Updated 07/14/2011 06:53 AM
Aging America Part 4: Home care becomes a more feasible option
As hospitals work to make their halls safer, many older adults are working to make their homes safer, so they can age in place. With advancing technology, home care is becoming more feasible for more adults, about 70 percent of whom will need long-term care during their lifetime. As our Katie Gibas reports in this segment of "Aging America," health care professionals say although home care costs are less than traditional nursing home care, many are still forced to pay for it out of pocket.
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Betty Davison doesn't want to be a burden on her family, but she doesn't want to live in a nursing home, which is why she says her independent living community at Park Rose is the best place for her.
"They're all very concerned about you when you're in their care. And they are really concerned, you can see it. So I do like it very much.It gives me comfort to know they're around," said Betty Davison, a Park Rose Independent Living Community resident.
Betty, like many older adults, can make it on her own with the help of a nurse who comes to help her with daily tasks.
"You've got to do your share, but you know with good people around, it's guaranteed to work," said Joseph Gainer, who is a Syracuse resident who receives home care.
His wife, Patrenia Gainer, added, "If they didn't have any visiting nurses, we would probably have to go out every day to go to dialysis."
With home health workers monitoring care, it's easier to stay at home longer.
"If we don't have home care, people may come home to be taking the wrong medications, not following the proper diet. So with the proper tools, the proper education, we're able to follow through with the doctors orders," said Kathy Salvaterra, a Visiting Nurse Association Clinical Manager.
Katie Rolf, the President and CEO of Visiting Nurse Systems Inc. added, "Nurses really have to be independent thinkers. While they always have been, in home care, there aren't doctors or other providers right there. They really have to be able to handle a lot more than ever before and make those decisions and be able to handle a situation at any given time. "
And technological advances make home care easier than ever before.
"We have the technology where we can monitor that from here in this building into the homes of hundreds, if not thousands of clients in our service area," said Timothy Scanlon, the Operations Vice President at Franciscan Companies.
Cindy Parkinson,a Visiting Nurse Association Case Manager added, "People are coming home from the hospital quicker than every having to do complicated dressings, having to give themselves injections that were usually given in the hospitals. We're seeing IV antibiotics at home, so people are really doing for themselves what they used to have done in the hospital."
"In many of the homes in this community, the only thing we're not doing right now is surgery," said Scanlon.
While most people can agree aging in place is the way to go, there are some structural limitations to actually achieving that. Medicare doesn't cover long-term care either at home or in a skilled nursing facility. So you're options are limited. You either have to spend all of your money to qualify for Medicaid. You have to pay for it out of pocket, or purchase long-term care insurance which can be quite costly.
"It's a real catastrophe where patients have to spend down their life savings in order to care for themselves in the aging years," said Scanlon.
Sandra Martin, the President of Home Aides of CNY President, "The United States and New York State do not have a long-term care policy. THat's the biggest problem. Everybody has their head in the sand about the issue. So there is no plan of how to deal with the financial and human impact that having an overwhelmingly large, aging population is going to have on this country. "
And the funding shortage makes it tough to recruit enough home health workers.
"What we are trying to do is getting people who may not traditionally think of themselves in that role to become home care aides. So we want people in the community to think of being a home care aid in the evening after they go to work at another job or on the weekends to help their neighbors," said Martin.
Not only do most people find home care a more preferable option, but according to several reports it actually costs less than nursing home care, in some cases less than half the price, while still allowing older adults to keep their independence.