What is Home Care?

What is Home Care?

Getting proper home care for yourself or someone you love should be as important to the agency you choose as it is to you.

The Georgia Association for Home Health Agencies, Inc. (GAHHA) and its member agencies work to promote excellence in home care.  The information below will hopefully provide you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about home care and have a positive home care experience.

Home care encompasses a wide range of health and social services that can be delivered at home to recovering, disabled or chronically ill persons in need of medical, nursing, social or therapeutic treatment and/or assistance with the essential activities of daily living.

Among those who can benefit from home care are people who:

  • Can be discharged from a hospital or a nursing facility, but need additional care at home;
  • Require short-term assistance at home because of outpatient surgery or maternity-related incapacity;
  • Need additional assistance to live independently due to illness, disability or aging.
  • Have conditions such as congestive heart disease, diabetes, muscular, nervous, or respiratory disorders;
  • Are terminally ill and want to spend their remaining time in the comfort of home. 

Generally, home care is appropriate whenever a person prefers to stay home, but needs ongoing care that cannot easily or effectively be provided solely by family and friends.  More and more older people, electing to live independent lives outside of an institution, are taking advantage of home care services as their physical capabilities diminish.  Younger adults who are disabled or recuperating from acute illness are also choosing home care more often.  Chronically ill infants and children can also benefit from sophisticated medical treatment in the security of their loving homes.

The success of modern technology has yielded state-of-the-art medical equipment suitable for use in the home.  These technological advances has increased the number of people able to leave institutional care or avoid ever having to enter into this type of care.

The bottom line is that home care allows people to be cared for safely and effectively in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by their love ones.

Who provides home care?

Over the past century both public and private non-profit and for-profit organizations have built a core business of professional nursing and personal care aide services.  These organizations also provide a wide variety of other services including physical, occupational and speech therapy, and social and nutritional services.

Homecare organizations include:

  • Home Health Agencies
  • Hospices
  • Homemaker/Home Care Aide Agencies
  • Staffing and Private-Duty Agencies
  • Pharmaceutical and Infusion Therapy Companies
  • Durable Medical Equipment and Supply Dealers
  • Registries
  • Independent Providers

Home care is a team effort.  Depending on your needs it may include a variety of professionals, paraprofessionals and volunteers.   Before you can receive home care it must be ordered and a plan of care certified by your physician.  A care team may include several of the following disciplines:

  • Physicians
  • Social workers
  • Registered Nurses
  • Licensed Practical Nurses
  • Physical Therapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Speech Therapists
  • Dietitians
  • Pharmacists
  • Home Care Aides
  • Chore Workers/Companions
  • Family Members and/or
  • Volunteers

Agencies coordinate the efforts of the caregiving team to provide smooth and successful home care experiences.

How are services paid for?

Home care services can be paid for directly by the patient or family members or through a variety of private and public services.  Private insurance programs typically cover services for acute needs but benefits for long-term care vary from plan to plan.  Medicare, Medicaid, the Older Americans Act and Social Service Block Grant programs are examples of public third-party payors.  Providers should verify your insurance prior to providing services and confirm your level of services with you.

How do I find home care services?

It may be a little time consuming but doing your homework will find the best services suited to you or your love one’s needs.  Important factors include the quality of care, availability of needed services, expertise and training of personnel and coverage provided by the payor.  Many communities have several agencies to choose from.

The best way to find a good agency is to ask your doctor for a referral.  Hospital discharge planners can also give you a list of providers in your area.  The Georgia Department of Community Health or GAHHA can provide you with a list of agencies certified to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  You can also go to the telephone directory Yellow pages under "home care” or "home health”.

Now that you have a list of agencies in your community you will want to learn more specific information about those agencies.

Asking some of the following questions will guide you to making the right choice for your care…

  1. How long has the agency been serving the community?
  2. Is the agency Medicare/Medicaid certified?  To determine the caliber of a Medicare-certified agency you can review its Medicare Survey Report.  The gmcf.org  can provide this document to you.  Keep in mind that an agency’s decision not to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs does not imply they provider lesser quality care.  In many instances these agencies prescribe to higher standards required by private insurers and accreditation organizations.
  3. Georgia home health agencies are licensed and require a Certificate of Need from the State Health Planning Department before they would qualify to participate in the Medicare or Medicaid programs and many private insurance programs.
  4. Is the agency accredited?  Accreditation is a voluntary process conducted by nonprofit professional organizations, signifying an agency has met national industry standards.
  5. Does the agency provide literature explaining its services, eligibility requirements, fees and funding sources?  Many providers can provide a detailed Patients Bill of Rights that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the providers, patients, and caregivers alike.
  6. How does the agency recruit, train and retain its employees?
  7. What does the agency’s patient needs assessment entail?  How are the patient’s family and physicians consulted.
  8. Is a copy of the plan of care given to the patient and his or her family members and updated as changes occur?
  9. Does the agency assign supervisors to oversee the care patients receive?  How often do these supervisors make home visits?  Do they provide you a number to call if you have specific questions between visits?  How are problems or complaints followed up on?
  10. How does the agency educate family members on the type of care that is being provided and how they may aid in the patient’s recovery?
  11. Does the agency provide a written statement that explains all the costs involved and payment plan options associated with the care provided?
  12. What is the agency’s emergency procedure?
  13. How is patient confidentiality ensured?
  14. What if a problem develops?
  15. If you invest time and follow these steps you most likely will receive high-quality home care that is safe and effective.  If a problem develops, however, or you would like to issue a complaint notify the:
  16. Agency’s chief administrator or clinical supervisor;
  17. State Health Department Hotline and/or
  18. Better Business Bureau