Home health care is a wonderful alternative for a number of seniors. Many elderly people would prefer to age in place than live out their later years in a nursing home. However, finding competent home care providers when you have a cardiac condition can be more difficult and complicated. If you have heart problems and are hiring a home health care provider through an agency, read on to learn what you should ask to select the best person for the job.
What credentials does the agency require for their staff?
If you are having someone come into your home, you expect they will have been screened for their trustworthiness, as even college kids can clean and prepare basic meals. But what kinds of specific skills or certifications do they have for dealing with cardiac patients? Some examples include:
- schooling in how to take basic vital signs, especially pulse and respiration
- knowledge of signs and symptoms of cardiac problems and when to call a doctor or ambulance
- ability to read a Lead II rhythm strip or a 12-lead EKG
- knowledge of how pacemakers work and how to transmit rhythm strips to a pacemaker lab
- familiarity with home heart monitors, such as Holter or event monitors
- knowledge of cardiac medications, such as anti-arrhythmics, anti-coagulants, and beta blockers
- certification in IV infusion therapy or injectable medications
- advanced CPR certification and preferably, experience managing cardiac emergencies, such as myocardial infarctions or "code blues"
- ability to provide wound care, such as post-sternotomy care after bypass or valve replacement surgery
- knowledge of common comorbidities, like diabetes and peripheral vascular disease, and their medications
You don't necessarily need someone with a nursing degree, which can carry a higher price tag and run up your insurance costs more quickly. Emergency medical technicians, paramedics, electrocardiogram technicians, cardiac ultrasound technicians, and cardiac catheterization technicians are all trained in most or all of these requirements, and many look for in-home jobs.
What about back-up personnel?
Once you find someone with the credentials you desire, you will also need to find a back-up person with similar skills. Don't forget that your regular care provider will need routine days off, sick days, and holidays. Ideally, you want the same person to fill in whenever your regular care provider is off, so be sure to ask the agency about their policy about this.
Can you add more services (or reduce them) as need demands?
Since home health care is often used in place of assisted living, can it function much the same way by adjusting to the needs of the client? If you are recovering from heart surgery at the time the provider is engaged, you may need less care a few months later. However, if you need a carotid endarterectomy or arterial graft in the future, you will certainly need more care.
Home care may be the wave of the future and replace many other types of living for seniors. If you do your homework before hiring a provider through an agency, you'll be able to capitalize on this trend in the best way possible.