Healing at Home
Home health care puts homebound patients on the road to wellness
Complex medication, difficulty walking and bathing and even emotional issues can make returning home after the hospital seem like a daunting task. For more than 40 years, Northwestern Home Health has been providing skilled in-home care for patients ready for discharge, but who still need intermittent care.
Christine Traba, MS, RN-BC, director of Northwestern Home Health, explains how home health services provide a bridge to independence and long-term wellness.
Q: What is home health?
A: Home health is skilled care, ordered by a physician, for a homebound patient after an acute illness or an exacerbation of a chronic condition. After discharge from the hospital, home health helps these patients transition to independence and improve their quality of life.
Skilled nurses and therapists provide a range of services, from high-tech infusions to personal hygiene, in the comfort of a patient’s own home at pre-set appointment times. We’re also available 24/7 via an answering service. Home health is generally of short duration—it is not long-term care.
Q: Isn’t it safer for patients to stay in the hospital?
A: When patients no longer need full hospital services, it’s more comfortable and convenient to receive intermittent care at home. Home health can help patients avoid prolonged hospital stays and rehospitalization.
But there are other benefits as well. Working one-on-one with the patient at home, nurses and therapists can educate patients about taking medication on their own or caring for a scar or wound. We can help them learn to navigate their environment better, such as using the stairs or shower. We also find that in the home setting, the family becomes more involved in the patient’s recovery.
Q: Who is a typical home health patient?
A: Most patients have been recently hospitalized, either because of an acute illness or procedure (joint replacement, for example) or because they suffer from a chronic condition such as cancer, heart failure or pulmonary disease. Many of our patients are elderly, but some are younger—like those who need some additional care following transplant or cardiac surgery.
Q: Are patients concerned about a stranger in the home?
A: Our liaison meets with patients and families up front to explain the service and the benefits of receiving care at home. Our staff has a high level of professionalism; they identify themselves and appointments are planned in advance. They establish a positive relationship; many of our patients look forward to the visits and experience a sense of accomplishment at meeting home health goals.
Q: Shouldn’t the physician be involved in this care?
A: Home care begins with a physician’s order, and patients remain under a physician’s care. Home health staff regularly communicates with the physician, confirms orders, reconciles medication, sends test results and collaborates with the patient’s entire care team. Because we’re a hospital-based service, we can coordinate with physicians efficiently and promptly.
We’re known for our customer service. Even outside physicians and other hospitals use Northwestern Home Health, and we’re very proud of the reputation we’ve earned in the community over the past 40 years.