Medicare is health insurance provided by the federal government. It covers adults 65 and older, as well as persons with disabilities. In terms of home care, Medicare pays for visits only by medically trained staff. In that light, there are two programs:
Home health care involves periodic home visits for a month or two. The focus is to bring the patient back to their previous level of health and ability. It is often initiated after a surgery or a multiday hospital stay. To be eligible, your loved one must have great difficulty leaving the house. Depending on your relative’s needs, services may include the following:
- A nurse to oversee progress
- A physical therapist to assist with rehab
- An occupational therapist to suggest strategies for living with new disabilities
- A speech therapist to address difficulties with speaking and/or swallowing
- A social worker to suggest community assistance programs
Hospice care is for people with an incurable illness. It involves weekly home visits over a period of six months. Sometimes more.
- A nurse to manage pain and difficult symptoms
- An aide to assist with bathing
- A social worker for emotional and other support
- A chaplain for talking through spiritual concerns
- A volunteer to periodically visit with your loved one, offering family members a few hours off
A hospice patient is not expected to regain their health. Hospice care supports the patient and the family. The goal is to allow the patient to live at home without pain or discomfort in the weeks or months that remain.
Both home health and hospice require a doctor’s order. If you think either one would be of benefit, ask the doctor for a referral. Most families wish they had received help earlier. Better to ask sooner than later.