Each November, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) celebrates National Home Care Month, National Hospice Month and Home Care Aide Week, Nov. 11-17.
NAHC develops themes each year to exemplify the high regard held for home care and hospice professionals and the special relationships they maintain with patients and their family members. This year’s theme for Home Care is “Compassionate Health Care Delivered to Your Door Step”.
“I think this year’s theme for home care is especially appropriate,” said Susie Compton, administrator of Lincoln Medical Home Health and Hospice. “The definition of compassion is a feeling of deep concern for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. It’s that strong desire to help others in pain or distress that is the driving force behind most people who choose to work in health care. Home health care couples that desire with the ability to come into the patient’s world and provide skilled services to them in their own environment. That can be very rewarding, but also challenging.”
Home care nurses, therapists and social workers collaborate with the patient’s physician to determine goals for care and actions needed to achieve those goals.
“Different areas of health care require different skill sets,” explained Compton. “Those who work in home health must not only be competent clinicians, they must also be very independent problem solvers, be organized and efficient and be able to communicate well with the patient, patient’s family and other members of the health care team to ensure the patient’s needs are met.”
Although there are many patients who might benefit from assistance at home, Medicare, TennCare and most insurance providers require that a patient needs an intermittent, skilled service. This means that the type of care that the patient needs must be provided by a licensed nurse or therapist under a physician’s order.
Ellen Poarch, case manager for Lincoln Medical Home Health and Hospice, explained, “Home health care includes services of physical, occupational or speech therapy, nursing for medication and disease teaching and management, wound care, IV therapy and catheter care. If patients have these type of skilled services ordered, then we are able to provide home health aides to assist with personal care if needed. We can also utilize a medical social worker to assist a patient and/or family with resources.”
While a patient might need home maker services or someone to sit with him or her, that alone is not considered a “skill-able” service. Those type of services may be provided by private sitters or non-medical home care agencies.
Another stipulation for home health care to be paid for by Medicare and most other insurance providers is that the patient be homebound.
“Homebound does not mean bedbound,” explained Mary Frances Jones, RN, a nurse who has been working with home health patients for many years. “It means that it is extremely difficult for the patient to leave the home without assistance, and the patient only leaves the home infrequently, for something like a physician appointment, hair cut or to attend church services. The idea is that if a patient can get out of the home for things like a trip to the grocery store or to visit friends, or if the patient is able to drive, then he or she can go to an outpatient setting or clinic for services and does not need a nurse or therapist to come into the home. We often admit patients who only need our services for a limited time, until they are able to be more mobile or no longer require skilled services.”
When a physician determines that a patient would benefit from home health care, he or she makes a referral to a home health agency. This can occur following a patient visit at a physician’s office, through discharge planning during a hospitalization either at Lincoln Medical Center or elsewhere or at the request of a family member or caregiver.
“There are several Home Health agencies that serve the Lincoln County area,” said Compton. “Our agency is the affiliate of the Lincoln County Health System, which is not-for-profit, and provides so many different services to our community. Once a referral is received and accepted, then a nurse schedules a visit to evaluate the patient’s needs and set up home health services. As a locally owned and operated home health agency, the clinical and office staff of Lincoln Medical Home Health and Hospice definitely have the desire to help those who need assistance in our community and they strive to provide excellent, quality home health care services. It truly is compassionate health care delivered to your doorstep”.