Physical Health Care

Home health care helps seniors live independently for as long as possible, given the limits of their medical condition. It covers a wide range of services and can often delay the need for long-term nursing home care.

More specifically, home health care may include occupational and physical therapy, speech therapy, and even skilled nursing. It may involve helping the elderly with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and eating. Or it may include assistance with cooking, cleaning, other housekeeping jobs, and monitoring one's daily regimen of prescription and over-the-counter medications.

At this point, it is important to understand the difference between home health care and home care services. Although they sound the same (and home health care may include some home care services), home health care is more medically oriented. While home care typically includes chore and housecleaning services, home health care usually involves helping seniors recover from an illness or injury. That is why the people who provide home health care are often licensed practical nurses, therapists, or home health aides. Most work for home health agencies, hospitals, or public health departments that are licensed by the state.

How Do I Make Sure That Home Health Care Is Quality Care?

As with any important purchase, it is always a good idea to talk with friends, neighbors, and your local area agency on aging to learn more about the home health care agencies in your community. In looking for a home health care agency, the following 20 questions can be used to help guide your search:

1. How long has the agency been serving this community?
2. Does the agency have any printed brochures describing the services it offers and how much they cost? If so, get one.
3. Is the agency an approved Medicare provider?
4. Is the quality of care certified by a national accrediting body such as the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations?
5. Does the agency have a current license to practice (if required in the state where you live)?
When purchasing home health care directly from an individual provider (instead of through an agency), it is even more important to screen the person thoroughly. This should include an interview with the home health caregiver to make sure that he or she is qualified for the job. You should request references. Also, prepare for the interview by making a list if any special needs the senior might have.