The good news is that the elderly population is growing, and people are living healthy lifestyles. The Census Bureau recorded 39.6 million people aged 65+ year old in 2009. It is estimated that by 2020 this segment of the population will grow to about 55 million. Furthermore the segment of the population aged 85+ will also increase according to the census from about 5.7 million in 2010 to about 6.6 million in 2020.

With the awareness of healthy lifestyles, preventive health care, and advancement in medicine, our elderly loved ones are staying in their homes and in their communities much longer, as opposed to moving to institutional settings such as assisted living facilities,and nursing homes. Besides, the Health and Human Services Department, the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, are developing new initiatives to encourage home based and community based care for the elderly. This brings me to the other good news, which is that the demand for home health care services and home health care workers in the long term care industry will grow based on the needs.

So for our elderly and their baby Boomer children, or as is sometimes called the "sandwich generation", here are tips to help you and your elderly loved ones make the best of a home health care experience. The term "sandwich generation" is referenced to the fact that the baby boomers have children of their own that they are taking care of, and they have elderly parents who they also take care of; so the baby boomer is sandwiched in the middle. If your elderly loved one is discharged from the hospital, and his/her doctor recommends "skilled home health services" (Medicare Skilled Services), then this is for you. Or as the elderly patient, if you are solely in charge of your health care, selecting your Medicare skilled home health agency,then the tips below also are for you.

For those of you who do not require Medicare skilled services, you will need to do your own research, because some of the tips below do not apply to you.

Here are the tips.
1. The first tip is about certification of the home health agency for skilled services per Medicare program. When making selection for Home Health Agency, please ask the home health agency manager or director if the agency is Medicare/Medicaid certified. If the doctor writes a discharge order or prescription for skilled home health care, such as home physical therapy, home occupation therapy, or home skilled nursing services, etc., the home health agency must be Medicare certified in order for Medicare Part B Insurance to pay for the care. There may be co-pay, or co-insurance that you may have to pay out of pocket. A Medicare certified home health agency means that the home health agency has met the requirements and standards for participation in the Medicare program.

I must note here that if you are hiring a "living home maker" or a part time home maker on your own for non-skilled home care, to help you cook meals and clean the house, this Medicare certification does not apply for your situation. You will have to do your research on the home care agency, or on the individual you want to hire.

2. The second tip is about communication and participation. As the recipient of the service, you and/or your elderly loved one should have a discussion with the home care agency's nurse manager, or nurse clinician addressing what services will be provided. This discussion should happen before the agency starts providing care.The home health agency team must inform you in advance before they start providing services, as to what services or care will be provided. There should be no surprises.

It is important that you or your elderly loved one participate in the planning of the care, so there will be clear understanding about expectations for both you the patient and the agency/ caregiver. The agency must also inform you in advance of starting care as to estimated time frame for the treatment or services that will be provided.

3. The third tip is about your Resident Bill of Rights. As a consumer of skilled home health service or care, the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services want you the patient and/or your family to know your Rights.

It is your right to have the home health agency give you a list of your rights before they start providing care. If the agency does not give you a listing of the "Resident/Patient Rights for Home Health" please ask for it. This is due you as a home health care beneficiary. Because the home health agency staff is coming to your home, you must know that it is your right to have the staff treat your home and your property with respect. It is also your right to be informed of how much Medicare, Medicaid, and any other federally funded or aided program is expected to pay for your care.

These are but a few of the rights you must be aware of; but if you ask for the listing of the rights, you should have the full list.

Hope this is helpful


Author's Bio: 

Nora Wellington is a long term care consultant, author of easy-to-read books on long term care regulations, and CEO / Founder of N Wellington Associates LLC. She has extensive experience on managing and operating long term care facilities. Wellington also develops training workshops and presentations for small size organizations.

As published author books written:
"The Fundamentals of Quality for Long Term Care Part 1": Nov. 2010
"Long Term Care Monitoring Tools - Resident Meal Time and Dining experience...": June 2012

Article Written: "Making a Decision to Access Long Term Care"

Member of GROWS - Grass Roots Organization for the Well-being of Seniors