(This is printed with permission from The Herald-Leader.)

By Susan Carmical, director of operations, VNA Health at Home, a service of KentuckyOne Health

There’s no place like home. And for patients leaving the hospital who are recuperating, chronically ill or disabled, the good news is there is still quality medical care available for them in the comfort of their own homes. It is better known as home health, where patients can retain their independence in a familiar environment.

Home health has become an extension of a hospital’s care that helps patients recover from an illness, injury or surgery, without spending excessive time in the hospital.

Those working on the home health team might include registered nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, home health aides, social workers, dieticians, certified nursing assistants and companions. They work closely with patients and their physicians to coordinate services and develop a plan of care specific to the patient’s needs.

There are three main areas that the team of caregivers focus on: home care, home infusion therapy and hospice. Each of these programs provide education and support for patients and their families, healing, and a reduction in rehospitalization.

Home care includes innovative and preventative health programs focused on cardio care, diabetes, orthopedic care, pulmonary care, skin and wound care, and balance. Several conditions that the home care team might monitor include heart disease, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is a chronic lung disease. The statistics are staggering for all three conditions.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, killing nearly one million people a year. Nearly 24 million people a year suffer from COPD, which is the third leading cause of death across the country. Similarly, more than 29 million Americans have diabetes, which can lead to other health issues, such as heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. With so many people living with these medical conditions, it’s important to be able to offer care within a patient’s home.

In home health, the home infusion therapy team assists patients recovering from surgery, undergoing treatment for an infection, or requiring specific nutritional needs to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. Home infusion therapy services offer patients intravenous therapy and treatment. This could include antibiotics, chemotherapy and pain management, among others.

Hospice is another focus of the home health team. This is a special kind of care that is suitable when patients no longer benefit from treatment aimed at curing their disease, and are expected to live six months or less. The focus of hospice care is on improving and maintaining the quality of life of patients and their families. Hospice helps individuals live as well as possible by managing pain and other symptoms.

As patients are released from the hospital, their medical journey might not end. Talk to your physician about whether home health may be a good fit. It allows patients the ability to receive care in the place where they feel the most comfortable — at home.