Home health care provides medical support in the home. This vital service can help people of all ages recover from surgery, illness, or injury in the comfort of their own home. Home health care is a particularly attractive option for older adults. It allows them to stay in their own home, delaying and sometimes eliminating the need to move into a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Home health care includes a range of services, such as skilled nursing, medication management, nutrition therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other rehabilitative services. It can also help older adults and others that need assistance with activities of daily living, like eating, bathing, and dressing.
Such care is usually provided by registered nurses, therapists, home health aides, or medical social workers. In addition to medical care, some home health care may also include care services such as cooking, cleaning, and housekeeping.
There are many advantages to home health care, along with some disadvantages to keep in mind.
Advantages of Home Health Care
- Comfort of Home – One of the greatest advantages to home health care is its location – in the home. A sick, injured, or aging person already has enough to worry about. Allowing them to stay in the comfort of their own home gives them a sense of comfort and normalcy. It lets them be near to the people, pets, and things they love. Family can visit any time, with no need to worry about visiting hours.
- Privacy and Familiarity – Home health care offers privacy, with no strangers sharing a room (and the stranger’s visitors also coming in and out). The company of a pet can be enjoyed, rather than missing and worrying about a pet during a hospital stay. And even things – a favorite comfy chair or collection of bonsai trees – are important to recovery. These familiar things help patients feel more comfortable, which can aid in recovery and contribute to a better quality of life.
- Quality of Care – Often times, the patient and family have more control over choosing home health care providers than institutional providers. Once home health providers are picked, they can develop personal relationships with the patient and family, without being distracted by other demands as they would in an institution. Someone receiving home health care will get one-on-one attention, which provides physical and emotional benefits.
- Safer From Infections – Most institutions go to great lengths to prevent the spread of germs, but unfortunately, there’s only so much that can be done in crowded and confined spaces. Staph infections, colds, flues, viral gastroenteritis, and other illnesses are legitimate concerns during hospital stays. These can be especially dangerous to someone with a weakened immune system, often meaning a stay at home with home health care is safer than a stay in a hospital or nursing home.
- Financial Advantages – This will vary depending on the needs of the patient, but in many situations, home health care is cheaper than an extended hospital stay. Many home health care services are funded by private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans’ Administration, and other sources.
- Alleviate Feelings of Guilt or Abandonment – Some family members experience debilitating feelings of guilt when leaving their loved one in an institutional setting. Home health care can alleviate such feelings of guilt, while still providing necessary care. For the patient, being left in a facility can lead to feelings of abandonment. Again, home health care can alleviate such feelings, allowing the patient to feel cared for in his or her own home.
Disadvantages of Home Health Care
Despite all the advantages, there are some important concerns of home health care that must be recognized.
- Feelings of Isolation – Depending on the proximity of family and the existing social support network, leaving someone at home may cause them to feel isolated and lonely. This is especially worth considering for older adults. In some situations, a nursing home or assisted living facility may provide a sense of community and facilitate connections to peers.
- Deficient Caregivers – If just one caregiver is sent to a home, especially if the patient lives alone, subpar care or even abuse, neglect, and theft may go unnoticed. In an institutional setting, the caregiver will likely have coworkers and superiors to ensure they are doing a good job. Also, the patient would have other people to talk to if they were experiencing a problem. If using home health care, it is vital to check the background of the providers and get a trusted referral.
- Non-Accommodating Setting – Most hospitals and assisted living facilities are designed with accessibility in mind. They have handrails, ramps, support bars and seats in showers, clean and wide walkways, good lighting, etc. Making a home safe can be timely and costly. Even if money is not an issue, some older adults will insist they don’t need a ramp or a walk in tub. Unfortunately, this stubbornness may lead to a fall or injury in the future.
- Lack of Emergency Resources – Compared to patients receiving home health care, patients in a hospital or assisted living facility will have 24/7 access to a larger team of medically trained providers. This can be a great advantage in an emergency. For those using home health care, they may have to wait for help to arrive, which may result in medical complications or even death.
Home health care provides quality care in the comfort of home. Its many advantages include healing and living in a familiar place, individual attention without distractions, a place to heal away from infectious zones found in institutions, possible financial savings, and alleviation from feelings of quilt for family members and feelings of abandonment for the patient.
But before a decision is made to use home health care, the disadvantages of this type of care must be considered. If a patient lacks a strong support network, they may feel isolated at home. Additional dangers include deficient caretakers, a home that may not be equipped with proper accessibility features, and lack of access to immediate emergency services.
Often times, the dangers of home health care are far outweighed by the benefits of home health care. The decision regarding home health care will be unique to every individual as they assess how the advantages and disadvantages impact their own situation.
Updated: March 21, 2014