The Changing Face of Home Care
by Dorothy Conigliaro
“There’s no place like home,” said Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. And that sentiment still holds true today, particularly for those who are facing the prospect of having to leave home due to illness or infirmity.
The good news is that home care continues to become an increasingly popular alternative to assisted living facilities and convalescent homes, and with that come real benefits. According to Chaim Lieberman, administrator at Community Home Health Care, a New York State-licensed home care agency, with multiple locations throughout Westchester, “Patients are able to remain in their own homes – to continue with the routines of their lives – with their own families and surroundings, for the highest level of emotional, physical and spiritual support, familiarity, security and comfort. The aides come into the home and adapt to the patients’ lives and surroundings instead of the patient and aides both needing to adapt to an all-new life.”
Home care services are wide ranging in scope (from medical care to rehabilitative therapy to help with personal tasks and household chores) and availability (from constant care to weekly visits.) Generally, candidates range from homebound seniors and those with disabilities, to robust working patients who have recently undergone a surgical or medical procedure.
By far, the two biggest factors making home care an increasingly popular option are managed care and technology. Noted Lieberman, “The biggest transition has been from ‘for fee’ service to managed care. Today, every patient is required by government regulation to enroll in managed care, largely as a measure to achieve cost-efficiency. Numerous technological advancements have also made a major contribution to the field of home health care.”
Indeed, home care providers have access to the latest technologies in order to improve care while lowering costs. As the technology continues to develop, so will the range of devices that can instantly transmit vital health data and other feedback between patient, family, doctors, nurses, and home care providers.
• Personal emergency response and auto-dialing and alarm systems: These immediately signal the need for help when activated.
• In-home computers: Which can be helpful when a patient needs instruction on taking medications or operating medical equipment.
• E-caring systems: A disease management system that allows for patient health monitoring and assessment from remote locations, instantly reporting a sudden change of trend or behavior.
• In-home IV therapy: For nutrition, hydration and medicinal infusions.
• Wearable tracking devices: 70 million people in the U.S. are using wearable tracking devices to monitor their physical activity, sleep patterns, calorie consumption, and more, which shows much potential to improve patient care.
• GPS: When seniors are away from home, GPS-tracking technologies allow families, health workers, or law enforcement professionals to locate them in case of emergency.
• Mobile apps: From monitoring to communication, simple mobile applications give caregivers peace of mind while allowing seniors to get in touch with a few taps on their phones. Reminder apps, which can notify seniors about medications or appointments, are a great tool for busy or absent-minded people of any age.
A focus on patient-centered care
A significant change in the healthcare industry’s approach to providing care is underway—putting the patient at the center of care. The goal is to improve patient satisfaction levels and engagement. Said Lieberman, “Frequently people initially have concerns about placing loved ones in the hands of a stranger, often for extended periods of time. But a home health care program, delivered by expert, experienced, sensitive and passionately-caring health professionals, can achieve the opposite — in the form of peace of mind for all concerned.”