The majority of the 28% of people that refuse home health care after they are discharged from the hospital are older adults, according to a recent study. Why they say no is a key to understanding how the health care system and loved ones can improve the overall health of seniors in need of follow-up care after hospitalization.
According to another study, seniors increase their risk of being readmitted to the hospital by a factor of two within 30 to 60 days if they do not receive home health care immediately after discharge.
One reason seniors say no is because they don’t really understand what home health care is all about.
Medicare entitles older adults to home health care services if they are homebound and need intermittent skilled nursing care, or physical therapy, speech therapy, or other specialists’ care. Most of the time these services are given for a month to six weeks after hospitalization, but can be available for longer periods if there is a need.
Part of the problem arises from confusion about the difference between “home health care” and “home care.” Home care is supplied by aides who help people shower, get dressed, cook, clean, or even give companionship. This is an entirely different type of care than home health care, which is delivered exclusively by health care professionals. In addition, home care is not covered by Medicare, in general.
Many seniors feel that they don’t need a “babysitter,” and will refuse “home health care” because they do not understand what service is really being offered. Jealous of their independence, many older adults say no to someone who is there to cook, dress them, or keep them company. If they understood that home health care is follow up health care a few times a week after a serious illness that required hospitalization, most likely they would agree to it, improving their health significantly.