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For many, senior living looks like nursing homes, assisted living facilities and physical therapy suites. But those aren’t the only options. Another service lies in home health care – no moving required.

According to Karen Laborde, account manager at Altimate Home Health Care in Shaker Heights, and Kari White, clinical director of Menorah Park’s home health department in Beachwood, home health care is medical care provided at home following an injury or illness. It can also be long-term care.

“This usually can include care from any of the following disciplines: skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and home health aides/nursing assistants,” Laborde said. “This can also include non-medical care such as social work services and assistance from a home health aide for activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, light housekeeping and meal preparation.”

Laborde explained patients and families can expect a highly skilled specialized team of professionals to assist seniors in recovering from illness or injury, assist with education regarding their condition, medications and ongoing care, and getting clients to a baseline level of functioning.

White said these professionals range from registered nurses and physical therapists to occupational therapists, who establish plans of care and develop goals.

“This especially keeps our patients independent and safe at home,” she said.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing hospitals to be tight on space and an increasing number of home health care recommendations, both professionals said the option is an important one.

“The option of home health care is crucial because, let’s face it, at the end of the day, a hospital stay is quite expensive,” White noted. “The reality is, everyone wants to get better in a place they want to be, which is at home. So as long as you’re not in critical condition and you still have daily needs, home care can help manage those for you in your home, away from other people’s germs and illnesses, and in the place where you feel most comfortable. That is going to promote healing and promote people getting better much faster.”

Laborde said, “Home care by design is a personalized and individualized service to meet each patients’ particular needs. There is no ‘one size fits all’ in home care, as can be seen in many institutional settings. This allows each patient to be treated as an individual, and each patient is ‘met where they are at’ in terms of developing a care plan that will allow for the maximum recovery and benefit from home health care services.”

Though many benefits of home health care may be obvious, like personal care and companionship, some less considered positives can come out of home health care.

“Our home health care staff does a complete evaluation of the patient, not only of their health history but also their home environment and their dietary needs,” White said. “We go through our patients’ cupboards and see what they’re routinely eating and make suggestions and help guide them to make adjustments in eating the right foods for their diagnosis.”

Laborde added the benefits are “multifaceted.”

“Because home health care is so personalized, relationships and bonds are naturally formed, which leads to a higher level of trust between patient and home health care worker,” she said. “This oftentimes results in a deeper knowledge and understanding of each patient’s situation and circumstance, allowing the agency workers to provide a well-rounded approach to healing and recovery.”

Choosing the right home health care provider looks different for each person. Whether by word of mouth or name recognition, seniors and their families should do their research before reaching a final decision.

“I would encourage interviewing an agency you may be interested in, and consider their number and location of staff, the reputation they might have in the community, and use word of mouth as a tool in selecting a provider,” Laborde said. “I would encourage anyone in the community to reach out to me with any questions regarding services, or any potential referrals to discuss needs and how we may be able to assist.”

White added, “For most of our clientele, they probably don’t know who they want and why they want that particular agency. The reality is, there is a lot of home care agencies out there. Some are better than others – you just have to be careful. So, it’s better to stay with those names that you’re comfortable and familiar with.”

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