Home Healthcare: Helping Older Adults Live at Home Longer
by Mary Calvagna, MS
As people age, activities that were once simple to do, such as laundry, grocery shopping, or yard work, can become more difficult to complete. Difficulty with certain tasks however, does not mean that an older person is ready to move into an assisted living facility or a nursing home. An alternative that is growing in popularity is home healthcare.
Home healthcare describes a variety of health and social services provided in the home by trained professionals. The services can range from skilled care that is provided under the direction of your doctor and may include such services as dialysis or physical therapy, to home support services like housecleaning or running errands. Home healthcare allows older adults to continue to live independently in their homes and get help with the tasks they cannot do on their own. One example of a home healthcare organization that many are familiar with is Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers hot meals to a person’s home.
Home Healthcare Services Available
Many different services can be provided in the home, from light housekeeping to meal delivery. The following table lists examples of services available in the home.
Paying for Home Healthcare Services
The cost of services will vary depending on where you live and the type of services you need. Some home healthcare agencies have sliding fee scales, so make sure to ask. Home healthcare services can be paid for privately, but there are also a number of public and private funding sources. Funding sources include the following:
Information about federal, state, and local government benefits can be found on the US benefit finder website.
Deciding What Services You Need
The first step in finding appropriate home care service is talking to your doctor to determine what type of services you will need. You may only need help with preparing meals or you may require sophisticated medical care at home. Determining the level of help required and the type of services will help you find an appropriate agency.
It can be a daunting task. By contracting with an agency, you are allowing someone to come into your home or the home of someone you care about. To help ensure you are working with a reputable organization and that they provide quality care at a cost you can afford, research the organization extensively and prepare a list with important questions. In addition, your nurse, physician, hospital social worker, or discharge planner may recommend a reputable agency in your area.
If it is possible, anticipate what your possible needs may be and do some research in advance. Planning ahead is difficult because you cannot be sure about what types of services you will need, but it will help when it comes time to make a decision. To help inform your decisions, educate yourself on the concerns and issues that may affect older adults, taking into consideration your own financial and health issues, including any chronic health conditions.
Questions to Ask
The US Department of Health and Human Services provides the following 20 questions to help guide your search for a home health service provider:
Meals on Wheels America
National Institute on Aging
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Home health care. US Department of Health & Human Services Eldercare website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed August 23, 2017.
There's no place like home—for growing old. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/aging-place-growing-old-home. Updated August 17, 2017. Accessed August 23, 2017.
Last reviewed August 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 10/31/2013
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