Learn the facts about home-care providers

Sooner or later, someone you know may become one of the millions of Americans who rely on home care to stay out of a hospital, nursing home or some other institution.

Here are some frequently asked questions with answers provided by experts:

Q: What is home care?

A: Two categories of home care are available. Home health care typically describes skilled nursing and therapy services while home care describes non-medical services that address functional needs of everyday living, such as meals and grooming. In both cases, home care can reduce the anxiety associated with most forms of institutional health care and result in significant savings. Also, patients frequently heal more quickly at home.

Q: Who provides home care?

A: Basically, two types of people provide home care — informal caregivers such as family and friends. In addition, there are paid caregivers, including licensed professionals such as nurses and therapists, and others who are non-medical personnel such as aides, homemakers and companions.

Q: How can I access home-care services?

A: To access home-care services, patients or family members can contact home health agencies. Physicians, case managers and social workers also may make recommendations. When a hospital discharges a patient, it may provide a list of both hospital-sponsored and private home-care agencies.

Q: Who pays for home-care services?

A: Many home-care services are reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid, workers’ compensation, private or group health insurance, health-maintenance organizations, veteran and military grants or through other special funds such as block grants. Also, private payment may be arranged on an individual basis.

Q: How should I select a home-care provider?

A: Ask how long the provider has been serving the community. Find out if the provider selects and trains employees and if they are background checked and insured. In addition, does the provider include the patient and his or her family members in developing the plan of care?