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Home is Where the Heart Is — And Also Where You Can Receive Health Care


When you're recovering from being sick, there's nothing like the comfort of your own home. You have your cozy bed, family photographs on the walls, favorite foods in the fridge, and your loved ones nearby.

Sometimes, however, this isn't an option, especially if going out for medical care is too taxing on your health. This is where home health care can help. Home health care can bring many types of medical specialists right to your door.

Home Health Care

Home health care is very individualized, so it can be used for many different conditions. Many people receiving home care are recovering from an illness or injury that put them in the hospital -- such as a severe bout of the flu -- or from certain surgeries, like total joint replacement. But, it's common for people who have chronic conditions, such as diabetes or congestive heart failure, to sometimes need home health care, too.

Also, you can receive home health care at any age. However, some hospitals only offer it for adults, and most patients who need it tend to be on the older side.

Here are 5 things to know about home health care:

1. Home Health Care Has Certain Requirements

Home health care is covered by Medicare, and typically by private insurance. The private companies often use Medicare's standards when deciding if you qualify for home health care coverage.

In order to qualify, you must be homebound and require skilled care.


Homebound means that it's very taxing to leave your home. That could mean you need a cane or walker or assistance from another person because of an injury or illness. Or, it might mean that your physician doesn't recommend you leave the house because of your condition.

“Being homebound means that leaving your home is difficult and a taxing effort. For instance, if you have COPD, you might only be able to take a certain number of steps without needing a rest to catch your breath. But homebound doesn't mean that you can never go out. You can go to get a haircut, walk short distances in the community with assistance occasionally, and attend a religious service or a special occasion -- you can still live your life."
— Nikki Gilroy, PT, DPT, Rehab Services Manager

A physician will need to sign off that you're homebound in order to qualify.

Skilled Care

The other requirement is needing skilled care. Skilled care means you need a medical professional with you for certain needs on a part-time basis.

For example, if you need physical therapy, you wouldn't qualify for home health care if you have exercises that you can do on your own. But if you need a physical therapist alongside you to help you do the exercises, monitor your tolerance to the program, or adjust the program, you could qualify for home health care.

Another example is changing bandages for wounds, or administering medication through an IV. You can change bandages or take medication on your own (or with the help of a friend or family member), so there's no need for home health care.

However, the actual process of learning how to do the bandage change or give yourself the medication does require someone to be there -- it's not something you can figure out by yourself. So, getting taught how to do the bandage change or take the medication would be considered skilled care, meaning you would qualify for home health care.

2. Home Health Care Doesn't Last Forever ...

Home health care means that there is an end in sight.

Your home health care provider will work with you to either restore skills, such as walking or develop new skills so that your condition doesn't get worse. At some point, you'll be able to do these skills on your own, without the help of a skilled professional.

At some point, you won't need or qualify for skilled care.

Keep in mind that there is usually a limit to how long you can receive home health care, as well as how often. Medicare and many insurance companies will cover intermittent care for up to 60 days. If you still need care after that period, you can be re-certified to receive additional support.

Depending on your condition, they may expand the time frame or consider maintenance skilled care, where restoration or improvement is not necessary, but care will preserve functional abilities. If you need skilled care for a chronic condition, you may be able to receive services from a couple of months to a couple of years.

“You might need home health care for a few weeks or a few months. It’s possible to even need it for a few years. But it’s great when you can progress to outpatient care. It means you’re continuing on the road to recovery.”
—  Michele Strehlau, MSN, RN-BC, CENP, Team Manager

3. But Private Duty Care Might

Private duty services are a different type of in-home care that you may want to consider if you don't qualify for, or have finished with, home health care.

This nursing care is for ongoing needs -- such as ventilator care, assistance using the bathroom, or monitoring medical care -- where the focus isn't on skill building. It's more long-term than home health care, and doesn't need to have an end in sight.

There are a few other key differences between home health care and private duty care:

Home health care

Private duty care

Short-term: there is a set end point

Long-term: private duty care can continue for as long as you need it

Covered by Medicare, as well as by many private insurance companies

Not covered by Medicare, and may or may not be covered by private insurance

Care must be provided on a part-time intermittent basis

Services can be provided for any amount of time, including 24 hour care


*If covered by insurance, they may only cover a certain amount of hours

Only involves medical needs, such as physical therapy or learning about wound dressings

Might also help with day-to-day living needs, such as cooking, housekeeping, or transportation

Is prescribed by your regular health care provider, who gives the home provider instructions and will be in constant communication with your home health care provider

Is not prescribed: Registered nurses often oversee the services, but they are typically employees of the home care agency, not your medical provider

Skilled care must be provided by a licensed medical professional. Home health aides can be a part of the care team, but visits must be to provide hands-on personal care of the patient or services needed to maintain the patient's health or to facilitate treatment of the patient's illness or injury

Does not technically need to be provided by a licensed medical professional: If you need medical care, your nurse will most likely be a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse, but if you just need someone for the non-medical needs, they don't always need to be licensed professionals

4. Completing Home Health Care Doesn't Mean Completing All Care

When home health care ends, that's not necessarily the end of your healing journey. Your care team can get you set up with outpatient care, such as speech or physical therapy sessions.

If you're looking to hire private duty care, they may be able to help with that, too. Private duty staff tend to be hired throughout independent agencies, rather than through hospitals, but hospital care teams are often very knowledgeable about the agencies nearby. They can help you choose the one that's right for you.

5. Receiving Care at Home Isn't Just Convenient -- It Can Improve Your Health

Home health care is a great solution when you can't get out of the house for care. There are also added benefits to being treated at home. It allows you to:

  • Easily include your loved ones in your care -- and receive their encouragement and support -- especially if you live together
  • Have a quicker recovery time than people who don't get treated at home
  • Decrease the likelihood of needing to be admitted to the hospital or a nursing facility
  • Spend less money than you would in inpatient settings
  • Be less at risk for infection

Penn Medicine at Home in Chester County

Formerly called Neighborhood Visiting Nurses Association and Neighborhood Health Agencies, Penn Medicine at Home has been a member of the community for over a century.

The organization includes palliative care, hospice care, infusion, and home health services for those who are able to recover in the comfort of home when their condition allows.

For more information, call 866-888-8598 or visit

Our organization offers palliative care, hospice care, infusion therapy, and home health services to patients throughout the region. Penn Medicine at Home’s home health services include everything by Neighborhood Health and more — it’s the same great care, but made even stronger.”
— Alissa Nulsen, Director of Business Development and Strategic Integration


About this Blog

Chester County Hospital's Health e-Living Blog offers a regular serving of useful health and lifestyle information for the residents of Chester County, PA and the surrounding region.

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