Understanding Home Care for Seniors
Get the Information You Need with Our Home Care FAQs
Searching for the right home care service can feel overwhelming. Beyond sorting through dozens of options, you likely have lots of questions about what home care entails. Fortunately, BrightStar Care offers in-home care to patients and families across the United States. We can answer all your questions about getting high quality care from skilled compassionate providers. Take a look at our home care Frequently Asked Questions, our Home Care Guide or reach out to a local BrightStar Care agency with specific inquiries.
What Is Home Health Care?
Let's start with understanding the basic definition of home health care. Home health care refers to a wide range of health-related services provided in the comfort of a patient's own home. Nursing services and therapy are just two examples of what may be offered skilled in-home. Seniors most often take advantage of home health care, but it may also be offered to people recovering from an illness or injury. These services are meant to help individuals regain their independence, maintain their current level of function, and slow disease progression. BrightStar Care is glad to offer the following home health care services:
How Is Home Care Different?Although they sound quite similar, home care is different from home health care. This type of care includes things like companion and personal care and offers people extra help without sacrificing their independence. Home care may encompass physical tasks like bathing, dressing and grooming, as well as medication reminders and light meal preparation. Our specific services include:
10 Things You Didn't Know About Home Care
If you've never watched a loved one transition to receiving home care, you may not know what to expect from this set of services. What's more, you may not know what you don't know. So, here are ten things you may not have realized about home care in the U.S.:
1. Home Care Connects Patients and Doctors
You can think of home care as a bridge between doctors and their patients. Home care professionals typically have some medical training and can communicate a client's needs to physicians and specialists. In certain cases, home care providers have nursing degrees and other formal medical certifications. When you entrust BrightStar with a loved one’s care, you get access to a nurse that oversees their entire care plan. Home health aides relay crucial information to nurses, who can then make adjustments to the care plan as needed.
2. Home Care Reduces Costs
Unfortunately, many seniors find themselves in the hospital more often than they would like. When they notice sudden changes in their loved one’s condition, family caregivers' first instinct is to head to the emergency room. This instinct is correct—it's always better to be safe than sorry! But when you have the benefit of a home care provider, they can take measures to reduce hospital admissions and the associated costs. In fact, a recent study conducted by Avalere revealed clients receiving BrightStar Care’s services spent up to $29,902 less on their overall care. Patients with conditions such as congestive heart failure and diabetes, among other diseases, are likely to see a reduction in their healthcare costs.
3. Home Care May Improve Mental Health
When we think about aging, we often picture the physical effects. However, there are just as many mental and emotional concerns. Choosing home care means seniors have access to an educated professional who can understand their needs and provide emotional support.
4. Respite Care Is Available to Family Caregivers
Many home care providers offer respite care. This service entails short-term care that allows family caregivers to take a needed break. Home care does not have to be a long-term commitment and only needs to last as long as it's beneficial for families.
5. Coordination of Care Is Essential
Home care often leads to what we call coordination of care. This system allows physicians, nurses, home care professionals and families to coordinate patient care seamlessly. Home care provides an excellent way to minimize disorganization and ensure everyone stays updated.
6. Family Caregivers Need Training, Too
Many family caregivers were thrown into their roles with no formal (or informal) training on how to care for their loved ones. Requesting home care is a way of learning more about the best ways to care for seniors. When your loved one needs a service you can't provide, home care also offers that extra support.
7. Home Care Isn't Just for Older Adults
All forms of long-term care are typically associated with older adult patients. However, services like home care are not exclusive to older folks. Anyone who needs specialized attention and help with the activities of daily living can benefit from home care.
8. Home Care Is Customizable
There are many types of home care, some encompassing medical services (also known as home health care) and others focusing on personal assistance. Depending on the patient's unique needs, a customized plan will be developed for their care. At BrightStar Care, we start with scheduling “Living Room Visits,” during which we visit patients and families in their homes and discuss specific needs. From there, we create a tailored plan to bring them all the services they need and none they don't.
9. Home Care Clients Work with Registered Nurses
While working with registered nurses isn’t the industry standard, the team at BrightStar Care is proud to offer this service. We stand apart among our competitors by giving patients consistent access to medical professionals who can put their minds at ease. Our nurse-led approach to care is instrumental in ensuring each patients gets the personalized services they need. Nurses can answer your questions every step of the way and work closely with home health aides.
10. Home Care Reduces Loneliness
Perhaps the biggest benefit of home care goes beyond physical health. Countless seniors report feelings of loneliness and may no longer be able to visit family and friends with ease. Fortunately, a professional caregiver can provide that companionship and dispel feelings of isolation.
What Services Are Included in Home Care?
A wide range of services may be included within home care packages. The specifics will depend on your loved one's needs and whether they require simple companion care or more complex skilled care delivered by a nurse. Here are some examples of services that could be provided by a professional caregiver or home care nurse:
- Help with bathing and personal hygiene
- Medication reminders
- Wound care
- Nutrition therapy
- Caregiver education
- Symptom management
- Health monitoring
- Home safety evaluations
- Coordination of care
- Meal preparation
- Light household chores
What Are the Two Basic Types of Caregivers?Caregivers come in all forms, but Johns Hopkins Medicine distills caregivers into two basic types: formal and informal. Here's what you need to know about these kinds of caregiving:
- Formal: Formal caregivers, like those provided by BrightStar Care, are paid for their services and have specialized training in health or caregiving.
- Informal: Traditional family caregivers are considered informal caregivers. These people often provide services without payment and are usually related to the person they're caring for. They may complete a range of tasks for a loved one, such as transporting them to doctor's appointments, grocery shopping, housekeeping and cooking.
What Is Hospice Care?Hospice care is a specialized form of medical support offered to individuals nearing the end of their lives. Patients are only eligible for hospice if a doctor has certified that they have six months or less to live, given the typical progression of their condition. Hospice services include pain and symptom management, emotional support and bereavement services. Hospice care offers no provisions for curative treatment.
With this definition in mind, we can also address this common question: What is hospice care at home? While hospice can be provided in a nursing home or hospital setting, it is most often given at a patient's home. This allows them to live their final months in the peace and comfort of their own space.
What Is Palliative Care at Home?Palliative care is similar to hospice but is not exclusive to patients with a life-limiting condition. This type of medical care focuses on relieving the symptoms and stress caused by a serious illness. It aims to improve quality of life by taking a holistic approach, honing in on physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Patients undergoing palliative care are welcome to try curative treatments beyond pain control and symptom management. While some providers offer care in hospitals or skilled nursing facilities, many patients opt to receive palliative care without leaving home.
How Do I Choose a Home Care Provider?If you've decided that home care is the best option for your loved one, you'll need to start looking at home care providers in your area. The search can be overwhelming—it seems like there's another agency on every street. Thankfully, choosing a provider doesn't have to be so stressful. Here are some tips for making a sound decision:
- Assess Your Needs: Think about the specific kinds of care your loved one will need. They may require lots of medical care, or they might only need a few hours of companion care per week.
- Do Your Research: Conduct in-depth research on home care providers in your area. Be sure your top choices have all the proper licenses and certifications.
- Complete Background Checks: Reputable providers will have background checks on all their caregivers. Don't be afraid to ask about background checks and what methods are used to screen employees.
- Take Note of Caregiver Training: Inquire about the training and qualifications of the caregivers employed by the agency. Find out how supervision and performance management works.
- Ask About Services: Don't forget to ask exactly which services will be provided to your loved one. Each agency varies in what they offer, so it's crucial to find one that can accommodate your loved one's specific needs.
- Explore Insurance Coverage: Discuss fees, payment options and insurance coverage that the provider accepts. While many will work with Medicare and Medicaid, it's always helpful to confirm.
- Ask for Recommendations: Ask for recommendations from trusted sources, such as healthcare professionals, friends or family members who have experience with home care agencies. Some providers may offer references upon request.
- Check Accreditations: Reliable care providers should be accredited by recognized organizations. For example, BrightStar Care is proud to have earned accreditation, as well as quality awards, from the Joint Commission, a national healthcare standards organization.
Does Your Top Provider Check These Boxes?Once your home care options are narrowed down to a few top choices, it's time to compare their pros and cons. Before committing to a certain provider, make sure they check off all the following boxes:
- Approved by your insurance
- Offers the services your loved one needs
- Can accommodate special needs (i.e., dietary restrictions)
- Has staff available during the appropriate hours (i.e., 24/7 care)
- Meets financial needs
- Does background checks on all caregivers and staff
- Has good references
- Comes recommended by healthcare providers
How Much Does 24-Hour Care at Home Cost?The cost of 24-hour care at home varies depending on several factors, such as location and the specific services needed. Once you have your list of potential home care providers narrowed down, reach out to each option and ask about expenses. Because of the huge differences in services, levels of care and insurance coverage, it's impossible to accurately estimate your out-of-pocket costs.
Does Medicare Pay for Home Care?If a senior meets certain eligibility requirements, Medicare may pay for home care services. Coverage varies, so be sure to consult your policy to learn more about the extent of your benefits. In general, here's what Medicare covers:
- Intermittent skilled nursing care
- Home health aide services, if the patient is receiving skilled nursing care and the service is related to an illness or injury
- Physical, occupational, and speech therapy deemed necessary by a doctor
- Medical social services, such as counseling, that help patients cope with the emotional aspect of an illness
- Medical supplies, excluding prescription medications
- Medical equipment, including wheelchairs
How Do I Get Medicare to Pay for Home Care?Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part C, does cover “in-home support services” and will pay for services provided to qualifying patients. For Medicare to pay for home care services, the patient’s doctor must deem that the patient needs medical care at home. If they satisfy this requirement, along with all the following, Medicare may pay for home health care. Patients should check their insurance benefits.
What Isn't Covered by Medicare?Fortunately for many, Medicare pays for most costs associated with home health care. However, it's important to remember that some items may not be covered under Medicare. Medicare plans do not typically pay for:
- 24-hour home care
- Prescription medications
- Meal delivery
- Housekeeping services
- Personal care services when it's the only type of care needed
How Can My Loved One Benefit From Home Care?While finding the right home care provider may seem stressful, the search is worth it in the long run. Home care offers a range of benefits to seniors who need help going about their daily activities. Although everyone has a different experience, many people report the following benefits:
- A Sense of Independence: Home care enables older folks to maintain a certain level of independence by continuing to live in the comfort of their own homes. Caregivers may assist with tasks such as bathing, dressing and meal preparation while still allowing their clients to do things for themselves.
- Greater Comfort and Convenience: Most of us feel most comfortable in our own homes. Allowing seniors to age in place means greater peace, security and convenience.
- More Cost-Effective: Residency in a nursing home is expensive. While home care may come with a few costs of its own, Medicare recipients will pay much less out of pocket than their counterparts in a nursing home.
- Customizable: Home care services can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual, providing one-on-one attention that may not be available in a nursing home. Seniors and their families can choose from a slew of services based on their health conditions and doctor recommendations.
- A Respite for Family Caregivers: Burnout is common among family caregivers. Home health care gives these individuals a chance to take a break from responsibilities and prioritize their well-being.
- Prevent Hospital Visits: Per a study conducted by Avalere, patients receiving home care from BrightStar can save up to $29,902 on the total cost of care. Results were especially promising for patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, lung cancer and seizure disorders.