November is National Home Care and Hospice Month

November is National Home Care and Hospice Month The National Association of Home Care has declared November National Home Care and Hospice Month.

This year's theme "The Center of Health Care in America," recognizes the growing importance of home care.

Through technological advances, home-delivered health care has grown far beyond basic professional nursing and home care aide services. Today's modern home care agency offers a wealth of nursing, physical, occupational, respiratory and speech therapies, counseling, dietary, laboratory, medical equipment, home medical supplies and personal care.

A mere 15 years ago, if you would ask the average American to define "home care" the response would be that it is a form of home improvement. Ask that same question today and you'll be told home care is health care provided in the home. With the elderly population growing faster than any other group, home care is poised to be a cornerstone of America's health care delivery system.

Home care services range from health care professionals providing direct hands-on care to patients, to paraprofessionals providing personal and chore services.

Individuals with acute and chronic illnesses and family caregivers have looked to home care programs for assistance in keeping their loved ones in their homes and enhancing their quality of life.

Home care services are paid for by public and private sources, or directly by patients and their families. Third-party payers include commercial insurance, managed care organizations, CHAMPUS, and workers' compensation. Medicare and state-run Medicaid are significant payers, often driving the payment agenda for commercial insurance.

The nation's elderly population continues to grow at a faster rate than any other age group. Every eight seconds, a baby boomer in America turns 50. In less than 10 years when baby boomers begin to retire, one out of every five Americans will be over the age of 65. By 2040, the number of Americans over the age of 80 will triple to 26.2 million. As these three simple facts illustrate, America is growing older and living longer. Americans, led by the baby boom generation, are benefiting from medical advances that are extending their lives well into their 80s, 90s and 100s. But with this extended life comes an increase in chronic disease and illnesses, and the question of how to pay for long-term care. This can create an unimaginable emotional and financial burden on families.

Nearly 10 percent of all baby boomers find themselves on a financial tightrope, balancing the cost of caring for an elderly relative, financing their children's education, and saving for their own retirement. Without an infusion of support, the American family and future generations will be crippled by the weight of caring for the elderly, disabled and the infirm. Home care is that infusion.

Home care pays

Traditionally delivered at patients' homes throughout the centuries, home care is the oldest form of health care. It is also the newest. Modern technology has evolved to the point where virtually anything that is available in a hospital can also be provided at home. There is significant evidence that home care is less costly than other forms of care delivery available to the American people. Home care is an idea whose time has come.

In today's political arena, we need to re-examine the reasons why home care is a viable, cost-saving model of health care delivery. Here is an overview of 19 reasons why home care is a good choice:

1. Home care is the only way to take the same amount of funds currently paid to Medicaid recipients and use them to provide health care services to the growing number of chronically ill people who need them.

2. Home care is delivered at home. Peoples' homes are their castles, their refuge from the storm. Their home hosts many celebrations, from birthdays to holidays. When they are not feeling well, they seek the sanctity of their homes and the comfort of being with loved ones.

3. Home care keeps families together. There is no more important social value. This is particularly important in times of illness.

4. Home care helps the elderly maintain their independence. No one wants to be totally dependent and helpless. With some assistance, those needing care can continue to function as contributing members of society.

5. Home care prevents or postpones institutionalization. Few want to be placed in a nursing home unless it is the only choice for obtaining total, 24-hour care that individuals may need.

6. Home care promotes healing. Much scientific evidence indicates that patients heal more quickly at home.

7. Home care represents the best tradition in American health care. Most health care has traditionally been delivered in the home. A visit to the hospital is the exception rather than the rule.

8. Home care allows individuals to maximize their personal freedom. A hospital is necessarily a regimented, regulated environment. The same is true of a nursing home.

9. Home care is personalized care. It is one-on-one care tailored to meet the needs of each individual.

10. By definition, home care teaches the individual and his/her family to participate in care delivery.

11. Home care reduces stress. Unlike most forms of health care, which can increase anxiety and stress, home care has the opposite effect.

12. Home care is the most effective form of health care. Consumers report high satisfaction with delivered care in their homes.

13. Home care is delivered by special people. By and large, home care nurses and aides consider what they do as a calling rather than a job. They are motivated by the positive emotional income they receive by helping people get better rather than by their comparatively modest wages.

14. Home care extends life. Studies by schools of nursing and government agencies have established beyond a doubt that home care extends longevity. Visits by home care personnel help people spiritually as well as medically.

15. Home care improves quality of life. Home care not only helps add years to life, but also life to years. Studies in the U.S. and abroad show that those receiving home care are more satisfied with all aspects of their lives.

16. Home care is the most efficient form of health care. Home care is personalized; it is delivered in patients' own homes, instructs patients in their own care, enlists patients' family members as caregivers, cuts down on expensive emergency travel to the hospital and minimizes costly hospital stays. Historically, comparatively little fraud and abuse have been associated with federal payments for home care.

17. Home care is less expensive than other forms of care. Evidence from studies around the world (including massive new studies in Canada) demonstrate that home care is always far less expensive than hospitalization and almost always less costly than nursing home placement.

18. Technology is increasingly making home care the preferred mode of health care delivery. Telemedicine, a spin-off of the space program, is making tremendous inroads. The Internet makes it possible to diagnose, monitor and treat illness at a distance, allowing patients to stay home and health professionals to save time.

19. Home care is the preferred form of health care for the infirm and disabled. Infirm individuals prefer home care by a margin of 90 percent over comparable institutional care. Individuals facing terminal illnesses are increasingly electing the form of home care called hospice.

Little wonder that the public is demanding that home care is their choice of care. If you would like to discuss home care for your loved one or for yourself, please contact Margaret Peterson, RN, 605-326-5161 at Pioneer Memorial Hospital. We're caring for life.

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