Your elderly parent may need some assistance with healthcare-related tasks, but you’re not ready to move her into a facility. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Home health nursing offers you the option of having your loved one properly cared for in their own home. This arrangement can help your parent stay in their home and live independently for a longer period of time.
What Is Home Health Nursing?
The definition of home health care refers to any type of care that’s provided to a person in their own home. The nursing component of home health care encompasses the medical assistance a person needs that is performed in the patient’s home. A nurse can perform wound care services, intravenous or nutrition therapy, injections, and chronic illness monitoring. They also provide patient and caregiver education on medical topics. Typically, home health care is less expensive than facility care.
A home health nurse has the goals of treating an illness or injury with the intent of helping a person recover, regain their independence, become more self-sufficient, maintain or improve the patient’s current level of function, and slow decline. A nurse is not responsible for helping a patient with housekeeping, running errands, physical or occupational therapy, or preparing food. There are home health caregivers that can perform these tasks, but nurses are strictly hired to perform medical procedures and treatments.
Examples of Home Health Nurse Duties
As previously mentioned, home health nurses are not going to help your loved one with their everyday tasks like housekeeping and cooking. Instead, their duties are well-defined as part of Medicare’s home nursing guidelines. Examples of some duties a nurse may perform include the following tasks.
- Check your loved one’s vitals, including temperature, blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate
- Change bandages
- Draw blood for labs
- Assist with bathing, grooming, and toileting
- Assist with mobility
- Monitor foods and fluids
- Monitor the medications your loved one is taking and their adherence to your prescriptions
- Assess pain level
- Make sure your loved one’s home is safe
- Educate your loved one and their caregivers about their condition and care
- Coordinate care with your loved one’s doctors and other caregivers
A home health nurse will also be responsible for developing a care plan along with your loved one’s doctor. In this plan will be the frequency of nursing visits, what will occur at each visit, and how long the visits are expected to last. In many cases, a home health nurse will only be required for a short time, or until your loved one has recovered from an injury or illness. There are other options for long-term home health care.
How to Receive Home Health Care From a Nurse
Before you can get a home health nurse to provide care to your loved one, you’ll need one of their doctors to refer them for home health care. Once this referral is approved by the insurance company or Medicare, you can select a home health care provider from a list of agencies in your loved one’s area. You should contact the agency you prefer and schedule an initial appointment for a representative to come to your loved one’s home.
At the initial appointment, the home health agency representative will meet with your loved one and ask questions about their condition, health, and needs. They will also contact your loved one’s doctors to discuss their care needs and will keep their doctors updated about your loved one’s progress. The home health agency will then develop a specialized plan that caters to your loved one’s needs and assign a nurse to your case who will visit you according to the plan.
How to Choose a Home Health Agency
Certainly, you want the best care possible for your loved one, but you might not know where to start when choosing a home health agency. As mentioned, your loved one’s doctor will provide you with a list of agencies in your area, but you probably won’t know anything about them other than they are local. To ensure your loved one gets all the services they need at a price they can afford, consider these tips.
You want your loved one’s insurance to pay for as much of the home health visits as possible, so you need to make sure the agency you select is accepted by the insurance company. If your loved one is on Medicare, be sure to choose an agency that is Medicare/Medicaid certified, which means they meet federal and state requirements for care.
There are several accrediting entities like the Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP) and the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC) that show that a home health agency is committed to maintaining rigorous standards for patient care. Home health agencies are not required to be accredited to operate, but those that are may be higher performing.
Make sure the agency you select offers the level of nursing your loved one needs. Some agencies may only offer home health aides or physical and occupational therapists, neither of whom can perform the medical tasks described above. If your loved one needs specialized services, make sure the agency is equipped to handle those needs.
The agency you choose should employ only licensed and certified staff members who have undergone background checks. You should also inquire about the agency’s ongoing training program to ensure all staff members are up-to-date on procedures and policies. You want your loved one to be safe with the people who are going to be in their house and caring for them.
Reputation and Quality Scores
Find out how long the home health agency has been in business in the community and when they were last inspected by the governing entity. Longevity is an important quality in home health agencies, but it’s not the only criteria you should look for. Look up the agency’s quality scores that are given by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to assess the quality of care patients receive from their nurses and other staff members.
You want to be able to contact your loved one’s home health agency at any time of the day or night, which can prevent expensive hospital trips and emergency room visits. Not all agencies have on-call staff available 24 hours a day, but they usually have an on-call service that can provide advice in the event a medical issue arises.
Specialized Care Plans
Your loved one’s home care plan should be individualized to their specific needs. This not only helps them recover from injury or illness more quickly but also ensures they don’t receive services they don’t need. A specialized plan should be developed in coordination with your loved one’s doctors and any other caregivers in their life. Your loved one’s input should also be encouraged and incorporated into the care plan, which will also help them better adhere to their responsibilities.
Before you commit to services, you should be able to see a breakdown of the costs of home nursing care, which will show how much will be covered by insurance and how much will be required out of pocket. As with any medical services, prices will vary, so it’s important you find a home health agency that is affordable for your loved one after the insurance payments have been applied.
Home health care can be extremely beneficial for people who aren’t ready to move into a skilled nursing facility, but who require some nursing assistance for an illness or injury. Contact Parent Care to learn how our nurses can help your loved one keep their independence.