Home Health Care Services - The Basics

Home Health Care Services - The Basics

What is Home Health Care?

Home health care provides a variety of services that include certified nursing aides (CNAs), nurses, and several types of therapists. These individuals come to the person's home to provide certain types of care. Two basic types of care are provided by home health care agencies: skilled and custodial. Each of these categories is specifically defined by Medicare, and some services are covered while others are not.

Home health care services offer numerous benefits to home bound or patients recovering from surgery or the elderly, but might also cause frustration and financial stress to some families. Before considering at-home help, determined the senior's needs for care that you don't feel you can provide. For example, does Mom need around-the-clock supervision? Does Dad need specific nursing care to take care of a post-surgical incision or wound? Is Mom only looking for an occasional companion to help fill her day?

Determining the need of the senior will help you determine the type of service to look for. Research what types of services are covered by private health or governmental insurance such as Medicare or Medicaid. Doing so will also help you determine whether you can afford such care.

What Type of Home Health Care Services are Offered?

Skilled home health care is that which is provided by trained and certified medical providers such as occupational, speech and physical therapists, registered nurses or licensed practical nurses, and certified nurse's aides of assistants, or CNAs.

Skilled care is generally defined as that which requires more intensive medical care, such as wound care, ambulatory care, medication supervision, and so forth.

Custodial care is defined as the type of care involved with dressing, shopping, cooking or bathing someone in their home, again provided by professionals, most often CNAs.

A CNA will generally provide services such as:

  • Bathing
  • Toileting
  • Dressing
  • Feeding
  • Minor personal or medical care
  • Light housekeeping (though some CNAs do not)
home health care services

A nurse will provide services that include:

  • Traditional nursing care, i.e. wound care, catheter changes, medication supervision, pain management, etc.

Therapists may offer:

  • Physical, occupational or speech therapy
  • Exercise and training in physical movements
  • Speech therapy or communication training and exercises
  • Help performing daily tasks to increase range of motion, mobility, stability and strength

Can I Afford Home Health Care Services?

The type of home care that you choose depending on the senior's needs will determine costs. Average national costs for home health aides such as CNAs average between $10.00 and $30.00 an hour, and some of their basic services may be covered by Medicare.

Nursing care averages $30.00 and $100 an hour, and is typically not covered by Medicare, although it sometimes may be covered by Medicaid.

Physical therapy, occupational and speech therapy is also expensive, ranging from $30.00 to $100 an hour, and like nursing care, is not typically covered under Medicare specifications. Such therapy may be covered under Medicaid.

home health care services

Hiring Home Health Services

When looking into a home health care agency or service, take the list of questions and get answers for them before you leave. Whenever possible, get referrals, and get agreements or stipulations you make with the agency in writing. Whenever possible, seek out the services of more than one home health care agency and compare rates, benefits, services, and rules and regulations regarding hours spent performing a variety of care services.

Home health care services are expensive, and while Medicare does pay for skilled care, care must be provided by a home health agency that is certified by Medicare.

Such care must be less than 28 hours a week according to Medicare stipulations, and the patient must be home bound. Even so, coverage is usually limited to roughly 21 days.

Talk to your local Visiting Nurse Association to discuss other options for home health care services. You can also talk with a representative of your local health department, Chamber of Commerce, or local hospital administration (case management services) for a list of home health care resources in your community.

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