During November, the National Association for Home Care (NAHC) encourages all communities to celebrate National Home Care and Hospice Month, honoring the millions of nurses, home care aides, therapists and social workers who make a difference for the patients and families they serve.
“For the aged, disabled or ill, staying in the homes they know and love can become increasingly difficult unless they can get services they need to support them,” says Susie Compton, RN, director of Hamilton Home Health and Hamilton Hospice.
Home health care is medical care that is appropriate for people suffering from chronic illness, recovering from acute injury or illness and needing skilled care to remain at home. Services include medication management, wound care, physical therapy, speech therapy and other skilled services provided by licensed individuals. Some patients qualify for additional services such as home health aides and medical social workers when necessary to support skilled services.
Care requires a physician’s order, and requires that the patient be under the care of a physician. Most insurers also require that the patient be homebound, meaning the patient only leaves home infrequently, and it is very difficult to do so.
Home health care can be mistaken for personal or companion care (or non-medical care), which includes transportation, errands, light housekeeping, meal preparation and assistance with activities of daily living. Private sitters and some private and government agencies provide this type of care.
When a disease process has become terminal and patients and families are ready to shift the focus of care from curative treatment to comfort care and symptom control, in-home hospice care allows patients to remain in familiar surroundings at the end of life.
Hospice care is a type of home care and is appropriate when patients with life-limiting illness discover that continued aggressive disease treatment is no longer effective, beneficial or desired. Hospice focuses on comfort, dignity and emotional support. The quality of life for the patient, but also family members and others who are caregivers, is the highest priority.
“This type of care not only ensures that symptoms are controlled and medications and equipment are provided so that patients are comfortable, it also supports families and assists them in dealing with the emotional and physical strain that can accompany end-of-life situations,” says Cynthia Washington, RN, Hamilton Hospice clinical manager.
Hospice care is a benefit of Medicare and most private insurers as long as the patient continues to meet the necessary criteria. The benefit pays for all care, equipment and medications associated with the patient’s terminal diagnosis. Hamilton Hospice is committed to caring for all patients, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.
“Choosing to receive hospice care does not mean you are giving up hope or that death is imminent,” says Compton. “The earlier someone receives hospice care, the more opportunity there is to stabilize his or her medical condition and address other needs. Some patients actually improve and may be discharged from hospice care.”
Patients may revoke their hospice benefit at any time if they feel the need to resume more aggressive care. Patients can also re-enroll in hospice as their condition and needs warrant.
Home health and hospice are part of the continuum of services that are provided by Hamilton Health Care System, which also includes hospital care, women’s services, rehabilitation and wellness, ambulatory infusion, cancer care, behavioral health, long-term care, wound care and others.