More people die from chronic disease than from acute disease. What this suggests is that the future will be about the management of chronic disease and not acute illness. The number of people going into hospitals will be fewer and they will spend less time there. What will increase by geometric progressions is the number of people cared for at home.
While sheer demographics and increased life expectancy – perhaps the greatest gift of the 20th and 21st centuries – have and will continue to increase the demand for home care services, our community will grow for other reasons, as well. Those other reasons mostly center around the great work done by home care and hospice workers and the unique services they provide.
So, as we begin this holiday season, here are the top ten reasons to be thankful for home care and hospice.
1. Home care keeps families together. There are few, if any, social values more important than keeping strong families together and this is particularly true in times of illness.
2. Home care is safer than the alternatives. While hospitalization is sometimes necessary, statistics show that hospitals can be dangerous for patients. It is not uncommon for patients to develop new or additional health problems (about 20 percent of hospital patients develop an infection or other illness) as a result of hospitalization, but those risks are minimized with care at home.
3. Home care is the most personal care. Home care is tailored to the needs of each individual and delivered on a person-to-person basis with lots of one-on-one interaction between the patient and caregivers. When we care for people in their own homes, we tell them they are special, they matter and they are loved.
4. Home care involves patients in their own care. In home care, the patient and his or her family are taught to participate in the caregiving by monitoring the health of the patient and taking steps to get well and maintain wellness.
5. Home care is a much better value. Studies have repeatedly shown that home care is far less expensive than institutionalization. In fact, home care is, on average, 10 times less expensive than a hospital and about four times less expensive than a nursing home.
6. Home care is more efficient. By caring for people at home, we allow them to avoid room and boarding expenses. In addition, the dazzling improvements in health technology are enabling people to monitor their own health as never before. Thanks to the development of the Internet and other technologies, telemedicine has more potential than ever. What’s more, technology has now developed that make it possible to treat most illnesses as well or better at home than in a hospital.
7. Home care is the only way to care for some people. In many rural parts of America or even dense urban areas, home care is the only available form of health care. Nurses and aides routinely visit patients in rural areas using unorthodox modes of transportation such as horses, dog sleds and boats.
8. Home care extends life. Allowing people to age at home not only adds life to their years, it adds years to their lives. Studies by nursing schools and government agencies have established beyond reasonable doubt that home care extends longevity because home care personnel and the intensely personal services they provide assist people not only medically, but psychologically and spiritually, as well.
9. Home care reduces stress. There is nothing like a health crisis to create stress, not only for the patients, but for their loved ones, as well. Hospitals, with their remoteness, their size and their state of frenzied activity, usually add to this stress. Home care, on the other hand, which is quieter and far more peaceful, has been shown to reduce the stress of patients and their families.
10. Home care is what people want. Home care is the preferred form of health care for America’s infirm and disabled. In fact, home care is preferred by a margin of 90 percent over comparable institutional care by the infirm. People facing terminal illnesses are increasingly choosing the form of home care known as hospice.
Home care is the oldest and most reliable form of health care, so it is no surprise that America is returning to it. However, home care is also the newest form of health care, as people increasingly prefer it over hospitalization and the advance of medical and other technologies make it possible – even preferable – to treat many maladies at home. The public is demanding that home care become more available than ever and our elected leaders must respond to this demand. NAHC is here to ensure that they do.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And a special happy Thanksgiving to the millions of nurses, aides and physicians who keep Americans alive, healthy and happy in their own homes. You are some of our country’s greatest heroes.