Aging Safely and Independently in Your Own Home
The expert clinicians of EvergreenHealth Home Care helps adults in need of medical care remain safe and independent in their own homes for as long as possible. Elizabeth Kaufman, an occupational therapist with the program, answers some of the frequently asked questions about home care.
Many people mistakenly think of home health as companion care for the very frail or elderly, but it’s not that. Can you explain the difference?
Elizabeth Kaufman: Home health is short term, medical or therapeutic care for individuals in response to a specific medical need. Most home health referrals come from a primary care physician or specialist or post-hospital stay and cover a 60-day period.
Home health is designed to help people transition back into their home environment and hopefully gain back independence, so that they can progress to receiving their medical care in an outpatient setting, or to not needing any further services at all.
Six different medical specialties make up our home health team. That include nurses, physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, social workers and home health aides.
We may work with the individual to adapt their environment so that it is more safe and accessible or provide rehab.
Home health is not companion care, which might include an aid who cooks, cleans or bathes, is different than home health – it is ongoing and not medically or therapeutically focused.
Who is your typical patient?
Kaufman: One of the best things about working in home health is that there is no typical patient. We see a huge array of medical conditions and needs – and range of ages.
Some of our patients might be generally very healthy, but recently had a hip replacement, requiring help in adjusting how they live and move around.
Some may have suffered a stroke and may have trouble swallowing.
Others may be adjusting to life with dementia or Alzheimer’s and need help managing their medications.
At EvergreenHealth, we also extend home health services extend to include mental illness and psychiatric needs – we are the only provider in the Puget Sound region to do so.
So why would someone choose to utilize Home Health and how does it help them “age well” in my own home?
Kaufman: Home health is really all about keeping people independent, and living in their homes for as long as possible.
We can serve as the eyes and ears and make recommendations to ensure the health and safety of our patients in their home, for the times we are not there to support them.
We also focus on bringing joy and gratification back to daily life through our recommendations, which can keep a person living healthy longer.
Our care is also medically and therapeutically based, so long-term outcomes are often better too. It also has been shown to reduce accidents or other medical episodes that result in costly ER visits.
Home care is a less expensive option than assisted living or other types of care facilities – providing the ability to age well financially, too.
We also educate family members or other caregivers, so that they can support the effort to keep their loved ones healthy, safe and comfortable in their own home.
If I need home health, what might my first visit be like?
Kaufman: Our first order of business is to see all areas of the home and assess the day-to-day lifestyle to determine what support is needed.
This may include making modifications to the environment, such as removing fall risks, teaching a person how to get dressed or use the restroom safely, or accident-proofing the home.
We also use carefully-designed assessment tools that help gauge a person’s function, so that our recommendations follow best practices. For example, we may do a gait assessment at every visit to help determine when to transition from walking with a walker to a cane and finally, to walking on their own.
EvergreenHealth is a leader in home health in our region. Are there any innovations underway in the home health field?
Kaufman: One of our newest services is a cloud-based platform that uses in-home sensor technology, enabling patients to track their own health information, such as blood pressure or heart rate, and share it virtually with their care teams and family members.
We monitor this data and if something appears to be abnormal, our clinical team can intervene to help get the patient back on track.
Otherwise, if the stats are good, this system can help prevent unnecessary doctor or hospitals visits and costs to the patient.
We are also working on supporting same-day home health services for procedures such as hip and knee replacements.
Surgical advances make it possible for these patients to be discharged on the same day as their procedure; and we believe home health can support a faster recovery.