Preventative Screening Tests for the Elderly

As people get older, it typically gets progressively difficult for them to remain independent. They might develop mobility issues, cognitive decline, or health problems that require ongoing monitoring. At a certain point, most people need help from an in-home caregiver or have to move into an assisted living or nursing facility. 

Whenever possible, however, it’s best for people to stay in their own homes as long as they can. Maintaining some level of independence and having their own space can make a world of difference in a person’s overall quality of life. That’s where home health nurses come in. Hiring the right home health nurse can provide peace of mind for family members and better comfort for aging parents. 

When it comes to your parents, it’s likely that you want nothing but the best. However, choosing a home health nurse isn’t always the easiest task and it can easily feel daunting and overwhelming. This guide will help you know what to look for so you can choose the right care provider for your elderly parents. 

The Role of a Home Health Nurse

There are several different types of in-home help you can hire to help your parents stay independent. A home health nurse has specialized medical training and knowledge, allowing them to provide basic medical care for people with chronic health problems and assist with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as grooming and mobility. 

Some of the tasks a home health nurse might help with include: 

  • Providing physical/mobility assistance 
  • Dispensing and managing medications 
  • Giving injections and IVs
  • Feeding, including tube feeding
  • Monitoring chronic conditions and overall health
  • Taking vital signs 
  • Providing wound care 
  • Operating medical equipment
  • Managing cognitive/memory care
  • Collaborating with the patient’s care team

If your parents need medical care in the home, then hiring a home health nurse can help them maintain their quality of life and independence. It’s important to note that household tasks like cooking and cleaning are not always within the scope of a home health nurse’s duties and other arrangements might need to be made. 

Understanding Your Parents’ Needs 

Before you can start looking into agencies and independent home health nurses that might be a good fit for your parents, you need to understand their specific care needs. Home health nurses primarily focus on medical care, although they can help with some tasks like bathing and dressing if it’s part of the established care plan. 

Start with a list of your parents’ medical conditions. See which ones require ongoing monitoring, medications, and treatments. You and your parents might need to discuss these needs with their healthcare providers. 

It’s easy to overlook tasks that might seem easy enough for a younger person (like keeping track of medications) but are difficult for someone who is aging. Your parents might also downplay the help they need, which can cause problems later on. 

Don’t forget to ask your parents about their expectations, likes, and dislikes. You can use that information to ask questions when you’re looking for the perfect home health nurse. 

Choosing The Right Type of Home Health Care

After you’ve performed a thorough assessment and know what your parents’ healthcare needs are, you will need to decide if you want to go through an agency or hire an independent caregiver. There are pros and cons to each option, which are important to understand before you move forward. 

Going with an agency has the benefit of convenience. They work with a large number of home health nurses and can help you choose the right fit. They can also take care of most arrangements, making the process easier. Agencies will also have clear policies and protocols in place that apply to all their caregivers. 

Independent nurses, on the other hand, can be more flexible in their terms and arrangements. They can often provide more personalized care. You might also save on healthcare bills by cutting out the middleman. However, finding the right independent caregiver can sometimes be challenging and there will be no established protocol for issues that might arise.

Qualifications to Look for in a Home Health Nurse

There are different levels of certifications for home health nurses. Once you know what your parents need, you can decide how much training to look for in a caregiver. 

Generally, if your parents will need medical care from a home health nurse, you will want to hire someone with an RN (Registered Nurse) certification. These licensed healthcare professionals are able to provide more advanced care than a nursing assistant can. 

All home health nurses should be certified in BLS (Basic Life Support), which includes CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillator). This ensures that they can respond appropriately in an emergency. 

Although experience is important, people who are new to the nursing profession can still provide excellent care. It’s important to ask questions and get to know candidates before you make a decision. 

You should always ask for references and background checks when hiring a home health nurse, whether you decide to go through an agency or hire an independent caregiver. Online reviews can also be a good resource when you’re researching potential agencies and candidates. 

Hiring a Home Health Nurse

It should be fairly easy to find an agency that employs home health nurses, though independent providers can be a bit trickier to locate. Online directories can be a great way to find potential caregivers. You can also ask for recommendations from medical professionals and referral services or local organizations and support groups. 

Once you have a list of possible home health nursing agencies and/or individuals in your area, do some research on each one before you contact them. This initial research will save you some time and effort by allowing you to weed out options that obviously won’t work. 

Make a list of questions before you interview any nurse caregiver candidates. Everyone will have different questions based on their individual situation, but it’s a good idea to ask about their experience, why they decided to get into this line of work, and what a typical day looks like. You’ll also want to ask some practical questions about scheduling, communication, and other details. 

You should try to get a sense of each candidate’s communication and interpersonal skills. Are they likely to mesh well with your parents? If at all possible, having your parents involved in the interview process will help ensure compatibility. 

If you like a particular nurse, the last step is to check references and background checks. It’s also important to verify the candidate’s certifications and licensure. You will be placing an enormous amount of trust in your parents’ caregiver and it pays to be cautious. 

Monitor the Arrangement 

Even after you’ve done your due diligence and you’ve hired a home health nurse, it’s still important to monitor the arrangement and make sure it’s working out. There might be some small issues to work out, especially early on, or it might not turn out to be a good fit after all. 

Establishing clear expectations and open communication channels is important for ensuring that the arrangement is successful. Check in with your parents and the nurse regularly to make sure they are getting the care they need. An ethical, professional nurse will expect this and should provide detailed information and transparency. 

Finding the Right Caregiver is Worth the Effort

Finding the right fit, ensuring clear communication, and continuing to check in will allow you to deal with any problems more easily, and will also make it easier to provide appreciation. Dedicated home health nurses work hard on behalf of their patients and deserve recognition! 

Finding the perfect home health nurse for your elderly parents can be a difficult and time-consuming process. However, the peace of mind and quality of life you and your parents will receive is well worth the effort.

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