Using Professional Home Care Services
Aging seniors and their families are often confounded by the complexity of issues facing the elderly (including declining income, increased debt, poor investment returns, declining health, medical crises, complex insurance programs, long term care challenges, etc...). This book (published in 2014) takes a comprehensive approach to address these challenges and provide solutions.
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Home Health Agency Care
In 2010, about 33,000 home health agencies served approximately 12,000,000 clients across the United States. Annual expenditures for home health care tin 2010 were projected to be $72.2 billion (source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Office of the Actuary). In that year Medicare spending accounted for approximately 41 percent of home health expenditures. Although current figures are not yet available for 2014, the number of home health agencies has been going up year after year as well as the number of clients being served.
In the United States, the rate of home health care use for women aged 65 and over was 55% higher than the rate for men. Female home health care patients aged 65 years and over were more likely than male patients to be 85 years and over and were almost three times as likely to be widowed (SOURCE: National Health Statistics Reports 2012).
Although home health agencies are privately owned, Medicare is the principle payer for their services. Home health services through Medicare are available under parts A and B. In order to qualify for Medicare homecare a person must have a skilled need, must be homebound and there must be a plan of care ordered by a Physician. Prior to 1997 Medicare typically paid for home care for as long as it was needed. Prior to 1997 annual Medicare costs were almost double the amount cited above. In order to save money Medicare has since gone to a prospective payment system where, according to the plan of care, a certain amount of money is allocated to resolve the skilled need for the patient. Monies are typically provided for a period of up to 60 days. If the patient recovers sooner then money may have to be reshuffled to other patients who are not responding as well. At the point where the patient does not respond or improve, no more Medicare money is forthcoming. After Medicare cuts off, a person continuing to need long-term care services must find sources other than Medicare.
Home health agencies deliver a variety of skilled services outlined by the chart below. The plan of care always includes as well custodial services to help the care-recipient remain in the home. These would include an aide for an hour or two a day to help with bathing, dressing and transferring. If there is time remaining other personal services may be offered as well. These personal services are also covered by Medicare.
Recently Medicare has redefined what it means by "homebound" to allow recipients to leave the home on a limited basis. Beginning in 2003 and ending three years later, Medicare is testing, with a very small test group, a program where selected home health agencies can provide adult day health care instead of home health services. If successful the program will offer a new dimension in Medicare home care. In addition, under the new definition, Medicare will also allow and pay for home visits from doctors who specialize in homebound elderly patients. Limited office visits are also allowed under the new definition. Finally, in the past few years Medicare is paying for home telehealth visits through a home telehealth, computer work station. Telehealth is being used with some success to provide home care in rural areas where it would be difficult to arrange the personal visit from a home health care agency. To learn more about Telehomecare click here.
Source: 2005 Statistical Abstract Of The United States , Health And Nutrition
Source: 2005 Statistical Abstract Of The United States , Health And Nutrition
Source: 2005 Statistical Abstract Of The United States , Health And Nutrition
Although Medicare- will authorize up to 60 days at a time of home care, according to the Centers For Medicare And Medicaid Services (CMS) the average length of stay for Medicare home care services is 41.5 days. Oftentimes a person continues to need supervision or care after Medicare quits paying but the payment for that will have to come from someone other than Medicare.
The number of home care patients as a percent of all individuals in that age group goes up drastically with age. Even though the age group of 85 and above represents only 4% of all the aged population it accounts for about 28% of all patients. The bulk of the aged population is between the ages of 65 to 75 but only accounts for about 27% of all home care patients. Total patients for the aged over age 75 account for the other 73%.
A common statement from individuals who are confronted with the need for long-term care planning is,
"I'm in good health, I'm going to live a long time and I won't need long-term care."
The statistics show otherwise. In fact it is estimated that about half of the population over age 85 is receiving long-term care.
Since about 90% of all home health agency care is paid for by Medicare or Medicaid, the cost of care is not necessarily relevant for this study. But some families do pay for this service out of their own pockets. Costs will vary from area to area. A nurse, therapist or social worker may cost $70.00 to $100.00 an hour. An aide to take care of daily living needs, so called activities of daily living, may cost $10.00 to $25.00 an hour.
The chart below shows that Medicare and Medicaid pay 90% of the cost of home health agencies services. The other 10% is shared by families, and private insurance. As more people buy long-term care insurance, they will also be more prone to utilize the services of home health agencies. However, this is only after Medicare has paid its portion. This is because all long-term care insurance policies will only pay after Medicare has paid its obligation.
A new trend for home health care is for agencies to furnish care through a cadre of non skilled employees for families who do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid homecare but still need help with loved ones at home. The future trend will be for more and more of the cost of home care services to be paid by the family or by insurance if it is available.
Source: 2009 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, cms.gov
Live-In or Privately Hired Caregiver
Live-In or Privately Hired Caregivers. Sometimes a spouse or child wants their loved one to remain at home as long as possible. But the need for care is overwhelming to the family or the spouse and they simply can't provide it on their own. If funds are available, the least expensive way to solve this problem is to hire directly someone who is willing to come into the home for extended periods of time and provide that care. This arrangement is more typically used in the case where care or supervision is required on a 24 hour basis. These providers would typically not have medical skills. If medical care were needed a nurse or therapist would also be hired from a home health agency.
For a live-in caregiver the opportunity to have a place to live is partial or perhaps complete compensation for providing that care. If there is extra room in the home of the care-recipient this is an ideal arrangement. Or even without a living arrangement, a family hiring a caregiver not living with the care-recipient, could spend considerably less than paying the cost of an aide from a home health agency.
Married college students who have small children might be a likely source for caregivers since they would typically have low income and housing would be a priority need. A live-in arrangement would provide the housing in return for care and possibly some additional income for the young couple. Oftentimes a grandchild is looking for a place to live and is willing to provide this care in exchange for room and board. Or the grandchild may be compensated by the family in addition to the room and board. Also a single woman with inadequate income and living in an area where housing is expensive might be willing to agree to a live-in care arrangement. Finally, some older individuals are looking for the opportunity to nurture and care for other elderly individuals or couples. These benevolent people are willing to come into the home and provide care in return for a moderate compensation to cover their time and costs.
We're not aware of agencies that facilitate these arrangements. A private caregiver would have to be acquired through advertising. This might include posting notices near a college campus, in a senior center or advertising in the newspaper. The section on care managers also includes a description of care managers finding a personal care provider for a fee.
A major disadvantage of hiring somebody privately is ensuring this new employee is trustworthy and will provide the care needed. If possible, arrangements should be made to make sure the new caregiver is bonded to protect the family from theft. But what if the caregiver turns out to be unreliable, lazy or abusive? Elder abuse is very prevalent in this country and estimates are that 10% of the elderly population is being abused by family or caregivers. If a private caregiver is hired great care should be taken to investigate that person's background and history of employment.
The advantage of a private care arrangement is that help can be found to allow a care-recipient to remain in the home for as long as possible. In fact, as a person deteriorates and requires more medical attention, if there is money to pay for doctor's visits and nurses, a person need never enter a facility to receive long-term care. Ideally that person could die in the home surrounded by loved ones in an atmosphere more supportive of a positive end-of-life experience.
Many individuals are willing to provide this care based on a weekly or monthly salary or contract arrangement which could be the equivalent of $5.00 to $8.00 an hour. This would be much more affordable than the hourly rate from a home health company of $10.00 to $25.00 per hour. Or the care could be virtually free if the live in care provider were willing to accept only room and board in exchange for the care. Remember though that this is compensation in-kind and must be reported to the IRS.
This care could be provided by two paying sources. One might be long-term care insurance. Most policies require that someone providing care in the home has to come from a licensed agency. There are a few policies that will allow care in the home to be provided by anyone the company approves. It would make sense though, the insurance company would not just approve anyone but the care provider would have to have experience, probably have to be licensed and most certainly be bonded.
The other most likely source of payment would be from the care-recipient's income or assets or the family of the care-recipient may be willing to pay for this kind of care.
Regardless of who pays, the care provider will be considered an employee by the IRS. As such, income tax, Social Security and other payroll taxes must be withheld by whomever is paying the bill. We're all well aware of media focus on candidates for public office who have hired individuals to watch over their children or to be housekeepers but have failed to pay necessary payroll taxes to the IRS. There are stiff penalties and fines associated with hiring someone and not paying the taxes.
There is no possible way to arrange a private payment hiring agreement for someone to come in the home and for that person not to be considered an employee. The method of payment--hourly, piecework or contracted--is irrelevant to the IRS. What is important to the IRS is whether the employer has control over the employment hours of the person who is hired. Since this would always be the case with privately hired care providers, the IRS could care less how the person is compensated. Payroll taxes must be paid. On the other hand, contracting this service from a company that provides it, is not an employer/employee relationship and does not require payment of payroll taxes.
If you do hire someone to provide care in the home the IRS has a publication to walk you through the tax reporting and withholding process. It can be found on the following URL: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-03-70.pdf
Personal Care or Non-medical Home Health Care
Non-Medical Care Services In The Home. These providers represent a rapidly growing trend to allow people needing help with long term care to remain in their home or in the community instead of going to a care facility. The services offered may include:
- grooming and dressing
- recreational activities
- incontinent care
- handyman services
- teeth brushing
- medication reminders
- bathing or showering
- light housekeeping
- meal preparation
- respite for family caregivers
- errands and shopping
- reading email or letters
- overseeing home deliveries
- dealing with vendors
- transportation services
- changing linens
- laundry and ironing
- organizing closets
- care of house plants
- 24-hour emergency response
- family counseling
- phone call checks
- and much more.
A search of your local Yellow Pages under "home health agencies" will reveal that a large number of the advertised providers are personal care or non-medical home health companies. This causes some confusion since the yellow pages choose the same classification to list non-medical and traditional home health agencies together.
Personal care agencies are different from traditional home health agencies in that they do not provide medical services or skilled services and they are not paid by Medicare.
In addition, many states do not require personal care agencies to license with the state health department. In some states a person desiring to start a business like this need only advertise, get a business license and start hiring employees. On the other hand, some states require these companies to meet the same stringent rules under which traditional home health agencies operate. This might include hiring trained employees, the use of care plans, periodic inspections by the state health department and bonding.
If you live in a state which does not require regulation of these companies, it is important for you to check the background and history of these providers before using their services. Another benefit for the public is that many of these companies are part of a national franchise system. There are a number of these home care provider franchises around the country. Being a franchise, it is more likely that you can trust the services of the company and not have to worry about theft or abuse with your loved one.
Many larger traditional home health agencies are integrating non-medical services into their care delivery. This means Medicare and Medicaid are not paying the bill for this portion of a home health agency's business. Also many large integrated facilities providers (combined nursing homes, assisted living and independent retirement arrangements) are offering more non-medical or personal home healthcare.
The number of these companies is literally mushrooming all over the country. It is evident from this growth that there is a growing need for traditional family caregivers to contract help from paid care providers. This is probably due to the fact that many of the traditional caregivers are now employed fulltime or are living a long distance away from their loved ones and find it difficult if not impossible to provide long-term care.
Home Repair And Maintenance Services
As a general rule most personal care agencies provide only aides to help with personal needs in the home. Very few offer such things as deep housecleaning, home repairs, remodeling or yard maintenance. There is now a growing trend for companies to specialize in providing these additional services for the elderly. And as with personal care agencies many of these belong to national franchises.
It is evident that there is a growing national need to provide services to allow people to remain in their homes as long as possible. The growth of companies providing these services is evidence that this is a preference for the elderly needing care in the community.
These are companies that provide GPS based bracelets or pendants to track the elderly at home who tend to wander. Or the companies may provide alarm devices such as pendants or bracelets which allow the elderly to alert someone if there has been a fall or a sudden health-related attack. In the event of an alarm, a 24 hour monitoring service will alert the family or medical emergency services. In addition there are companies that will install video cameras in the home to monitor the elderly on a 24 hour basis.
Finally, there are companies that will check in with the elderly on the telephone from time to time to make sure that they are all right. The service may also include medication reminders and prompting for the elderly person to make sure meals are prepared and unsafe behavior is avoided.
Alarm, Tracking and Prevention Devices--fall prevention, medical emergencies, wandering, supervision and vital signs
- ADC Medi-Alert
- AlertOne Services
- American Medical Alarms
- Bed Check Fall Reduction
- Central Alarm Systems
- Fall Safe
- Home Free Systems
- Home Technology Systems
- GE Monitoring Systems
- Guthrie LifeLine
- Smart Caregiver Corporation ....(Patient monitors and anti-wandering monitors.
Oftentimes in order to make it easier for a loved one to stay in the home, that person may need devices or items necessary to help with disability. Also modifications to the home may be needed. Below are some sources for this kind of help.
Click on the Category Below:
Consultants, Books, Lists and Other Advice
- Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology--FAAST
- Gentle Transitions--move coordinators
- Giant Disability Resource Page
- Huge List of Books on Disability and Assistive Technology
- List of Assistive Devices
- List of Customizing and Adapting Services
- List of Disability Related Magazines
- List of Videos on Various Disabilities
- Resources From the Brain Injury Association
- The Boulevard--listings for 100's of disability product companies
Devices to Make Life Easier--Devices for dressing, eating, walking, bathing and more
- Dynamic Living Daily Living Aids
- Flaghouse Catalogue of Seats, Reachers and Other Living Aids
- Full Line of Products from Adaptability.com
- Home Aids for Disabled From Sammons Preston
- Invacare Clothing and Accessories
- MaxiAids.com Products for Independent Living
- North Coast Medical Catalogue for Activities of Daily Living Solutions
- Quartet Environmental Control Units
- Smith & Nephew Wound Management Products
Home Modification Advice & Services
- For Your Convenience
- List of Customizing and Adapting Services
- National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification
Lifts & Elevators
Oxygen Handling Equipment
Sensory Augmentation Devices--Hearing, Sight, Memory and Speech
- Audio Enhancement
- Dynamic Living Special Needs Products
- HARC Mercantile, Ltd.
- LS&S Group
- Miracle Vision
- Silent Call
- Williams Sound Corp
Special Needs Clothing
Wheelchairs and Scooters
- Scooters--Amigo Mobility International
- Scooters--Hoveround Corporation
- Western Hemisphere Scooter Rental--Scoot-Around North America
- Wheelchair--Invacare Corp
As has been mentioned earlier in this paper homecare can last anywhere from three to five years . The big question is whether home care is always appropriate. Oftentimes the care-recipient will want to stay in the home when other care environments are more appropriate. The use of paid home care services definitely makes it an easier decision to remain in the home but the cost could far outweigh the cost of other services such as an assistant living facility or allowing Medicaid to pay for a nursing home.
Non-medical home services run about $10.00 per hour to $25.00 per hour depending on the area of the country. Many of these providers will offer lower rates if the family contracts for certain levels of care. This is based on the hours weekly or monthly provided by the company. The more hours provided the less the cost per hour.
Generally in rural areas the cost of personal care would be less than an urban areas. In urban areas with high cost of living such as cities in the Northeast expect the cost to be higher than in urban areas in the South or the Midwest .
The cost of this care is primarily paid by the family. But non-medical care can also be subcontracted through Medicare paid home health agencies or through Medicaid waiver programs. In this case the cost would be covered by those government programs. Hospice services which are covered by Medicare as well may also subcontract with personal home care services. Local government programs may also have funds to provide home maintenance services for the elderly poor. This might also include snow removal and transportation services.
Long-term care insurance will also pay for these services. The catch is that the care provider must be state licensed in order for the policy to pay. In those states where care providers are not licensed this could be a problem. Although there is a growing tendency for traditional home health agencies to provide this care and they are always licensed.