Home health agencies are healthcare agencies that provide various types of maintenance and therapeutic services in private homes or assisted living facilities. The idea of home health is to allow people who can function outside a hospital or similar institution to still receive ongoing care in the comfort of their own homes. In the United States, both privately operated and state operated public agencies may operate home health care programs.
Home healthcare agencies offer support that is similar to that of a hospice program. The difference is that with hospice operations, the goal is to provide end of life care. A home health agency has the goal of providing ongoing care that will allow the patient to enjoy an equitable quality of life during recovery from a major illness, or to live with an illness for an extended period of time. Home health services may be utilized by people who are recovering from injuries sustained in an accident, getting over surgery, or who need some type of systemized monitoring to ensure they take medication and deal with ongoing health issues in a responsible manner.
At the core of the operation of all home healthcare agencies is the nurse. Generally, most home health agencies hire registered nurses who can work with physicians on issues such as the regulation of medication and perform other duties that are the province of a registered nurse (RN). Each nurse is assigned specific clients to visit on a regular basis, ranging from daily to weekly, depending on the needs of the client.
Along with a nurse, most home health agencies will also assign aides to each client. Aides can assist with issues that do not require the expertise of the nurse, such as helping the client to bathe or doing light cleaning around the home. In general, the aide will coordinate schedules with the nurse, making it possible for the client to be checked on by one or the other every couple of days.
Many home health agencies also provide counseling in some form to their clients. In privately operated home health care agencies, the counseling may come from a clergyperson who can provide counseling from a faith-based perspective. State operated agencies tend to provide counseling services that are more general in scope. Both approaches to counseling may be helpful if the patient is depressed or facing some type of life situation that is causing great anxiety.
In most states, home health agencies must be certified to operate. This means the agencies must comply with state and federal laws that relate to the operation of these types of healthcare services. From time to time, inspectors will evaluate the overall function of each agency in operation within a given jurisdiction to ensure they are operating within the limits of the law and are providing what is considered an equitable level of care to their clientele.