Throughout America, home health, community and veterans' health care services are in demand to help patients after discharge from the hospital.
However, you may need to advocate for these services, particularly if you're caring for an elderly family member.
While home health services require a physician's order, don't hesitate to make known the needs and limitations of your family member.
Linda Kay Goodwin
Nursing case managers and social workers are there to help you get the ball rolling for home health and community services. Your primary care nurse, the nurse responsible for your direct care each shift, also should be your advocate.
Typically, you have to be home bound to be eligible for home health services. This means that you're confined to your home due to health limitations, with few exceptions, such as doctors' appointments.
Home health services include physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing services, speech therapy, medical social work, nutritional counseling and care such as bathing and grooming provided by home health aides.
Usually, you have to have a skilled service ordered by your doctor in order to receive an unskilled service.
For example, a skilled service is provided by a professional such as registered nurse or physical therapist. An unskilled service is provided by a nursing aide.
Once home health is ordered, there should not be any delays in the provision of your home health services. Home health agencies have staff on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You should be given a list of options of home health providers in your area. You have the right to change and choose your provider.
You also may have the right to nursing aide care on a daily basis, even though you may be told by your home health agency that aides are available to you only a few days a week.
When agencies indicate they don't have the staffing to support nursing aide services seven days a week, inquire about other home health agencies that service your area or county.
Remember that if a patient is Medicare or Medicaid eligible, the government is reimbursing an agency a certain amount of money, your tax dollars, for a particular skilled or unskilled service.
The money that's not used is not returned to the government. Refusing services may lead to your ineligibility to continue home health services.
There are many services out there that can help you or your family member. But you need to stay on your toes and inquire.
Hospice services, infusion services, transportation services, skilled nursing facilities, short-term, inpatient rehabilitation programs, veterans' services, which provide financial support for durable medical equipment, dressing supplies and medications for vets and eligible widows, are all out there but often you have to ask.
It may take time navigating a system but it's worth it. We work in a complex health care system, but I always enjoy reminding families to stay empowered by asking questions of their nurses and doctors.
I encourage family members to go up the chain of command in they don't get the answers they need in a timely, compassionate and knowledgeable manner.
Linda Kay Goodwin, RN, BSN, MBA, is a nationally award-winning columnist and recipient of the American Academy of Nursing Media Award for Excellence in the presentation of Health Care Information to the Public. She is employed by Mount Nittany Medical Center and West Virginia University Medical Center.