An unsteady gait. Forgetting to turn off the oven. Falling behind on basic chores. Wandering off. Having difficulty climbing stairs.
None of these things necessarily spells disaster. But any one of them could be a sign that it’s time to consider a home health care provider for yourself or a loved one.
Few of us yearn to spend our days in a nursing home—yet many need a little extra help, whether we’re recovering from illness or injury, just getting older, or entering a time when end-of-life care must be considered. Committing to home health care can be a tough decision for those eager to maintain their independence—but it can ultimately allow the aging to remain where they’re most comfortable, while alleviating significant stress on their caretakers.
When done right, says Kelly Tandourjian, co-owner of TLC HomeCare Services in Moorestown, home health care is about empowering patients, not imposing limits on them. “We’re not trying to take away their independence,” Tandourjian says, “but just give them an extra pair of hands and lift their spirits.”
The first step, though, is recognizing when home health assistance may be needed.
Danielle Rago, program director at CareOne Harmony Village at Moorestown, a residential facility that provides care to patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s, says signs may include when an individual wanders off, has trouble remembering when to take their medication, puts things away in inappropriate places or forgets to turn off the oven.
If your loved one has fallen more than once, or you see that they have become a little unsteady and their balance is off, Tandjourian says those are other vital signs. Other indicators include loss of motivation to complete basic tasks, such as making meals, cleaning the house or interacting with friends.
As well, Rago says, the key indicator may simply be that the primary caregiver, often a family member, has become overwhelmed by the day-to-day needs of his or her elderly dependant.
“If a person or a family is feeling as if their loved one might have difficulty being at home and functioning independently, if they are recovering from a hospitalization, or if they have been diagnosed with a new health problem … those are all situations where they might see that their life is being affected by a health-related factor,” says Charlotte Holcombe, president and chief executive of Moorestown Visiting Nurses Association.
Once you’ve decided to investigate home health care, recognizing what level of care you need is just as important.
“There is an entire continuum of care,” says Carol Paprocki, a spokeswoman for Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice. “For instance, one level of home care could be for someone who is post-surgical, who is at home and getting follow-up care.”
Paprocki says Samaritan provides three types of home health care: geriatric, palliative and hospice care. For geriatric care, workers will go into the home and conduct a complete assessment of an elderly person who is becoming a little frailer or is encountering new safety risks.
Palliative care is a precursor to hospice care, focusing on keeping the patient comfortable while they receive other medical treatment. “Someone with heart disease, for example, might be getting palliative care even while getting curative care,” says Paprocki. “We have a patient who has lung cancer and emphysema, but he’s still seeking to cure the lung cancer.” The patient was suffering from shortness of breath and difficulty climbing stairs—so a Samaritan physician observed him in his home, then prescribed home oxygen and a nutrition regimen to help the man keep his strength.
A step beyond palliative care, hospice care is generally offered when a doctor feels that, if a disease were allowed to take its course, the patient would have approximately six months to live. “The goal of hospice is to focus on providing comfort and to manage symptoms,” says Paprocki.
Of course, families often encounter obstacles in getting a loved one to accept the care they need. A good way to broach the idea is to get a loved one to accept a professional evaluation, Holcombe says. “We want to make sure that [you, the patient] can stay at home, make sure that home is safe … and that you understand how to take your medicine properly,” she says. “You can decide whether or not you want the nurse to come back.” She stresses that the patient and the family are in control, and that home health care is, at its core, about honoring people’s personal choices.
And while accepting help can be difficult for some, ultimately it can offer individuals what most of them really want: the opportunity to remain in their own homes.
“We believe that the vast majority of people that need long-term care want to be at home if at all possible. Most people don’t need a nursing home if they can pull together those types of services,” says Brian McGuire, a spokesman for AARP New Jersey.
But when it comes to home care, McGuire says, “Support is critical.”
A Special Advertising Section from the pages of South Jersey Magazine
These local home health care providers specialize in showing loved ones comfort and care.
CareOne Harmony Village at Moorestown
CareOne is New Jersey’s largest privately owned post-acute and long-term care provider. With over 40 years of health care experience, they have earned the reputation as leaders in post acute rehabilitation, long term and assisted living, respite care, Alzheimer’s and memory care.
Moorestown | (856) 638-1244
Medilink Home Health Care
Specializing in home infusion therapy, delivering patient satisfaction through compassionate nurse care and dedication since 1994.
Hammonton |(609) 567-2241
Moorestown Visiting Nurses Association
Caring for Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties since 1904. A nonprofit organization, Moorestown VNA provides home care, hospice, private duty, community wellness and counseling services. Specialty services include physical, occupational and speech therapies, telemedicine, IV/infusion therapy, flu vaccinations, behavioral home care, grief support.
Moorestown |(856) 552-1300
Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice
Supports patients and families throughout the course of serious illness in homes, assisted-living residences, nursing homes and hospitals. Samaritan’s specialists work with patients’ physicians to treat pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness, and help families navigate care options. Services covered by Medicare and most commercial insurers.
Serving Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer counties |(800) 229-8183
TLC Home Care Services, LLC
An independent, non-franchised company founded by entrepreneurs Kelly Tandourjian and Patti Maltese, that provides exceptional personal and companion care services. Call for a free consultation. Long-term care insurance accepted.
Moorestown |(856) 234-8700
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 5 (August, 2011).
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