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Choosing Home Care

Given the choice, your older loved ones would most likely opt for aging in place in their own homes. Familiar surroundings help them feel secure, independent and connected with family and the community. Living at home is also far less expensive than moving to a residential facility. And it's much more pleasant to recover from an illness in your own house or apartment.

However, the older person in your care may need some help with activities like fixing meals, doing laundry, or even getting up and dressed in the morning. If he or she has been recently hospitalized, there may dressings that need changing or he or she may require physical or occupational therapy or other special treatments.

In that case, a discharge planner or physician may suggest bringing in home care services.
Your senior loved one may feel reluctant to have a stranger come into the home. He or she may resist the suggestion, believing that it means giving up independence.

You can the help ease the transition by assuring your loved one that the skilled or personal care assistance provided through home care will actually help him or her remain at home.

Make sure to include your loved one in the choice of home care agencies. He or she should feel comfortable with the agency and the professional providing care. In addition, being part of the decision-making process will help your loved one retain a sense of independence.

If your loved one requires skilled home care, such as wound care, administering medication or supervising use of medical equipment, a home care nurse will work with your loved one’s physician to develop a personal plan of care. A home care aide may be called upon to assist with personal care, such as bathing, dressing or eating.

Such services can shorten hospital stays and avoid a move to a nursing home. They can also make life easier for caregivers by allowing them to take much-needed breaks from caregiving responsibilities.
Home care services are provided by profit and not-for-profit agencies, hospitals, nursing homes, and county or local governments. Many states require that home care agencies be licensed. Some are certified to accept reimbursement from Medicare and private health insurance when skilled care is provided. Agencies that meet or exceed standards of quality for home care may be accredited by national professional organizations.

Choosing the best fit for your loved one is a personal decision. Here are some questions you may want to ask when choosing which agency is right for your loved one:

The Home Health Compare tool from Medicare (http://www.medicare.gov/homehealthcompare/search.html) can help you learn more about agencies you are considering, including how well they care for patients, which agencies use best practices in care, and what other patients have said about the agencies.

By helping your loved one make an informed choice about home care, you will help ensure that he or she receives appropriate care while remaining independent at home.