examples of Skilled home health services include:
- wound care for pressure sores or a surgical wound
- respiratory care, like oxygen or a nebulizer
- physical and occupational therapy
- speech-language therapy
- patient and caregiver education
- intravenous or nutrition therapy
- monitoring serious illness and unstable health status
Examples of Un-Skilled home health aide services include:
- help with basic daily activities like getting in and out of bed, dressing, bathing, eating, and using the bathroom
- help with light housekeeping, laundry, shopping, and cooking