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Alternative Home Health

Patients of all ages and from all walks of life depend on home health nurses.

While people typically think of using home healthcare for older adults, that is not the only population who can benefit from the service. Caregivers care for a diverse set of people, from children to teens to middle-aged adults and seniors.

"Anyone who needs extra assistance from a certified caregiver or medical professional can benefit from home care. And home care is often a very practical solution for someone who needs assistance but would prefer to stay in the comfort of their own home rather than assisted living facility," explained Mila Feldman, co-founder of New Jersey-based home healthcare company Executive Care.

Feldman, who works closely with registered nurses who put together specialized care plans for Executive Care's patient population, noted that some people utilize the service to help with a developmentally disabled family member or loved one, while others use home healthcare after a serious injury or operation.

"The reasons are many but the goal is the same: provide the necessary medical and non-medical care to help heal and lift the spirit of the person at home," she said.

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One-On-One Care

Seniors continue to be the demographic often associated with assisted living and caregiving.

The most common reason that home healthcare services are provided to seniors is because they cannot manage performing activities of daily living alone.

When family is not able to provide the proper care or do not live close enough to assist, that's when home healthcare typically steps in.

However, no matter what age they are, anyone with physical challenges, underlying medical conditions or an issue where one-on-one care will improve their well-being can benefit from home healthcare.

"Almost any age group can benefit from home healthcare services depending on particular needs and the availability of others to care for them," said Jacque Scherfer, BSN, RN, vice president of South Florida's Best Care Nurses Registry.

Alternative populations include new parents who are bringing a newborn home for the first time, children who have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, accident victims, someone needing a vision companion and patients on IV chemotherapy among others.

"Essentially anyone who lives at home alone and needs extra medical care or does not have family or friends that can help care for them," she said.

Best Care also provides home healthcare to people who have recently undergone cosmetic surgery. These patients have multiple needs, from repositioning to ice being applied to drains being emptied. The needs vary depending on the procedure that was performed.

"The homecare nurse can also prepare a light meal, assist with bathing and assess the patient for any complications post-surgery. At times, patients may travel out of town to have their surgery performed and may not have family or friends to take care of them. Our nurses can stay with the patient in their hotel, take care of all of their daily needs and transport them to and from their surgery and follow-up appointments," said Scherfer.

Providing Care to New Moms

At Nurse Next Door Home Care Services, the Guelph, Ontario, location has focused this year on a program for new mothers and babies, which in addition to showcasing a unique angle to the home care space, has proved quite successful.

Victoria Coates, RN, director of care, noted that the program was created to help with pre- and postpartum support. While their core market is the senior population, this program has opened up a growing market for the home healthcare company and provides another way to support families in the community.

"This program was developed because there isn't anything like this available and home care can make all the difference in a person's well-being, whether they are a senior or have another issue," she explained.

"Having practiced as a certified birth doula for over 13 years, I've had many profound experiences as a front-line birth worker. The current healthcare system does not provide a full complement of professional pre- and postpartum services. Research repeatedly shows that postpartum support prevents many clinical issues."

Coates has found home care beneficial for individuals with underlying medical conditions and colicky babies. She remarked that women who do not have close friends or family to offer support are often overlooked.

"Even just a few hours a week of guidance from a professional will greatly reduce the stress felt by a new mom or a woman confined to bed rest," she said.

The new program at Next Door Home Care Services is unique in that it employs a team of nurses professionally trained to provide advanced breastfeeding support, hands-on assistance for colicky babies, nutrition information, meal preparation and emotional support for new parents.

Coates believes there is a need for this kind of home care support across North America to alleviate some of the stress and challenges that come with being pregnant or a new mother.

Thinking Outside the Box

Scherfer believes nurses are in the best position to provide care to these populations because of their level of training and expertise.

Coates concurred. "Nurses have a wealth of experience to prepare them to care for clients in their homes," she commented. "Today's nursing schools teach us to problem solve and be highly analytical.

Working alone with a client with no immediate support in the home makes the ability to think outside the box very important, especially when those being cared for have varying and complex medical conditions."

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Consumer Driven Healthcare

Patient engagement is critical to meeting quality initiatives.

One trend Executive Care has been seeing is that many people tend to prefer home care versus staying in a hospital for an extended period of time.

"Simply put, they like the comfort of their own home. And it's more convenient," she said.

Feldman noted that nurses can help spread the word that these services exist to alternative populations by being proactive about home care and encouraging people in their community to consider that type of care.

"It's kind of like back in the day when doctors used to do a number of home visits. But now nurses and caregivers can do it," she concluded.

Beth Puliti is a frequent contributor to ADVANCE.

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