A home health agency is an agency which provides health care to clients at home, rather than obliging them to stay in a hospital or live in a residential nursing facility. Home health agencies hire personnel to visit their clients on a regular basis to administer medication and perform other health-related tasks, and some also offer cleaning services, errand-running, and other forms of support for their clients.
The idea behind a home health agency is that it ensures that patients get the health care they need while living as independently as possible. In some cases, a home health agency works side by side with a family to ensure that a patient gets around the clock care, with the home health worker handling more demanding medical tasks. In other cases, someone may live alone and hire a home health worker for periodic care.
Qualifications for home health agencies vary widely, depending on the region. Some are administered by the government, while others are private companies. Employees may be trained and licensed nurses, or they may be health care technicians, or simply basic contract workers with no real qualifications. In some countries, central accreditation agencies provide certification for home health agencies so that consumers can have an assurance of basic standards when they consider which agency to use.
The cost of home health agency service varies, depending on the agency and the type of service required. In some cases, the government may fund a home health worker for someone on permanent disability, while in other instances, people may need to pay out of pocket. As a general rule, tasks which require skilled nursing are going to be more costly, while a home health worker who simply drops in to spend time with a patient and make sure he or she takes medication on time will be less expensive.
In addition to providing routine home health care, many home health agencies also offer hospice services for the dying. People who wish to die at home rather than in a hospice or a hospital can use a home health nurse to meet their basic medical needs, which may include the changing of dressings, regular cleaning of surgical sites, and administration of pain medication, among other things.
Some home health agencies also work with the government to inspect homes to make sure that they are sanitary and safe to live in. Many governments use the services of a home health agencies to provide a “health visitor” to post-partum women who helps out around the house in the weeks following the birth, allowing the mother to recover and bond with her child.
A home health agency is sometimes the first stop on a path which will eventually lead to a skilled nursing facility. Providing care at home for as long as possible tends to be less stressful for the patient, and also less expensive, making a health agency worker appealing for some families.