Every day people come into our store after they’ve been thrust into a situation where someone they love needs help. They are lost, overwhelmed, and completely unaware of what is available to assist them. It’s a daunting task to feel like you have to become an expert overnight. Here’s a basic breakdown of the different areas of homecare and how each one is utilized:
Home Health Agencies
These agencies provide intermittent “skilled” care by nurses, physical/speech/occupational therapists, and other trained professionals upon a physician’s orders . Often referred to as “Home Health Care”, they provide clinical services in the home such as skilled nursing and therapeutic services. The majority of their services are paid for by Medicare and Medicaid.
Private Duty is a particular type of homecare that provides home care aides, companion care, homemaker services, and nursing services. Since they are not paid by Medicare, the consumer decides what services are needed and for what length of time it should be provided. Often, Private Duty services are paid either out of pocket or by long-term care insurance. Private Duty is particularly helpful for those looking for a long-term solution like a live-in.
Personal Support Service Agencies
These agencies provide “non-skilled” care in the home. Each employee goes through a background check and receives training prior to going into the field. Personal Support Service Agencies (PSSAs) provide services such as grooming and self-care, homemaker services, personal assistance (like transportation), or educational services. Though they cannot assist with medication administration in Tennessee, they do offer medication reminders for clients. Some may qualify for government assistance through the CHOICES program, but many people pay out-of-pocket for this.
Home Medical Equipment Companies
These companies (also known as “HME” or “DME” for Durable Medical Equipment) provide supplies and durable medical equipment in the home. Their scope may include respiratory therapy, oxygen therapy, mobility equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers, daily living aides, bathroom safety items, and more. Some HME companies (like Lambert’s) have respiratory therapists and certified mobility technicians on staff to coordinate with the physician to ensure the patient is properly fitted for the prescribed services. HME companies often work with home health agencies and hospital discharge planners as well to provide a seamless continuum of care for the recipient. All HME companies are accredited, and those in Tennessee also are licensed by the state.
Hospices provide a type of care and philosophy that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill patient’s symptoms and provides assistance for the family as they go through bereavement. Unlike other types of care who treat the symptoms, hospice focuses more on pain management, emotional and spiritual support, and end-of-life preparation. It is generally provided during the last 6 months of life.
Informal Caregivers are individuals who provide unpaid care for another person, typically a friend or family member. They are the lifeblood of homecare today, and there are currently over 65 million Americans providing this type of care for another. According to the National Family Caregivers Association, these caregivers provide an estimated $375 billion of free care each year. In Tennessee alone, nearly 600,000 informal caregivers are estimated to give 634 million hours of free care each year. Many of you readers provide this type of care for someone, though you may not have known what it was called.
Homecare enables people to remain in their homes, connected to the community, with their family and loved ones, and maintain a higher level of independence. Countless studies point to homecare as a viable alternative to nursing homes and institutional care for its cost effectiveness, better recovery rate, overwhelming preference by those receiving care. It is a part of the solution to our nation’s health care crisis, and I believe it is the way of our future. What experiences do you have with homecare?