With 10,000 seniors turning 65 every day across the United States, long term care is becoming a more important issue with each passing day.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), seniors 65 and older have a 70% chance of needing long term care and support in their lifetime. The average expected need is 2.2 years of care for men and 3.7 years of care for women, though at least 20% of seniors will need long term care for 5+ years.
There are several options for long term care, including home health care, adult day care, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing homes. Home health care is often most people’s preference, as it provides necessary care while completely preserving the senior’s independence and the freedom to live in their own home.
About Home Health Care
Home health care is an ideal solution for older adults who are recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, or who otherwise need basic assistance at home.
A home health care aide can assist with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) like bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, and transportation. They can coordinate with the patient’s doctors and hospital to provide in-home medical care, sometimes providing transportation to and from healthcare appointments.
Home health care aides are also able to coordinate with the patient’s family members to assist with specific needs or unique requests. They can provide status updates to family members who are concerned for their loved one, though they may be bound by confidentiality laws about disclosing private medical information.
Home health care agencies are regulated by the government, with training, education, and certification dictated by the state. Requirements can be a little confusing as they vary from state to state, but you can at least trust that each state will do their best to protect its residents from elder abuse, ensure quality care, and investigate complaints.
Home Health Care Services
Generally speaking, home health care is intended to treat an illness or injury. The home health aide’s job is to help the patient get better, regain their independence, and become as self-sufficient as possible. At the very least they aim to maintain the patient’s current condition or level of function, though in severe cases their job may be to slow down an imminent decline.
There are a number of ways a home health care aid can fulfill these responsibilities, including:
- Caring for surgical wounds or pressure sores
- Educating the patient and caregiver
- Nutrition therapy
- Administering intravenous (IV) medication
- Monitoring serious illness and unstable health status
- Assisting with ADLs such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and eating
- Helping a patient transfer to and from their bed, chair, wheelchair, etc.
Home health care can usually provide the same services as a skilled nursing facility for significantly less cost. It cannot provide the 24/7 monitoring you receive in a nursing home, however, or the added conveniences of an assisted living facility (laundry service, housekeeping, maintenance, etc.).
Cost of Home Health Care in Arizona
Nationwide, home health care costs about $4,000 a month, or $48,000 a year. That’s roughly equivalent to the average cost of assisted living facilities, but almost half the cost of a skilled nursing home.
In Arizona, home health care averages about $4,400 a month, or $52,800 a year. That’s not too far from the national average on a monthly basis, but it amounts to an extra $4,000+ a year — a significant amount for families on a tight budget.
That said, the cost of home health care varies widely across the state based on the patient’s location. Large metropolitan areas like Phoenix and Tucson tend to have more affordable options, while remote locations must pay a premium for the home health care aide to drive further out of their way to get there.
The actual services provided will also bear a major impact on the cost of home health care. A home health care aide who spends hours at a patient’s home helping with ADLs and providing physical therapy will cost significantly more than a simple daily checkup and medication administration.
Paying for Home Health Care
Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) insurance covers eligible home health services when ordered by a doctor. Medicare benefits cover the following home health services:
- Intermittent or part-time skilled nursing care
- Personal hands-on care by a home health aid
- Medical social services
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Speech-language pathology services
Medicare does not cover homemaker services, meals delivered to your home, or 24/7 care at home. Medicare also does not cover custodial or personal care with ADLs when it’s the only care the patient needs (in other words, there must be a medical need, not just a personal need for help with ADLs).
Private insurance policies may cover home health care, but it varies widely by policy. You’ll need to contact your insurer to determine coverage under your plan.
If you’re planning ahead for future needs, consider long-term care financial products. These function much like life insurance policies, where the insurer will cover qualified long-term care costs in return for paying monthly premiums.
Alternative Long-Term Care Options
Home health care may be the preferred long term care choice for most people, but it’s not always feasible. Seniors who need extensive assistance with their ADLs, cannot live safely on their own, or require 24/7 monitoring will need to consider alternative options such as assisted living and skilled nursing homes.
Assisted living facilities are often the first transition from home health care. Here, residents maintain a degree of freedom and independence by living in a special community. Assisted living facilities don’t provide round-the-clock care, but the staff will help with ADLs, provide transportation, plan social activities, and handle housekeeping and maintenance.
Many assisted living facilities offer additional on-site amenities like a pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, exercise, wellness programs, nutrition programs, and even financial management. Some offer specialized programs and facilities for special conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s.
When a senior requires 24/7 care and medical monitoring, it’s time to look into skilled nursing facilities. A nursing home handles everything an assisted living facility does, with the added benefit of having nurses and/or doctors on-site for professional care.