Is it time for Parkinson’s home healthcare?

Parkinson's Home Healthcare - Davis Phinney Foundation

Written in collaboration with Bud Rockhill who was a long-time Parkinson’s care partner to his mother

At some point, your Parkinson’s may progress to the point that you need additional help at home. The timing and type of help depend on your medical condition, family situation, and financial resources. Still, it’s worth understanding the types of assistance that are available in advance, especially since the need for outside support can arise with little notice.

As a caregiver to my mother who passed away with Parkinson’s, I learned more about navigating this process than I ever imagined I would. I hope what I share with you in the next few posts will help you avoid some of the mistakes I made.

There are two basic categories of home assistance, and the process for finding help and the availability of financial support for each are very different. The two types are:

  1. Home Healthcare – Medical care provided at home
  2. Homecare – Assistance with non-medical activities for daily living, such as bathing or meal preparation

In this post, we’re going to address the first type.

Home Healthcare 

Home healthcare, as the term indicates, is the provision of medical care by a medical practitioner at home.

Some of the different types of home healthcare services include:

  • Doctor care
  • Short-term nursing services
  • Lab tests
  • Medication/pharmacy services
  • Physical therapy services
  • Occupational therapy services
  • Speech-language pathology services
  • Medical social work
  • Home health aide services
  • Companionship
  • Nutritional support and meal delivery

In many cases, home healthcare services are covered by Medicare or Medicaid with a doctor’s prescription.

Medicare has an excellent website that provides information you can use to learn about home healthcare and to find and evaluate potential providers. You can find the most current information available here.

To get the most value from the information on the site:

  • If you have a Medicare health plan, check it for information on home healthcare benefits
  • If you have Medical Supplement insurance, make sure to talk with your doctor in advance so that your bills are paid correctly

If your doctor or referring healthcare provider decides you need home healthcare, they should give you a list of agencies that serve your area. If they suggest an agency or give you a list, they must tell you whether their organization has a financial interest in that agency.

On the Medicare.gov website, you will find a blue menu bar at the top of the page that lets you access in-depth information about different aspects of home healthcare, including what’s covered, drugs, and claims.

home healthcare - Davis Phinney Foundation

In the middle of the page are four large squares, one of which is labeled “Find care.” Clicking that will bring you to a page that lists the types of healthcare services that are available, including inpatient rehab, home health, and nursing homes. 

Clicking on one of the buttons gives you access to information about those specific services in your area.

Click the “Home health services” button, and you will see a page that says, “Find a home health agency.” Plug in your zip code, and you will see a list of home healthcare agencies near you. Also, for each agency, you will see a rating system using stars in the same way that you often see for restaurants or book reviews. Ratings are provided for Quality of Patient Care and Patient Surveys.

The site also lets you compare up to three agencies side by side. If you see an agency you’re interested in, click “Add to Compare,” and you’ll be able to look at them side by side. After you click the three you want to compare, scroll up to the top of the page where it will show the three agencies you’ve listed, and click the button that says “Compare Now.”

There are three tabs under “Compare Agencies”: 

General Information, Quality of Patient Care, and Patient Survey Results.

In “General Information,” this shows the services offered by the agency; not every agency provides all services for home healthcare.  

If you click “Quality of Patient Care,” you will see overall ratings using a star system. Five stars is the highest rating. If you scroll down, there’s more detailed information to help evaluate how well each agency is rated based on your specific needs. Examples include:

  • How often patients got better at walking
  • How often patients got better at getting in and out of bed
  • How often patients got better at bathing

When you scroll back to the top, the third tab is “Patient Survey Results.”

Hopefully, this provides a helpful way to research and compare different home healthcare agencies.

As with many things in our lives, a recommendation from a trusted source can often be the most efficient way to start the process. Then you can use the information provided on the Medicare website to do a more detailed evaluation.

Your doctor or medical group may also provide recommendations. It is legal and appropriate for you to ask if the recommended agency is the owner or is affiliated with your doctor’s group or hospital, and they are obligated to tell you.

The agencies available to you will depend on your insurance plan; so, please make sure to check whether or not your insurance covers the agency you’re interested in. This information should be on the website, but you will want to call your insurance plan to be sure.

Home healthcare is typically provided for 30, 60, or 90 days; based on your doctor’s orders and insurance plan, the number of visits per week and the length of each visit will vary – such as three times per week for two hours per visit. In most cases, home healthcare does not include full bathing or household activities like laundry.

When that is needed, there are homecare agencies available, which we’ll address in the next post.

Want More Practical Articles Like This?

Much more can be found in our latest edition of Davis Phinney Foundation’s Every Victory Counts® manual. It’s packed with up-to-date information about everything Parkinson’s, plus an expanded worksheets and resources section to help you put what you’ve learned into action. Request your copy of the Every Victory Counts manual by clicking the button below.

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