FAQ

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Basic Information

Home care providers deliver a wide variety of health care and supportive services, ranging from professional nursing and HCA care to physical, occupational, respiratory, and speech therapies. They also may provide social work and nutritional care and laboratory, dental, optical, pharmacy, podiatry, x-ray, and medical equipment and supply services.

Services for the treatment of medical conditions usually are prescribed by an individual’s physician. Supportive services, however, do not require a physician’s orders.

How do I find home care services?

Finding the home care provider best suited for your needs requires research, but it is time well spent. Important factors include the quality of care, availability of needed services, personnel training and expertise, and coverage provided by the payor. Before starting a search, it is important to determine which types of services you need. You may wish to consult with your physician, a hospital discharge planner, or a social service organization, such as an Area Office on Aging, for assistance in evaluating your needs. Once you’ve completed this assessment, you will be able to identify the type of home care provider most appropriate to assist you.

Who pays for home care services?

Home care services can be paid for directly by the patient and his or her family members or through a variety of public and private sources. Hospice care generally is provided regardless of the patient’s and/or family’s ability to pay. Public third-party payors include Medicare, Medicaid, the Older Americans Act, the Veterans Administration, and Social Services block grant programs. Some community organizations, such as local chapters of the American Cancer Society, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the National Easter Seal Society, also provide funding to help pay for home care services. Private third-party payors include commercial health insurance companies, managed care organizations, CHAMPUS, and workers’ compensation.

What types of services do providers deliver?

Home care providers deliver a wide variety of health care and supportive services, ranging from professional nursing and HCA care to physical, occupational, respiratory, and speech therapies. They also may provide social work and nutritional care and laboratory, dental, optical, pharmacy, podiatry, x-ray, and medical equipment and supply services. Services for the treatment of medical conditions usually are prescribed by an individual’s physician. Supportive services, however, do not require a physician’s orders. An individual may receive a single type of care or a combination of services, depending on the complexity of his or her needs. Home care services can be provided by the following professionals, paraprofessionals, and volunteers.

What if a problem develops?

If you invest some time and follow the steps outlined in this brochure, you most likely will receive high-quality, safe, and effective home care. If a problem develops, however, or if you would like to issue a complaint, notify the home care provider’s chief supervisor or administrator, the state health department or state Medicare hot line, and/or the local Better Business Bureau.

Although rare, cases of fraud do exist in some health care operations. These fraudulent activities waste valuable health care dollars. If you suspect fraud, even on the slightest scale, you should report these activities to your state department of health. If a case involves the delivery of Medicare home care services, contact the Office of the Inspector General hot line at 800/HHS-TIPS.

Who provides homecare?

Home care services are usually provided by home care organizations but may also be obtained from registries and independent providers. Home care organizations include home health agencies; hospices; homemaker and home care aide (HCA) agencies; staffing and private-duty agencies; and companies specializing in medical equipment and supplies, pharmaceuticals, and drug infusion therapy. Several types of home care organizations may merge to provide a wide variety of services through an integrated system.

Home care services generally are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Depending on the patient’s needs, these services may be provided by an individual or a team of specialists on a part-time, intermittent, hourly, or shift basis. Following are descriptions of the various types of home care providers.

What is home care?

“Home care” is a simple phrase that encompasses a wide range of health and social services. These services are delivered at home to recovering, disabled, chronically or terminally ill persons in need of medical, nursing, social, or therapeutic treatment and/or assistance with the essential activities of daily living.

Generally, home care is appropriate whenever a person prefers to stay at 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, non-institutionalized lives, are receiving home care services as their physical capabilities diminish. Younger adults who are disabled or recuperating from acute illness are choosing home care whenever possible. Chronically ill infants and children are receiving sophisticated medical treatment in their loving and secure home environments. Adults and children diagnosed with terminal illness also are being cared for at home, receiving compassionate care and maintaining dignity at the end of life. As hospital stays decrease, increasing numbers of patients need highly skilled services when they return home. Other patients are able to avoid institutionalization altogether, receiving safe and effective care in the comfort of their own homes.