Staying at home longer

Questionnaire to help patients, doctors recognize if a person qualifies for home health services

A home health professional helps a woman with her medication. Home health services can help people with a number of conditions, and aim to prevent hospitalization while encouraging independence. (Stock photo from Flickr)

MARQUETTE — Home health care services can help many people stay in their homes longer. However, many people may not realize they qualify for the services or fully understand the scope and purpose of home health care.

To address this, UP Health System Home Care and Hospice is spreading the word about a straightforward questionnaire that can help individuals determine whether they qualify for home health services by “simplifying that identification process,” said Kaitlynn McDonald of UP Health System Home Care and Hospice.

“A lot of times in the community people associate home health with post-discharge from the hospital, but it can actually be identified a lot sooner than that,” McDonald said. “And that’s where we can go in and make sure that the patients are staying in their homes a lot longer and possibly avoiding an unnecessary hospitalization.”

The questionnaire asks yes/no questions about issues such as recent falls, shortness of breath, recent hospitalizations or emergency room visits, upcoming surgeries, pain that interferes with daily activities, and use of walkers, canes or wheelchairs.

“There are no specific diagnoses listed in that questionnaire; it’s just scenarios that people have gone through that would qualify them for home health,” McDonald said.

A person and/or their doctor can use the questionnaire to help identify if they may qualify for home health care services, and they can then call for an official evaluation.

“All that has to happen is a patient or a family member can just call us and say: ‘Hey, I think we need some help,'” said Monica Lund, executive director at UPHS Home Care and Hospice. “And then we can contact their physician and get the orders, go into the home, start from there and evaluate if they qualify. So it’s as simple as a phone call.”

Officials also want the community to know that home health services aren’t just for after a stay in the hospital, but can also help a person avoid hospitalization and unnecessary visits to the emergency room, they said.

“We can help you before you have to go there and hopefully keep you out of there,” said Julie Kytola of UPHS Home Care and Hospice.

The focus of home health is on supporting patients as they recover and providing them with the tools to stay in their homes, Officials said.

“We will help them get back to that independence,” McDonald said. “We’re a short-term service meant to get people independent and back on their feet.”

The agency also works to make people feel as comfortable as possible with the providers that come into their home.

“We try to become part of that family unit,” Kytola said.

When a person is admitted to home health care, clinicians assess their needs and their risk for hospitalization. If a person is at high risk, providers make sure to visit or call the person every day for the first seven days a person is in home care.

Once a person is receiving home health care, a variety of services can be provided depending on a person’s needs. Physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as specific care designed for conditions including diabetes, dementia, congestive heart failure and incontinence are a few examples.

“Symptom control and management, pain control and management, medication management, that all goes within what our nurses do when they visit the patients,” McDonald said. “And then it is just keeping up with anything that’s changing with the patient, so instead of a patient having to wait to go to a doctor to talk about it, they’ve got someone in there monitoring those condition changes if they’re happening.”

Providers also teach the patient, family and/or caregiver how to properly care for the patient’s condition.

They emphasized that their clinicians and providers can be called at any time with questions, comments or concerns, which can help ease anxiety and reduce unneeded visits to the hospital or doctor’s office.

Furthermore, patients are provided with stoplight charts that help them understand what certain signs and symptoms indicate. For example, symptoms listed along with the yellow light mean it’s time to call a nurse, while signs and symptoms listed with the red light mean it’s time to call 911.

The agency was originally a department of the hospital, but is now owned by the LHC Group, a large nationwide provider of home health care services. It also continues to work in partnership with the hospital to keep tabs on patients and ensure they’re getting the appropriate care, officials said.

“We still work very closely with the hospital — even though we’re not a department there — on keeping the patients out of the hospital,” Lund said. “We have meetings about any patients that are re-hospitalized, we work with the orthopedic team, we work with the case management team at the hospital trying to coordinate patients to be transitioned correctly to the right level of care.”

The overarching goal is for the agency to be a resource in the community, they said, as it provides educational programs on various health topics and aims to help people find what care options might be best for their situation.

“Whether it’s skilled nursing centers, senior living communities or individual physician’s offices, we want to create and work on these partnerships just as we do with the hospital with the identification of patients,” McDonald said. “If they can identify them earlier, we can be that resource to make sure that patient is getting what they need.”

The Marquette office of UP Health System Home Health and Hospice is located at 722 W. Washington St., Suite A. The office can be reached at 906-228-4325.

For more information or to view the home health questionnaire, visit https://lhcgroup.com/locations/up-health-system-home-care-and-hospice-of-marquette/