Approximately 5% of people aged 65+ live in a nursing home. For those who still live at home in their golden years, independence is of primary concern. Clearly, there is no place like home, regardless of your age, but a worrying number of seniors are unwilling to take advantage of the home care services on offer once they leave the hospital.
There is an incorrect assumption that it means having someone”babysit” you. In essence, such a condition is little better than living in a nursing home in the mind of a proudly independent senior. A new report sponsored by the United Hospital Fund entitled,”I Can Take Care of Myself!” reveals that around 28% of patients refused the home health care services on offer.
A Simple Misconception
According to Carol Levine, who worked on the report, the issue is the misconception over what home health care is. Both caregivers and seniors confuse the term with “home care.” Home care involves an aide who helps seniors carry out their everyday tasks. Medicare does not cover the service, and those who receive it believe it takes away their independence.
Home health care is entirely different and receives Medicare coverage. It involves the provision of a wide range of services akin to what one would receive in a skilled nursing facility or hospital. However, it is cheaper and performed in the comfort of your home. Examples of these services include Injections, Nutrition Therapy, Monitoring Serious Illness, and Wound Care.
The main goal of the service is to treat an injury or illness. Instead of making seniors dependent, it helps them recover faster and become self-sufficient once again. A home health care employee should provide other services such as:
- Asking you if you feel pain
- Ensuring that you are taking your prescription medication correctly
- Checking the level of safety in your home
- Educating you about providing self-care
- Checking what you are eating and drinking
- Checking your temperature, breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure
Why Do Seniors Refuse?
As we mentioned, the main resistance is the perception of a loss of independence. The vast majority of seniors that live alone are proud to have their independence and don’t want to become a burden on anyone. In their eyes, home health care is the first step toward the loss of independence.
In addition, senior citizens see their homes as sacred, and they don’t want to invite strangers. They don’t understand exactly what it will take to recover from their hospitalization. Perhaps the individual doesn’t want an outsider to get a glimpse into his or her habits. There is also a chance his or her cognition is no longer what it was, so the patient has no idea what he or she needs. Finally, the cost of home health care is another concern.
We can sum up the entire problem with one word: miscommunication. Seniors do not receive the requisite information, so their misconceptions fester unchallenged. For instance, many seniors believe home health care involves allowing someone into their house for hours at a time, and they receive help eating, cleaning, and dressing. In addition, they don’t know how long the service lasts for nor do they know who provides the care.
Instead of telling seniors that they need help, it is time to convince them that home health care employees are only trying to assist them withgetting back on their feet after hospitalization. Health care providers need to listen to senior citizens instead of telling them what they need. By answering their questions and addressing their concerns clearly, it is possible to convince them that home health care is for their own good.
The service is also far cheaper than what one will pay for a skilled nursing home facility. Back in 2012, a private room in a skilled nursing facility cost $248 a day. As home health care takes place on an hourly basis, and the employee is only in your home for a few hours a week, the cost is eminently more affordable.
Pride Causes More Problems
If a senior refuses home health care after hospitalization, he or she is at greater risk of readmission. In fact, a 2015 study by Topaz et al. (available on Pubmed.gov) showed that adults who refuse home health care services after hospitalization are almost twice as likely to end up in the hospital again within 30-60 days compared to those who accepted the help.
Kaiser Health News reported one story where an 84-year old man suffered a minor stroke and spent some time in the hospital. He refused to accept home health care and went home without any follow-up program in place. Like most seniors, the man believed he would have a babysitter for several weeks.
At a later stage, he received a spinal implant to relieve pain from spinal stenosis. He refused home health care once again, and two days later, he rang his daughter to tell her he had collapsed and was unable to get up. He begged his daughter not to call 911, so she had to come to his home and wait for an ambulance to arrive. In the hospital, doctors discovered a surgical site infection on the man’s back. He was unable to reach the spot, so the wound did not receive adequate care.
The home health care service on offer to seniors leaving the hospital is an excellent program. However, patients do not receive enough information, and as a result, they put their lives in jeopardy. Medical professionals can’t underestimate the importance of independence to older adults that live alone. It is vital that they fully explain the benefits of home health care to seniors and outline how it will ensure they resume their independence as soon as possible. Otherwise, the number of preventable hospital readmissions will continue to increase.