Archive for the ‘Home Care’ Category

Will VA Benefits Pay for Senior Care?

Veterans Saluting

If you’re a U.S. military veteran who is planning for your own long-term senior care or the care of an aging loved one who is a veteran, you’ve probably considered whether VA benefits could help cover the costs of that care. If this is the case, you’re in good company. According to a 2012 census figures, more than 12.4 million veterans over the age of 65 live in the U.S.. With the average annual senior care costs ranging from $17,680 to $92,378 for care ranging from adult day health care to private nursing homes each year, financial help is essential.

What Are Aid and Attendance Benefits?

The costs of long-term care add up quickly. VA benefits like the Aid and Attendance Benefit can help significantly, even if the veteran’s income is above the limit for a pension. For eligible veterans and their spouses, the Aid and Attendance Benefit can help cover the costs of a variety of types of senior care, including assisted living, in-home care, and nursing home care.

The VA pays Aid and Attendance Benefits to a veteran in addition to monthly pension benefits. These benefits are also paid to survivors of veterans who have been collecting death pensions. Aid and Attendance Benefits may add $700 each month for veterans and $500 per month for survivors. This type of benefit is available for veterans who have served 90 days or more, one of those days being during a time of war.

Who is Eligible for Aid and Attendance Benefits?

These benefits are set aside for individuals who require assistance to perform daily activities, including bathing, feeding, dressing, and getting out of bed. It is also available for patients in nursing homes, those who are blind, and those who are undergoing treatment for a disability. Eligibility depends on whether the veteran is receiving a VA pension or if the veteran’s survivors are receiving a death pension. Either party must provide a primary doctor’s report as evidence of a qualifying condition.

How to Apply for VA Benefits

Applying for veterans’ benefits starts by contacting the regional office for the VA where the veteran previously applied for a pension or the survivor filed for a death pension. The VA will place the veteran into a priority group and make contact when the claim has been filed.

Unfortunately, all too many veterans and their loved ones don’t know that there are benefits available to help pay for the costs of senior care. With these rates rising every year, VA benefits can make a significant difference in the type of care that aging veterans can afford. Housebound seniors and those who require consistent assistance should be aware that they may be eligible for these additional VA benefits.

 

 

How Much Can Families Expect to Pay For Home Care in 2015?

In our final post on long-term care costs (here are our earlier posts on the 2015 costs of independent living, assisted living and Alzheimer’s and dementia care), we tackle the long-term care option that allows seniors in need of supportive services to safely live at home.

Home care is a catch-all term for the non-medical services, such as help with activities of daily living, provided to individuals outside of a care facility. For seniors, these services are intended to allow them to continue residing in the comfort of their own home rather than moving to a senior living community.

Of the long-term care options available, home care can be one of the more inexpensive options, provided that few hours of care are necessary, as it can be customized to fit each person’s situation. For example, if your loved one only needs assistance with meal preparation or housekeeping, you only have to pay for these services. Home care is also charged by the hourly, daily or overnight so you can schedule for how long the caregivers work. How long loved ones will require home care can vary:  some may only need short-term end-of-life care, while for others, it is a temporary measure before they must transition into a assisted living or memory care community once home care becomes cost-prohibitive.

For the past 10 years Genworth has surveyed the costs of long-term care services, including home health aides, adult day care and nursing homes, and issues an annual Cost of Care Survey providing a state-by-state breakdown of what consumers can expect to pay for each type of care. As you would expect, the daily and per-hour rate varies between each state:  North Dakota is the most expensive at $27 per hour while West Virginia and Louisiana are the least expensive at $16.

If you are considering home care for a loved one, we have a helpful state-by-state breakdown of the home health aide daily and per hour rate. And if seeing these costs makes you realize it’s time to create the long-term financial plan, be sure to visit our Senior Finance Center.

 

LGBT Seniors Face Additional Caregiving Challenges

Caregiving is both physically and emotionally demanding for any family caregiver, but those caring for LGBT loved ones may face additional challenges. There are a variety of contributing factors, ranging from fear of being judged or discriminated against, a lack of social support from family and friends, and lack of access to healthcare. This often happens when LGBT seniors resist moving to senior living communities out of fear that they won’t be accepted by homosexual residents or will face ridicule. Essentially, aging sends some LGBT older adults back into the closet, despite the struggles and challenges they’ve overcome earlier in their lives in the process of coming out to family and friends.

The result is that many LGBT caregivers report feelings of isolation or feeling as though it’s just them against the world. Many are afraid to reach out and ask for help, and grief is magnified as LGBT spouses or partners are sometimes afraid of talking about their feelings with other loved ones out of fear that they won’t be understood or accepted.

Legal challenges only further complicate matters. Presently, only 19 states have legalized gay marriage. That means LGBT partners may be faced with losing their homes, losing financial and other assets, and even personal belongings if other family members are handling their partner’s estate — particularly if those family members disapproved of the relationship. When these same partners feel a lack of social support elsewhere, as well, it’s not uncommon for them to shut off from the world, disengage in the activities they once enjoyed, and basically seclude themselves from the outside world for six months or more.

That’s why it’s so important for healthcare providers and staff at senior living communities to undergo sensitivity training. The less judgement LGBT aging adults feel as they enter their elderly years and may need to seek support or housing for help with activities of daily living, the more likely they will be to make use of these resources. But even more important is for anyone with a LGBT friend or loved one to reach out and offer a helping hand, to provide support and compassion, to help spouses and partners successfully manage their grief after the loss of a loved one.

Caregiving is challenging for anyone. No one should have to go through it alone. For more information on the challenges facing LGBT caregivers, read this article.

 

Image via Flickr by r. nial bradshaw

What’s That Number? Get the 4-1-1 on Senior Resources and Help Lines for Caregivers

Family caregiver with her motherAlmost 20% of adults in the United States provide primary care for a parent, friend or other loved one. There are between 43 million and 60 million unpaid caregivers in the United States.

As many as 75% of caregivers work a “paid job” in addition to caring for a loved one; studies show that the average unpaid caregiver spends $5,000 of their own money a year providing care and supplies.

Many caregivers juggle work, family, trips to the grocery store, scheduling home health visits and trying to keep themselves healthy and alert to subtle changes that might signal serious health complications. Sometimes navigating daily life is challenging and overwhelming.

Finding Resources for Caregivers

Caring for a loved one is emotional and physically challenging. The good news is that there are many excellent resources available to give caregivers help and information about managing everything from moving to a new community to planning nutritious meals. For example, you can find local resources and connect to senior health providers through Eldercare Locator by calling 1-800-677-1116 or visiting their website at www.eldercare.gov.

Use the list of additional resources below to find help in your community.

  • Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) provides resources for people who suffer with dementia and the people who take care of them. Reach the Foundation online or by phone at 1-866-232-8484. AFA offers a list of state-specific and local support networks in your area.
  • REST Programs provide training for paid and volunteer respite workers. Juggling work, family, medical care and all the things of normal daily life can be stressful. Taking time to rest is important. Finding someone you trust is easier with a licensed respite agency.
  • The National Council on Aging offers guidance and resources about health, home nursing options, establishing safer environments and financial services for caregivers. Their Benefits Checkup is an interactive tool to help caregivers find out if they qualify for a variety of financial assistance programs.
  • HealthFinder.gov is a website run by the Federal government that offers helpful tips and information for caregivers and seniors related to daily living and health management.
  • ConsumerVoice.org offers information about housing and health services for seniors and their caregivers.

Print this article so you have these resources handy. Share with your friends who are caring for loved ones. You don’t have to face the challenges alone.

Need more information? Just give one of our friendly SeniorHomes.com Care Advisors a call at 1-800-276-1202. We are standing by to help!

Caregivers: Beat Holiday Stress By Planning Ahead

Few things in a caregiver’s life are more stressful than the holiday season. Despite the many appointments, medications, activities of daily living, and other daily tasks that must be managed, the holidays pile on a whole new layer of stress and responsibility — including obligations to the rest of your family, all while you grapple with guilt over whether you’re continuing to meet your loved one’s needs adequately. Sounds like a picnic, right?

Caregiving through the holiday season doesn’t have to leave you ready for an emotional breakdown. In fact, the holiday season doesn’t have to impact you at all if you handle it right. There are three important considerations if you’re facing the upcoming holiday season as a busy caregiver: Planning, asking for help, and simplification.

Planning Reduces Last-Minute Frenzies

Caregivers often juggle the responsibilities of a career and their caregiving duties. When you add planning a massive family meal to that mix, it’s easy to lose control over the small details. Even something as simple as running to the local grocery store to buy another carton of eggs becomes a major challenge if you have a loved one at home who can’t be left alone, and there’s no one around as backup.

You can avoid many of these headaches with more careful planning. Right, you say, who has time to craft carefully-laid plans in addition it takes to just get the tasks done? Many people find that they’re actually able to work through tasks much more quickly and efficiently when they have a clear schedule and plan to follow. Caregiver to-do list

It can be as simple as a basic to-do list — and the advantage you have as you’re reading  this today is that you can start that planning NOW. Make a list of the major tasks and events that are coming up for the holidays. Start adding specific tasks as you think of them that need to be accomplished leading up to each event. As those dates draw near, set goals and deadlines for yourself — and get the tasks that can be completed well in advance done first. When the holidays are just a few days away, you don’t have those other details weighing on your mind and creating more stress.

Asking for Help Doesn’t Make You Less Amazing

It’s a suggestion you’ll hear over and over again when you read any kind of advice for caregivers: Ask for help. It’s an obvious suggestion, but one that is actually difficult for many caregivers to carry out. That’s because a sense of obligation, guilt and insufficiency take over. Many caregivers don’t want to be a burden to other family members, and they feel as though their loved one’s care is their responsibility and that they’re somehow inadequate if they can’t handle every last detail without assistance.

But in most cases, other loved ones are more than happy to help — they just aren’t sure how they can help and may not want to make things more complicated for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for some relief, whether that means delegating some of the typical holiday tasks to others or enlisting another friend or family member to help care for your loved one while you run errands, tackle some holiday shopping, or handle necessary preparations for family get-togethers.

Simplifying Eases Tremendous Stress

There are some family traditions that are just too hard to give up. If your entire extended family consisting of aunts, uncles, third cousins and their closest neighbors coming to your annual holiday meal is a tradition that’s been in place your whole life, you might not want to be the one to shut down the operation. And traditions like these are incredibly valuable to the elderly, giving younger generations a chance to create some of the same cherished memories you’ve held dear for decades.

It’s up to you to determine how valuable certain traditions are — and one way to navigate this issue is to suggest to your family that you’re considering slimming down a few major events or traditions. Others might step forward and ask where you need help and what they can to to make it possible to continue those traditions or even offer to take over planning and managing a particular event entirely. In other cases, some traditions may carry less long-standing value and can be easily simplified or streamlined to drastically reduce your to-do list.

You can also continue to hold the same major traditions but in a simpler way. Instead of a massive, four-course meal prepared entirely by yourself for 30 people, make it a potluck this year. Use paper plates, napkins and silverware that can be easily tossed in the trash instead of spending three exhausting hours on cleanup after everyone leaves. There are lots of ways you can simplify big traditional events while still maintaining the meaning — and that’s what’s most valuable to families, not whether they enjoyed their meals on fine china or disposable paper plates.

This year, focus your holiday season on the things that are most meaningful to you. What memories does your loved one value and cherish? At the end of the day, it’s the memories that count — not the details. If you’re a caregiver this holiday season, start planning, simplifying and lining up help now so you can enjoy making memories instead of stressing.

Image via Stock.xchng by gerbrak

Article by Angela Stringfellow

Paying Attention to Fall Prevention as Season Change Approaches

It’s pretty much a given in the fall months that you’ll hear senior living community staff talking about the importance of fall prevention. Sure, it’s a play on words–but what better time to start thinking about new ways we can keep our loved ones safe in their homes, wherever they may call “home”? According to LongTermCare.gov, one-third (one out of every three) older Americans falls every year. With underlying problems such as osteoporosis, falls can cause devastating injuries like broken hips or shoulders–injuries that may take months to recover from, while some seniors never fully recover from serious hip injuries. fall prevention

There are a lot of reasons why seniors are more prone to falls in the home:

  • Arthritis
  • Loss of balance and mobility
  • Loss of footing traction
  • Slowed reflex response
  • Poor vision
  • Poor home layouts with obstacles

There are some preventative measures you can take to reduce the odds that your senior loved one, or your senior living community residents, will suffer from falls.

Maintain an exercise program

Exercise isn’t just for young folks who want to build muscle or lose weight. Regular exercise is extremely important for the senior population, because it helps to keep bones strong and healthy–that means better balance, and less likelihood of broken bones should a fall occur. Exercise also helps maintain muscle mass, allowing the elderly to exert greater control over their limbs.

Use mobility aids

If a loss of balance is a contributing factor for your loved one, suggest a cane or walker to provide added support. Some seniors don’t use mobility aids all the time, but only in situations where there’s a greater risk. Navigating an unfamiliar home, for instance, or walking outdoors in wet or snowy conditions can be hazardous for seniors who have lost some balance but can typically mobilize without assistance.

Clean up the clutter

Loose rugs and furniture that sticks out can easily lead to trips and more serious falls. De-clutter the living area, tuck cords safely away and remove or secure any loose rugs. If your loved one uses a walker, the device’s wheels can get caught on the edge of a rug that doesn’t sit flush against the floor, so flat runners are better choices for adding traction to smooth flooring.

Keep an eye out for mobility issues

Does your loved one hold onto walls or furniture to stabilize herself as she walks by? Does it seem difficult for him to stand up from a seated position? If you notice these signs, your loved one could be developing balance and mobility problems. Staying on top of it, getting physical therapy, and using mobility devices will help prevent falls and keep your aging loved ones safe.

Make minor home modifications

Is your loved one residing in a one-level home? Can the home be modified to provide a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor? If stairs are necessary, install guide rails on both sides for added balance support. Other minor changes, such as increasing the amount of lighting and installing grab bars in bathrooms, can help prevent falls, too.

Check into vision problems

Sometimes, a simple vision checkup is all that’s necessary to reduce the risk of falls. If your loved one hasn’t had an eye exam in a few years or recently seems to have trouble seeing, have it checked out. New glasses bring things into focus, reducing the number of accidental trips and falls.

While most senior living communities are proactive about fall prevention, it doesn’t hurt to take a look around if your elderly loved one resides in a community setting. Even a misplaced power cord can cause a fall if it goes unnoticed, and a second set of eyes is useful to pick up on minor issues that could lead to major problems. Notify the community staff if you notice a piece of carpeting that’s wrinkled or torn, which could catch a cane or walker and cause a fall.

Fall prevention is a group effort. Make sure your aging loved one is diligent about turning lights on to navigate dark areas, and re-assess the home every few weeks to pinpoint trouble areas. Vision and mobility problems can crop up out of nowhere, so continuous evaluation is a good idea even if you don’t find any problems on your initial assessment.

Have any fall prevention tips? Share them with us in the comments below!

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Post by Angela Stringfellow

Staying Safe at Any Age

These days, “home security” is a rather holistic term. Not only do we want to keep an eye on our house while we’re gone, we also want to set the lights, turn up the thermostat, and make sure the sprinklers are firing properly. Some precautions can even seem unnecessary and are easy to let fall by the wayside. The amount of technology involved in securing one’s home can seem daunting at times and can make one wonder if a home security system is even necessary, especially if a resident has gotten along fine without one.

Image by ScottMan2th on DeviantArt

The truth of the matter is, as you age, having a proper security system or precautions set in place becomes more necessary for a variety of reasons. In fact, the Bureau of Justice reports have shown that the elderly have become more frequently targeted for home invasions or burglaries.

The following five safety tips are specifically for the elderly but can act as a jumping-off point to provide yourself the perfect level of protection no matter what stage in life you are.

Tip #1

The majority of seniors lack the mobility and dexterity of a typical burglar and may not be physically strong enough to fend off an attacker. This is why a fence surrounding the senior’s property would be ideal. But be careful, some security fences can also hide an intruder once they’ve breached the property. Bump your protection up a notch by having motion-activated lights installed along the fence; in addition to scaring away possible intruders, the light can help warn seniors, giving them time to call the authorities.

Tip #2

Most elderly, when compared to younger home invasion victims, are home at the time of the crime. However, just because they are at home does not mean they are constantly keeping an eye on every inch of their property. This is where third party monitoring comes in handy. A team of trained professionals can keep an eye on your property 24/7 and alert the authorities if a threat is detected.

Tip#3

Sadly, most burglars will walk right in unlocked front doors if they knock and there’s no answer, which can be a scary thing when you consider most seniors live alone and may take a minute or two to get to the front door. Always make sure to install deadbolt locks on every door that leads from the inside of the house out.  Step it up a notch when choosing your lock, making sure to purchase a vertical deadbolt. For the consideration of seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s or arthritis, an electronic door lock may be the perfect solution.

Tip #4

This next tip serves a dual purpose and it involves proper lighting. Not only does an automated lighting system help seniors travel safely from room to room in the dark of night by automatically lighting the way, automated lights can be set on timers to deter thieves when the resident is away visiting family or simply out for the day.

Tip #5

Some seniors may be living on a budget or lack the know-how to install a complicated home security system, but there are still options for those who are either not technologically savvy or who just have a tight budget. By purchasing a home security sign and stickers for your yard and windows, you can make it look like you have a fancy security system and scare off possible burglars for a little less than twenty dollars. Seventy-five percent of burglars and intruders will not attempt a break-in if they see these signs in a yard or window.

Now that you know how and where to start with your home security system, don’t be a victim! Getting a safer and more secure home really is a lot easier than you thought no matter how old or young you are.

 

Rachel Green is a freelance writer and independent researcher for securitychoice.com. Her fortes include personal security and mobile technologies and she shares her insights on various mobile technology and home security blogs.

How Home Automation Can Help Seniors

This is a guest post submitted by Elli Bishop, a writer and home security industry expert.

Barring any medical issues that would make assisted living or a nursing home a necessity, there’s no reason seniors can’t remain in their homes. With new advances in home automation technology it’s even easier for them to stay put.

The purpose of home automation for the elderly is to create an environment that is easy and safe for seniors to live in, giving them the ability to remain in their home for as long as possible.

What is Home Automation?

Imagine the convenience of turning your lights on before you step through the front door, having them automatically turn off the moment you leave the house, or programming your system to automatically unlock the front door every day at 3:00pm when the caregiver arrives. Or how about automating your home thermostats to regulate heating and cooling so you can reduce energy waste? These modern technological conveniences are no longer reserved for the rich and famous. With home automation services offered by various home security providers, anyone can enjoy the support, security, and savings of a “smart home.”

How Home Automation Helps Seniors

Home automation technology helps seniors maintain their independence by giving them control over their living space and providing the ability to reach out for help in the case of a medical emergency. Standard home automation features include:

  • Remote access
  • Motion detectors
  • Temperature sensors
  • Broken glass detectors
  • Flood sensors
  • Heat and smoke sensors

Many home security service providers also offer easy-to-use touchscreen devices and smartphone apps, allowing seniors can accomplish the following tasks:

  • See who is at front door without having to get up and look
  • Send immediate request for specific help such as medical, police, or fire department
  • Control interior and exterior lighting
  • Regulate and automate the thermostat
  • Remotely turn on and turn off the alarm system
  • Change security codes
  • Set reminders and alerts
  • Watch real-time video of camera-monitored areas outside the home

Home Automation Services Specifically for Seniors

Many home security companies also offer home automation services specifically geared toward seniors where help is just the push of a button away. These services provide state-of-the-art home health security products such as personal help buttons that are small, portable, and can be worn around the neck or as a wristband. These wireless devices are waterproof and have long-range capability.

Senior-driven home automation services also provide elderly customers with the added convenience of speaking with trained emergency response personnel over a two-way voice intercom system. This is especially useful in the event of a fall or emergency medical situation. Other services often include temperature sensors that send alerts if the house reaches unsafe temperatures and reminders to test the personal help button to ensure it is working properly.

Investing in a home automation service allows seniors to can enjoy all the comforts of home with the added security of knowing that if help is ever needed, it’s always there.

How else do you think seniors can benefit from home automation?

Technology May Reduce Doctor Visits in LTC, Report Says

Calibrated care, or the combination of technology and care levels and locations, could be just what’s necessary to curb healthcare costs, according to an August report released by Aging in Place Technology Watch. The goal of calibrated care is to reduce the use of hospital emergency rooms as the primary means of accessing healthcare for many seniors, which is also the most expensive way to receive care.

Home care monitoring and telehealth: The wave of the future

The report, “Calibrated Care is Closer to Home: 2012 Aging and Health Technology,” promotes the use of home care monitoring, telehealth technology, self-care technology, retail clinics and even websites that help patients and caregivers monitor chronic illnesses to reduce the costly expense of care received in physicians’ offices and emergency rooms. The key to reducing costs, according to this report, is appropriately matching the level, time and location of care with the right technologies.

Citing information obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the report points to the fact that two-thirds of all emergency room visits are not considered true emergencies. And with technological advances, patients could be monitoring chronic diseases and sending reports to their physicians electronically. In acute situations, patients could be triaged remotely and directed to the appropriate level of care, avoiding unnecessary trips to the ER and sometimes avoiding heading out to a doctor altogether with home care options.

Remote monitoring can improve medication compliance

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With all the possibilities available to reduce unnecessary healthcare spending, there’s been a slow adoption of services that can aid in treatment and home and promote self-care and remote monitoring. There have even been a number of successful pilot programs conducted that have demonstrated the potential cost savings. Primary adopters of this technology have been major providers, and the primary issue seems to be a lack of pay rate and reimbursement standardization.

Technology is working and widely adopted for chronic illness, medication management

The report finds that 50 percent of the senior population has at least one chronic illness. Fortunately, chronic disease management is one area in which remote monitoring tools seem to have been more widely accepted. Health communications can be conducted online, physicians can consult with patients via email individually and sometimes in virtual groups.

Medication management is another area in which technology is working. Non-compliance and incorrect dosing accounts for a significant number of emergency visits, but thanks to tools and gadgets like pill dispensers and reminders, elderly patients in particular can maintain compliance more easily. With remote monitoring and reporting of lab work and other data, physicians can adjust dosages when appropriate without ever seeing a patient face-to-face.

A promising future for telemedicine

Despite slow adoption, the future remains optimistic for telehealth. As both seniors and providers realize the value and potential cost savings of being able to more efficiently manage both acute and chronic illness without multiple trips to providers, a more standardized system will emerge for processing payments and reimbursements. Soon, the report predicts, telehealth and remote monitoring will be the norm, allowing seniors to stay in their homes while still receiving the top-quality care needed to maintain their health.

Boston Medical Center Brings Back House Calls for Seniors

Dr. Daniel Oates, a geriatrician at the Boston Medical Center, is bringing back an age-old practice by making house calls to elderly patients. Oates believes that house calls provide more consistent and personalized care, possibly even reducing the risk of a hospital visit and delaying the necessity to move to a senior living facility. That’s because by making house calls, physicians can monitor the care of patients who otherwise may not leave their homes to seek regular medical care, according to an article in Boston.com.

House calls: A money-saver or major expense?

The program has caught the attention of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is now looking at the Boston Medical Center as well as 15 other providers offering similar programs to determine if the practice is something that could be used to reduce healthcare costs under the Affordable Care Act.

On the contrary, programs like that run by the Boston Medical Center aren’t common because of the cost. It costs about $3,000 per year for each patient enrolled in the program, according to David Kornetsky, administrative director of geriatric services at Boston Medical Center, and Medicare only covers approximately half of those costs. In the case of the Boston Medical Center, the facility subsidizes the rest, although other cash-strapped providers may struggle to do the same. Currently, Boston’s program has about 575 patients enrolled in the service it has been offering since 1875. Overall, “Home care accounts for about 1 percent of all Medicare billing for ‘evaluation and management services,’ essentially time spent talking with doctors, versus tests or procedures, said Gary Swartz, associate executive director of the American Academy of Home Care Physicians.

Boston Medical Center brings back house calls.

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Providers under pressure to provide better care for elderly and chronically ill

Boston.com points out that beginning in the fall, providers will be penalized for having high rates of re-admissions within 30 days for conditions such as heart failure or heart attacks. Because acute care is so expensive, a shift to a model that rewards providers for conducting better preventative care can reduce these unnecessary re-admissions and costly treatments by taking a proactive approach in the case of chronic illness.

National pilot program to test cost effectiveness

There’s a national pilot program underway, Independence at Home, designed to evaluate costs and quality of care with home care models like BMC’s. This large-scale test will evaluate up to 10,000 patients and is designed to put to rest conflicting study results from past years that didn’t consistently demonstrate a cost savings. (Most recent studies have, however, shown a clear savings benefit.) The Boston Medical Center is enrolling about 100 patients who meet the following criteria:

  • Have traditional Medicare coverage.
  • Have had a recent hospitalization.
  • Have a chronic illness.
  • Have functional limitations.

The trial is set to last three years, with a minimum average requirement of 200 enrolled patients throughout the study. And if the BMC program saves more than 11 percent, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services will pass some of those savings on to the hospital.The quality measures to be tracked include:

  • Patient satisfaction.
  • Frequency of emergency room visits.
  • Frequency of hospitalizations for preventable conditions.
  • How providers feel about their work.

The program will include measures such as social worker visits to monitor home safety (identifying problems such as loose throw rugs or poor lighting), determine whether patients are safe in the care of their family members or other caregivers, and even help sort through medications and help with accurate dosing. Overall, the care provided is more personalized and gives providers greater insight into patient compliance and other concerns that may not be obvious on an office visit. According to Swartz, if the program is successful, Congressional action would be required to expand beyond 10,000 patients, but he hopes that promising results will encourage other providers to revisit house calls.