Studies show home health care in US continues to grow in popularity and importance
Home and hospice care never takes a day off. But in effort to raise its visibility, November is tabbed as the month to recognize this crucial form of aid.
It's growing exponentially and won't be slowing down any time soon. Tom Threlkeld is the director of communications for the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, a nonprofit trade organization for hospice and home care providers.
"We have what is sometimes referred to as a silver tsunami," said Threlkeld. "10,000 people turning 65 every single day in the United States. And even if we were a society that was cruel enough to put all of these people into institutional settings, and we're not, but we couldn't afford it anyway."
Threlkeld says it makes sound fiscal sense, too. It's less expensive than hospitalization and nursing homes.
"Here you have a form of health care which is by far the most popular kind of health care and you have health care which will work in an era of tight budgets when our population is rapidly aging," he said.
For those who need this type of care but may not be able to afford it, Medicare and Medicaid are possibilities to help.
Then there's quality of life and comfort.
"[Nearly] 90% of Americans want to age in place in their own homes and communities. They want to remain in the homes that they've lived in and they want to remain surrounded by their friends and families and loved ones," he said.
The odds are many people will one day be tasked with securing this type of care for themselves or a loved one.
"We have seen usage of home health care and hospice rising quite dramatically in the last few years," Threlkeld said, adding that the need will continue and provide more jobs in a growing industry.
This form of care isn't new. It represents a trip back to another time and place.
"It used to be the home was the center of health care," Threlkeld said.
But those house calls and home care went away in lieu of a more institutional setting. Now it's making a return and experts say it could improve the country's health care.
Even if people live off the road system, there are ways to get care.
"The lengths that these [nurses] will go to take care of you in your home is staggering," he said, referring to some in Alaska who use seaplanes and dog sleds to get to those hard-to-reach locales. In the Lower 48, it often involves hours of driving or boating to remote islands.
And this issue isn't restricted to the elderly.
Threlkeld recalled a teen battling a severe illness with her immune system that required frequent infusions. Those constant visits to an urgent health care facility made having a normal life difficult. It all changed when home health care entered the picture.
Instead, a nurse came to the home to administer the infusion. The teen was later able to attend school regularly and began living life more. Threlkeld was on one of those visits and remembered a conversation with the girl's mother who said she was able to do normal things around the house during the treatment, beginning with the laundry.
"It has completely changed their lives. It has this incredible ability," he said. "If you think an illness is going to disrupt or destroy your life, it doesn't have to. Home health and hospice is frequently the answer."
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