Does Medicare Pay for Home Health Care?

Home health care is an alternative to traditional in-hospital care that’s growing in popularity. Care at home offers convenience, ease of access and peace of mind for many families in the US. However, like all other health care options, cost is often a consideration. Not all families can afford to pay in full for home health care services out of pocket. Seeing as in-hospital treatments are normally covered by Part A of a Medicare plan, you might think that you have to opt for hospital care to qualify for cover. But does Medicare pay for home health care under some circumstances? The good news that there are home health care services you can access through your Medicare plan.

What Does Medicare Cover for Home Health Care?

Medicare is a government health plan funded through tax money. Most people contribute to Medicare during their working years. In the same way you contribute to social security tax, part of your income tax goes towards Medicare cover. Cover provided by Medicare can is divided into four categories; Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D.

Most Americans are only eligible to claim Medicare benefits are the age of 65, or after retirement. However, there are exceptions. Certain people with severe disabilities can be eligible for Medicare benefits even before retirement age.

What Does Part A and B of A Medicare Plan Cover?

Upon retirement, American tax payers normally qualify for Part A Medicare cover automatically without the need to pay monthly premiums. Part A covers hospital care or the cost of being in a medical facility.

Although this cover is useful, it’s not a comprehensive health care plan that will pay for all your health care expenses. Additional costs such as visits to the doctor, medical tests, medical equipment and certain procedures are covered by Part B of a Medicare plan. Unlike Part A, there is a monthly premium of approximately $144 for Part B Medicare cover.

What Does Medicare Pay for Home Health Care?

Provided you have both Part A and B cover, you can claim for from Medicare for any of the following home health care services:

  • Part-time or intermittent nursing services
  • Part-time or intermittent home health aides
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Medical social work

Considering all the home health care services covered by Medicare, you can claim for almost any home health care service available. The only drawback is that you can’t claim for home health care benefits indefinitely. There are some requirements candidates must fulfill in order to claim home health care from Medicare.

Who Qualifies to Claim for Home Health Care Benefits?

As mentioned, there are some requirements to claim home health care through Medicare. Some of the main requirements for claiming are as follows:

  • The home health care treatment must be part of a plan prescribed by a doctor or qualified medical professional.
  • Necessary services can’t be claimed for indefinitely. This means that you can only claim for a set duration of time as prescribed by a qualified health care professional. When the prescribed treatment time expires, eligible candidates need to reapply for care and obtain an extended treatment recommendation from a heath care professional.
  • Home health care services can’t be administered full-time. This means that Medicare won’t pay for 24/7 home health care services.
  • Eligible candidates must be certified as being home-bound by a doctor. To qualify as home-bound, a patient mustn’t be able to leave home without a wheelchair, walking frame or another person to assist. The patient must be able to prove that leaving home requires a considerable amount of effort.
  • The home health care services have to be administered by a home health care agency that’s registered with Medicare.

Lastly, it’s a requirement that Medicare must approve any home health care costs you wish to claim for. You need to make sure that Medicare will pay for your treatments before receiving care from a qualifying home health care agency.

Medicare won’t pay for home health care services if they aren’t administered through a registered home health care agency. Furthermore, Medicare won’t pay if you only require minor household services like cleaning, cooking and shopping. All household tasks must be performed by qualified health aides and they must be part of a prescribed health care plan.

What Kind of Home Health Services Can You Claim For?

Although the above describes what you can claim, you might still feel a sense of confusion. Does Medicare pay for the home health care you need? To clear up confusion, here are some examples of eligible candidates who can claim:

  • Patients who are recovering at home post-surgery qualify for necessary nursing services, such as wound care at home.
  • Patients recovering from a stroke can qualify to receive care from a health aide during the recovery process.
  • Recovering stroke patients, amputees and disabled persons can qualify for rehabilitation, such as physical and occupational therapy.
  • Diabetic patients can qualify for complex wound care after an injury.
  • Elderly patients suffering from temporary illnesses, infections and injuries can qualify for nursing care and health aide services.

Health aides can deliver a variety of services to patients. Qualified home health aides often perform daily tasks such as cooking and cleaning duties on behalf of patients. Home health aides also assist in helping patients with movement impairments move around. Patients with memory problems often need to be reminded to take their prescribed medications, which is another task home health aides can help with.

What Won’t Medicare Cover?

Although Medicare will generally cover almost any home health care services, they won’t cover 24/7 home health care. Severely disabled patients often need 24/7 assistance, with a nurse permanently available. However, this won’t be covered by home health care.

Chronic home health care also isn’t covered. This means that if you have an elderly loved one who is permanently dependent on a health aide, Medicare is unlikely to cover your costs.

Home Health Care Cost vs Traditional Care Costs

Seeing as not all persons in need of home health care can claim from Medicare, the cost of at-home health services compared to traditional options is an important consideration.

For instance, how does home health care costs compare to nursing home expenses? While many people think that home health care is a much more expensive option, it isn’t always the case. In fact, hiring a home health aide to care for an elderly loved one for 40-44 hours a week can cost as little $5000 monthly. Compare that cost to a nursing home, which can cost almost $7000 a month, by comparison.

Keep in mind that home health aides aren’t qualified nurses and can’t administer skilled health care services. A health aide won’t be able to deliver complex wound care. Your health aide also won’t be able to deliver medications through an IV or to tube feed a patient, as these all require the skills of a nurse. If your loved one requires any of the above-mentioned health services, traditional treatment might still be a cheaper option for you.

That said, home health aides are qualified to help patients with daily activities like cooking, cleaning and moving around. Patients who need help getting dressed and eating can also rely on a health aide for care.

So, when choosing whether to opt for home health care vs traditional care, consider what kind of care your loved one needs. If your loved one needs a lot of medical assistance, home care costs might end up being more expensive. But if you have an elderly loved one with dementia who simply requires supervision to stay safe alone at home, home health care can be cheaper than other options.

Rozanne WildsDoes Medicare Pay for Home Health Care?
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Elderly Fall Prevention: Reducing Risks at Home

Falling can happen at any age, but even more so for those who are older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of four seniors aged 65 and above fall at least once every year. These falls can be very dangerous – even fatal. This harrowing figure highlights the urgent need to educate seniors and their loved ones on the importance of elderly fall prevention in order to reduce the frequency of falls and increase safety. A handful of the most common causes are found in the home, which means we can’t speak about elderly fall prevention without looking at the living space itself.

Elderly Fall Prevention: Why Are Seniors at Risk?

Unfortunately, aging brings with it a reduction in lower body strength as well as balancing and walking difficulties. These three factors play a major role in increasing the possibility of falling.

Where Do Most Falls Occur in the Home?

Falls usually happen in the bathroom, shower, and any other slippery environment like the kitchen and porch area. However, they can happen anywhere in the home, especially where objects are lying around, where there’s poor lighting and on the stairway.

Most Common Causes of Falls in the Elderly

There are a number of medical conditions that can increase an elderly person’s fall risk, these include:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Joint and muscle disorders
  • Spinal cord complications
  • Foot pain
  • Drowsiness

Basically, any condition that makes moving around more difficult can lead to an increased risk of falling. Elderly people already struggle with good balance – any complication on top of this difficulty amplifies the problem.

Other factors that increase the falling risk include:

  •  Wearing poor-fitting shoes or loose clothing that drag on the floor
  • Wearing socks and walking on slippery floors
  • Moving too quickly from one position to the next (for example from sitting to standing)
  • Walking in the dark at night and problems with vision

Vitamin D deficiency, as well as drowsiness and dizziness from some over-the-counter and prescription medications could also pose a risk.

Environmental Causes

There are also risks scattered around the house that can be major safety hazards. These include wet and uneven floors (such as buckled hardwood floors), loose carpets, throw rugs, unstable furniture, steps, poor lighting, cluttered spaces and even pets. Making use of an aging-in-place specialist is an available option. They are professionals who can offer you advice and guidance on how to remodel your home so that it can be safe to live in.

How to Prevent Falls at Home?

Falls are not only dangerous, but they are also costly, as injuries resulting from falls often require hospitalization. Luckily, there are preventative measures that can be taken to help minimize elderly fall risks. Learning these tips and tricks is necessary for keeping you or your loved one safe.

Elderly Fall Prevention in the Bathroom

Install grab bars in your shower or tub and next to your toilet so you have something to hold onto as you move around. Get slip-resistant rugs to prevent slipping. Use a raised toilet seat. Ensure that your bathroom is well lit with bright lightbulbs and perhaps get a nightlight as well. Finally, you can also make your shower larger and install a plastic seat to minimize standing.

Elderly Fall Prevention in the Kitchen

You need to keep your kitchen as organized as possible. Make sure that the floor is clean without any spilled liquids, food or grease, which can make you slip. Store items like dishes, cooking equipment and cooking ingredients in an area that’s easily accessible.

Elderly Fall Prevention in the Bedroom

Firstly, your bedroom must always be well lit and you should never get up in the dark. Keep your light switch close to your bed (should you need to get up in the middle of the night) and don’t leave things lying on the floor.

Everywhere Else

Keep your spaces tidy and uncluttered so you can avoid stumbling and tripping over objects like loose extension cords. Use non-slip mats, get rid of unstable furniture along with any objects that have sharp corners (this can cause injury if you fall).

Store things in such a way that they are easy to reach so you don’t need to use a stool or ladder to get to them. Install handrails on your stairway and hallway and place fall mats that are specially designed around your home in places where falls are most likely to occur.

Fall Prevention Exercises

One way seniors can protect themselves from being so vulnerable to falls is through exercising. Besides the health benefits, exercising helps seniors increase and improve balance, strength, coordination, and flexibility, which in turn improves walking and stability. Examples of different exercises and activities seniors can do are walking, Tai Chi, yoga (both Tai Chi and yoga are great exercises because they are simple and painless to do) and swimming. Whatever you do, just get moving!

Health Aides as a Prevention Strategy

Health aides are a form of home health care services that focus primarily on elderly care and assistance. They are an excellent method for elderly fall prevention because they provide supervision and can make sure that fall risks are identified and mitigated. Health aides can assist seniors to move around safely by offering support, help them retrieve items that are too difficult to reach, and even assist them with tasks like bathing, which means that the risk of slipping is greatly reduced. All in all, health aides ensure that there can always be someone around in case a fall does occur and a trip to the doctor can be taken immediately.

Injuries from Falling

Statistics show that falls are the number one cause of injury-related deaths for seniors aged 65 and upwards. At the same time this data was collected, falls were also the number one cause of non-fatal injuries at home. Evidently, elderly people experience the daily risk of suffering serious injuries from falling. Even if you think you don’t have any injuries, it’s essential that you still visit your doctor to make sure, since not all injuries show symptoms. Better to be safe than sorry.

Examples of Injuries

Falling can cause hip, spine, pelvis, leg, ankle, arm and hand fractures. It can cause kidney damage, pressure sores, cuts, as well as head and brain injuries. What’s more, you might have to deal with chronic pain, which is never fun.

Loss of Independence

Falls can rob seniors of their independence and mobility. For example, seniors who are 75 and above are more likely, compared to those aged between 65 and 74, to be admitted to a care facility and stay there for a lengthy period of up to a year or longer. This goes to show that the older people get, the more serious the fall injuries become.

What to Do If You Fall

Step One

As difficult as it may be, the most important thing to do is to first and foremost is to remain calm. This is important because panicking can make it harder for you to assess the situation accurately and can lead you to injuring yourself even further.

Step Two

The second thing you should do is to use your medical alert system if you have one. This is extremely helpful because it allows you to remotely call for help by pushing a button after you’ve fallen and need help getting back up. This is especially handy if you are alone or when no one is close enough to hear you calling.

Because of how beneficial it can be, all senior citizens should get themselves a medical alert system. There are a variety of different systems, but make sure you choose one that has a fall detection or fall prevention feature.

Step Three

Lastly, if you are unable to get up, do not force yourself. This might do more harm than good. Instead, try to slowly get yourself onto your hands and knees. Grab onto the nearest sturdy object (if there isn’t an object near you, you can simply crawl to one) and use it to slowly push yourself up using your hands until you are sitting on whatever piece of sturdy furniture you could find.

Stay in that seated position until you feel confident enough to stand. As soon as you are up to it, go see a doctor to make sure that there are no injuries.

Remember, Falls Are Preventable

The importance of elderly fall prevention awareness can’t be stressed enough. The high number of falls that occur each year shows that a lot of seniors aren’t well informed about the fall risks in their homes and how to protect themselves. The good news is that falls can be prevented, along with injuries. Your home should be the one place you feel most safe –and you can. The key is to know what the risks are and to put interventions in place to mitigate them.

Rozanne WildsElderly Fall Prevention: Reducing Risks at Home
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How to Care for an Elderly Parent at Home

Aging is a natural part of life, but it can be difficult to deal with. As your parents age, you’ll have a growing responsibility towards them. A lot of elderly people prefer to stay at home by themselves, or with their children and grandchildren. Staying in an old age home doesn’t provide elderly persons with the same sense of belonging as staying with loved ones. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance your elderly parent suffers from a health condition that makes home care challenging. So, how can you care for an elderly parent at home? There are various things you can do to make home care more accessible.

Can Elderly Parents Live Alone?

Not everyone has a good relationship with their parents. Regardless, everyone has a responsibility to care for elderly parents who raised them. Although you should make sure that the care your parent receives involves the necessary medical care, your elderly parent doesn’t have to stay with you if you don’t want them to.

That said, even if your parents don’t stay with you, they can still stay at home on their own. Try to find them an apartment or home close to where you live. Make sure that the place you choose is safe for elderly persons.

Things like steps, for instance, pose a tripping hazard for elderly people. Also try to find a place that won’t require a lot of maintenance. A place that’s small enough to navigate easily, but large enough to be comfortable is best. Avoid getting a place with a large garden, as your elderly parents are unlikely to be able to mow the lawn by themselves.

Having your elderly parents close by is ideal. However, even if your parents stay far away, there are ways to make home care for the elderly work for your family.

How to Make a Home Suitable for the Elderly

How to make a home suitable for elderly parents will depend on your situation. As mentioned before, maintenance is an important consideration for elderly people staying alone. Hence, a small garden (or none at all) and a small residence is best.

There are some guidelines for a proper home layout for the elderly that are always good. Regardless of whether they stay by themselves or not. Here are some ways to make sure your elderly parents stay in a suitable home:

  • Install handicap rails in the bathroom by the toilet and in the shower
  • Consider installing a shower rather than bath and fit it with an appropriate seat
  • Avoid using slippery floor finishes (such as smooth, glossy tiles) anywhere in the home
  • Be sure no area of the property has a step
  • Layout the space in a way that allows a wheelchair or walking rail to fit through easily

Once you have a suitable space to care for your elderly parent at home, you can look into ways to make home care possible.

How to Care for an Elderly Parent at Home

Perhaps the most challenging part of caring for an elderly person at home is health care. Some elderly persons are quite healthy and able to take care of themselves, but not all.

Eventually age becomes a big factor for all elderly people, though. Most elderly people reach a stage where they’re unable to live completely independently. Although placing your parents in an old age home might seem like the only way to ensure they get the care they need, there are other options.

If you’re planning for your elderly parent to stay in your home, you can teach yourself how to care for them. Caring for an elderly parent at home is a substantial commitment. It’s not something that’s going to be easy. To begin with, you must manage your expectations and prepare yourself emotionally:

  • Be understanding towards the situation of your parent: Children who care for elderly parents often find it frustrating. As the caregivers, the children tend to make choices on behalf of their aged parents. In an attempt to ascertain their individuality and independence, the parents often retaliate by resisting the choices their children make on their behalf. Understand that your parents have always been in a position of authority and leadership over you. It’s not easy for a parent to feel like they have reversed roles with their children. Like any other individual, an old person wants to feel a sense of pride in themselves and losing independence isn’t easy.
  • Help your parent throughout the transition: As mentioned above, elderly parents can react very negatively to losing independence and autonomy. Help to boost their confidence by asking their advice about choices and allowing them as much freedom as possible.
  • Keep your lives separate where possible: It’s hard to live your life separately from your parent when they stay with you but doing so will put less stress on your relationship. A good way to keep your lives somewhat separate, is to give your parents their own space, such as a flatlet on your property.

Although preparing yourself emotionally might not seem like your biggest concern, taking care of your elderly parent will be a big adjustment – both for you and your parent.

How to Care for an Elderly Parent’s Health

When it comes to caring for an elderly parent at home, health care is one of the biggest obstacles most families face. You can prepare yourself emotionally. You can even learn some basics of caring for the elderly, but it still won’t make you a qualified health care provider.

The good news is that home health care options exist to make home care easier for your family. Various home health care services exist to help elderly people live functional lives at home. The services your family requires will depend on the current health of your elderly parent. Some popular home health care options for the elderly include:

  • Nursing: At home nurses are qualified registered or licensed practical nurses. This means the nursing care your parent receives at home should be equivalent to what they’d get in a hospital.
  • Health aides: Health aides aren’t nurses and don’t perform medical work. Instead, health aides are trained to assist patients with day-to-day activities such as dressing and cooking. They also keep patients company and provide necessary emotional support to combat loneliness.
  • Therapists: There are different kinds of therapists that can assist your elderly parent at home. Whether your parent needs physical therapy after surgery, or occupational therapy to recover from a stroke, home health care is an affordable and convenient option for your loved ones.

All home health care providers are trained and qualified in their profession. This means you don’t have to worry about the quality of care your parent will receive.

Why Choose Home Health Care?

Health care at home provides a relaxed environment for your parent. Living in a stress-free environment is especially important for patients recovering from surgeries or strokes. Stress has an overall negative impact on health and wellness. Lower stress will also improve the quality of life your elderly parent can enjoy.

Next time your elderly parent is admitted to hospital, talk to your doctor about home health care options. You might find that your parent can be discharged much sooner if you make use of a home health care service during the recovery period.

Another advantage of home health care is that health aides can assist the elderly on an ongoing basis — not just during recovery. You can hire a home health care service to take care of your elderly loved one every day, even if you live far apart. This makes it possible for elderly persons to live by themselves in the comfort of their own homes.

At its core, home health care aims to help patients enjoy a better quality of life, live more independently and feel cared for.

Rozanne WildsHow to Care for an Elderly Parent at Home
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