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What to know about home care services

Reed Abelson, KFF Health News on

Published in News & Features

Most older Americans want to live at home as long as they can, but finding and affording the help they need often isn’t easy. There are severe shortages of home health aides in many parts of the country. Hiring them is costly. And most middle-class people will have to pay for home care themselves if it’s needed for the long haul.

Here’s a guide to locating home care for an older person.

What kind of home care do you need?

After a fall or surgery, some older people will need short-term care at home from a nurse or therapist to help them recover. Medicare, the federal insurance program for those 65 and older, typically pays for this kind of home health care. A nurse can make sure a wound is healing properly, for example, while a physical therapist can help a person get back on their feet after a knee replacement.

But millions of older Americans need assistance over months or years to stay in their homes safely instead of moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home. They may require help getting out of bed, taking a shower, or going to the bathroom; getting to the doctor; shopping for groceries; or making meals. They would need a home aide or personal care assistant, who may not have much, if any, medical training.

How do I find help?

 

A wide range of services are available, whether it’s light housekeeping or hiring a private-duty nurse. Monica Moreno, senior director of care and support at the Alzheimer’s Association, suggests that you start by making a simple list of the kind of help you or your loved one needs and the number of hours each day or week required.

To identify agencies and services available in your area, Moreno recommends looking through a database of community resources provided jointly by the association and AARP, the nonprofit group representing older Americans, that is searchable by location. A list of agencies and a brief description of what they provide can be found under the category “care at home.” AARP also has a guide to finding a home health aide.

Should I use an agency?

While Medicare certifies and gives star ratings to home health agencies, the businesses that provide home care services are not subject to federal oversight or required to be licensed in every state. But a good agency will run background checks on its workers and give them training and support. If an aide calls in sick or quits, the agency can find a replacement. Some businesses also bond and insure their caregivers.

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©2023 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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