Home Care

What Is Home Health Care And The Types Of Services They Provide?

At its fundamental level, “home health care” means what it sounds like – medical care provided in a patient’s home. Home health care can include broad care given by skilled medical professionals, including nursing care, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Home health care may also include skilled, non-medical care, like medical social services or assistance with daily living from a highly qualified home health aide. As described by the Medicare program home health care is unique as a care setting not only because the care is provided in patient’s home, but the care itself is “usually less expensive, more convenient, and just as effective” as care received in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

The goal of home health care is to help older adults live independently for as long as possible, even with an illness or injury. It covers a wide range of services and can often delay the need for long-term nursing home care.

Home health care can include occupational and physical therapy, speech therapy, and skilled nursing. It might involve helping older adults with activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing, and eating. It can also encompass assistance with cooking, cleaning, other housekeeping, and monitoring one’s medication regimen.

There is a difference between home health care and home care services, and it is important to understand what each entails. Although home health care may include some home care services, it is medical in nature. Home care services include chores and housecleaning, whereas home health care typically involves helping someone to recover from an illness or injury. Home health care professionals are frequently licensed practical nurses, therapists, or home health aides. Many of them work for home health agencies, hospitals, or public health departments licensed by the state.

The range of home health care services a patient can receive at home is unlimited. Depending on the individual patient’s situation, care can vary from nursing care to specialized medical services, like laboratory workups. You and your doctor will determine your care plan and exactly what services you may need at home. At-home care services may include:

  • Doctor care. A doctor can visit a patient at home to diagnose and treat the illness(es). He or she will also regularly review the home health care needs.
  • Nursing care. The most common form of home health care is some kind of nursing care depending on the person’s situation and health needs. Following consultation with the doctor, a registered nurse will set up a plan of care. Nursing care can include dressing wounds, ostomy care, IV therapy, administering meds, monitoring the general health of the patient, pain control, and other health support.
  • Physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy. In some cases, patients may need help relearning how to perform daily duties or improve their speech after an illness or injury. A physical therapist will build a plan of care to help a patient regain or strengthen the use of muscles and joints. An occupational therapist can assist a patient with physical, developmental, social, or emotional disabilities relearn how to accomplish daily functions like eating, bathing, dressing, and more. A speech therapist is available to help a patient with impaired speech regain the ability to communicate clearly.
  • Medical social services. Medical social workers offer an assortment of services to the patient, including counseling and locating community resources to help the patient in their recovery. Some social workers might also be the patient’s case manager–if the patient’s medical condition is very complex and requires the coordination of many services.
  • Care from home health aides. Home health aides can help the patient with his or her basic personal needs such as getting out of bed, walking, bathing, and dressing. Some aides have received specialized training to assist with more specialized care under the supervision of a nurse.
  • Homemaker or basic assistance care. When a patient is taken care of medically in their home, a homemaker or person who helps with chores or tasks can keep the household running with meal prep, laundry, grocery shopping, and other housekeeping items.
  • Companionship. Some patients who are home alone may require a companion to provide comfort and supervision. Some companions may also perform household duties.
  • Volunteer care. Volunteers from community organizations can provide basic comfort to the patient through companionship, helping with personal care, providing transportation, emotional support, and/or helping with paperwork.
  • Nutritional support. Dietitians are available to come to a patient’s home to provide dietary assessments and guidance to support the treatment plan.
  • Laboratory and X-ray imaging
  • Some laboratory tests, like blood and urine tests, can be performed in the comfort of the patient’s home. In addition, portable X-ray machines allow lab technicians to perform this service at home.
  • Pharmaceutical services. Medicine and medical equipment may be delivered at home. If the patient needs it, training may be provided on how to take medicines or use of the equipment, including intravenous therapy.
  • Transportation. Some companies offer transportation to patients who need transport to and from a medical facility for treatment or physical exams.
  • Home-delivered meals. You may be familiar with this option, known as Meals-on-Wheels. Many communities provide this service to patients at home who are unable to cook for themselves. Depending on the person’s needs, hot meals can be delivered throughout times a week.

Paying for home health and home care: what does Medicare cover?

As covered, typically home health falls under the auspices of medical services, while home care involves daily personal assistance. Insurance tends to cover these types of care accordingly:

  • When prescribed by a physician, Medicare and private insurance plans cover home health. It’s best to ask the patient’s doctor about home health if you think it would be beneficial for your family member. This service is available to any senior who qualifies for Medicare.
  • Medicaid covers both types of care for income-qualified seniors although the amount covered vary state by state.
  • Private Pay is common for home care but is only needed for home health that is not ordered by a physician.
  • Long-Term Care Insurance covers home care only if it’s included in the patient’s insurance plan. Check with their insurance agent for specifics.