Home care generally refers to health care or support provided in the patient’s home, but this term is usually applied to non-medical care or custodian care provided by persons who are not licensed medical personnel. Family and friends, who are referred to as caregivers, primary caregiver or voluntary caregiver in this context, can also provide home care. Mostly, however, services are provided by agencies or independent providers.
Seniors comprise the majority of the recipients of home care. Of these, studies show that more women than men need in home senior care. There are other individuals who would typically use this service, such as people with disabilities or special needs and people recovering from major surgeries.
This type of care makes it possible to remain at home and in the environment, they are most comfortable with instead of using long-term institution-based nursing care. It allows them to be near loved ones and gives them a feeling of living a “normal” life as opposed to long term stays in a hospice or nursing home. There is also a variety of options available for home care services, depending on the type and frequency of assistance needed.
Care can include professional health care services or life assistance services or a combination of both. The first one refers to services such as physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, psychological assessment, medication teaching, pain management, wound care and disease education and management. But more often, home care involves assistance with activities of daily living.
Activities of daily living include those that reflect the patient’s capacity to care for himself, such as eating, walking, bathing, dressing and using the toilet. It also covers daily tasks such as light housework, preparing meals, taking medication, shopping, using the telephone and managing money. For the latter, home care providers are there to educate and advise, with the patient making his own decision on financial matters and signing his own checks and financial or legal documents.
Home care services are generally available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, options include having providers on a shift, part-time, hourly, live-in or an as-needed basis. Providers may also work by themselves or as a team.
Except for live-in care, home care is less expensive than most board and care homes, skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities. However, there are a number of factors to be considered with regard to cost when deciding on home care. These include location and skill level of service that will be needed. Homemakers, personal care assistants and companions will all cost less than home health aides or skilled nursing care, and caregivers hired though an agency cost more than direct hires.
Billing can be on an hourly, daily or weekly basis with payment coming from the patient and his or her family members or through a variety of public and private sources. Professional health care services are usually ordered by a doctor and may be covered with insurance. Some community organizations, such as the local cancer society or Alzheimer’s association, may also provide funding to help pay for home care services.