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Senior Home Care: Which service is right for you?

Posted on February 13, 2014 by Jamie Floyd

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"You might want to think about getting some help at home" (or something along those lines).

These words may have come from your mom's doctor or a well-meaning friend, your boss, maybe your minister.

So, what do they mean?

You start searching the Internet for answers, typing, “help at home for seniors,” maybe adding “Medicare.”

Wow, there are a lot of choices and they all sound the same.

Here's the breakdown from the least to most skilled home care options.

Homemaker Services

If your family member is struggling at home with day-to-day tasks, such as keeping up with the house, laundry and other basic to-do's, you may want to employ a homemaker to assist them. This is generally a private-pay option, although some states have programs for older adults with low income. A homemaker will take care of these tasks based on a contract between the homemaker and you. Look for an agency that will bond and insure their staff. They also pay all the employee taxes, so you won't have to worry about that.

Home Health Aide or Private Duty Care

If your mom is struggling with bathing or getting dressed and safety is a concern, a home health aide might be an ideal choice. Home health aides have special training and experience in assisting older adults or people with disabilities. Unless your family member has an insurance benefit, which covers home health aide services, this will also be an out-of-pocket expense. These services are hourly or in 8-, 10-, 12- or 24-hour increments. Again, look for an agency that trains, bonds and insures. This ensures that they have conducted background checks on all of their employees.

Home Health Care

When an older adult has had a new illness or injury, he/she may qualify for the Medicare home health benefit, which is available under Medicare Part A with a physician's order for a homebound senior. This is an intermittent service and may include visits in the home by an RN, LVN, home health aide or physical, occupational and speech therapist. These services are very limited and only short-term, with the goal that the older adult will recover and no longer require a skilled service. Your family member may receive these visits intermittently for a number of weeks. And, the services are provided only in a home setting, which includes independent and assisted living apartment settings, as well as private homes. Most cities have many home health agencies certified by Medicare. Ask your doctor or the staff at your senior community for agency recommendations. Often, certain agencies will have a specialization such as orthopedic rehabilitation, wound care or diabetes management. Look to someone in the medical field to help you identify an agency that is best suited to help your parent.

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