Senior rehabbing with physical therapy

We often hear from potential clients or their families that they are confused by terms they are introduced to during their elderly loved one’s home care journey. Industry insiders – physicians, geriatric care managers, home care agencies and nurse registries – are all guilty, to varying degrees, of using shorthand language that can make it difficult for someone new to care to find their bearings.

Part of the problem is that there are several terms that are synonymous, and it can be challenging to recognize that multiple people are referring to the same services by different names. Compounding this issue is the fact that there are many similar-sounding phrases that mean different things! As if those two patterns weren’t enough to make one’s head spin, a further challenge arises from the fact that  different professionals may use the same exact terms to refer to different services. 

As a result, navigating at-home care for seniors becomes as much an issue of figuring out the right level of care for your loved one as it does being able to describe that care with accurate terminology. While our team is able and ready to assist with figuring out an appropriate level of care, we’ve put together the following guide to help readers understand and articulate the various terms they may encounter when caring for seniors in their homes.

Skilled Home Care Services

Services referred to as skilled home care or skilled home health typically include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and nursing services that must be performed by as licensed RN or LPN. This last category includes things such as changing ostomy bags, advanced wound care and the administration of any medications, oral or otherwise.

With proper physician documentation, skilled services are generally covered by Medicare in 30- or 60-day increments, known as episodes. A Medicare-certified home health agency, such as any of the three that are part of the CareGivers of America network, can send a clinician to a patient’s house and coordinate all Medicare billing on their behalf. Where appropriate, the agency can also procure, deliver and install home medical devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, specialized beds and lifts that are covered by Medicare.

Private Duty Home Care Services

Private duty home care or home healthcare refers to services not covered by Medicare. This includes the services of a home health aide, a certified nursing assistant and a professional companion. Other terms that refer to similar services include personal care, private care, companion care, custodial care and home health or home care assistance.

Private duty care services can be paid for in a number of ways. While the majority of families either pay directly or claim benefits from a long-term care policy, some seniors are able to take advantage of coverage from the Veteran’s Administration, Medicaid, certain Medicare Advantage policies or some union retiree benefits. When claiming benefits from a third-party payor, a professional such as a physician or nurse will have to certify that the individual requires assistance with Activities of Daily Living such as feeding, dressing, personal hygiene, toileting, bathing, transferring or walking. A nurse registry such as Boca Home Care Services can help coordinate all third-party payor paperwork.

Caring for seniors in their home environments can be challenging, and we recognize that the eldercare industry has done itself no favors by making the language it uses difficult to navigate. If your loved one lives in South Florida and you have any questions or could use assistance figuring out what type of home health care would be appropriate for them, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our homecare experts are available to help set you and your family up for the best possible homecare experience.