When Home Care Ends

Wait! What did the nurse say? No more visits after Friday?

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind. First, your husband slips on the ice and has to have emergency surgery on his foot. Next, he comes home from the hospital with a cane, an air cast on his foot, and stitches. A nurse comes every day to change the bandage over the stitches. A home health aide comes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a couple of hours to help him shower, dress, and walk around. The physical therapist comes for an hour every day.

He’s still recovering, so why is the nurse stopping services? Just because the nurse doesn’t need to change his dressing anymore, why can’t the aide still come?

Home care services paid for by Medicare or private insurance often last just a few weeks. Knowing in advance when services will stop gives patients and their family caregivers time to plan. Most family caregivers have a lot more responsibility once home care services end. Here are some ideas that can help family caregivers:

  • Find out what type of care your family member will need. Such care may include follow–up visits with a doctor or additional physical therapy.
  • Ask the nurses, aides, and therapists about tasks you will need to do. For instance, if the nurse managed your family member’s medications and ordered supplies, now you may need to do this. Make sure you fully understand all the tasks you need to do and how to do them.
  • Think about whether you need and can hire private help. Private help might mean assistance with shopping and cleaning or providing care to your family member. Also, most states have options for Medicaid for people who need a lot of care and want to live at home. You may want to talk with a lawyer who specializes in elder care issues (find elder care attorneys in your area at www.naela.org
  • Learn about local community resources. Your area agency on aging may have special funding for limited home care, day services (often called medical or social day care), and other programs. There may be wait lists or applications, which they can help you with.
  • Make a calendar of your family member’s care. Start by listing all the tasks that must be done in the first few weeks after home care ends. If you want help doing this, ask the nurse.

This article is adapted with permission from “When Home Care Ends: A Family Caregiver’s Guide” – one of a series of free guides available in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian at www.nextstepincare.org.

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