My Friday this week was spent with one of the PTAs, Tammy, that works at the nursing home I’m at. She also contracts with a few home health agencies and goes to people’s homes to help them with their therapy. I have ZERO experience with home health so I was excited when I found out I got to follow her around for a day.
What I thought about home health:
- People’s houses are messy and smelly and you have to go to them
- You have to cart around all the equipment you need for the session
- The people you’re treating are home bound so…. morbidly obese? no social/family support?
- You spend a TON of time in the car.
- You have to do all your documentation in the car.
- Uhhhhh…… where’s the bathroom?- You have to schedule bathroom breaks at coffee shops or gas stations.
After spending the day with Tammy, I realized that most of my preconceived notions were inaccurate. I went to three different locations with her and each was very different from the one prior. The first place we went to was a sweet older woman’s home. She was receiving therapy after a surgical procedure and as a result had become quite weak. She has been receiving therapy a couple days each week at home to help her regain her strength. She lives with her daughter in a nice neighborhood. We got there and, honestly, I am not sure I’ve ever met two people nicer than these two women (the patient and her daughter). This first visit cleared up numbers 1, 2 and 3 from my list above.
1. This house was immaculate. I was afraid to walk inside because if I coughed or sneezed I would have messed something up!
2. Tammy has one small bag that she carries around with various pieces of equipment. You’d be surprised the things you can do with what’s already in your home or with a simple theraband.
3. This woman was so tiny- definitely not morbidly obese and she definitely had family support. He daughter sat with her throughout her whole physical therapy session. So, yes, there are other reasons why one might be receiving home health care.
One of the fun things that we were able to do with this patient was to walk around outside in her neighborhood. One of the things she needed to work on was her endurance and strength and going for a walk is a great way to work on both of these things.
Our next stop was quite different. We went to see a man that had just leg surgery. He was unable to bear weight through his left leg so most of his exercises were done in bed. He was a Mexican man that was a little bit difficult to understand at time. He lived at home with his wife and adult daughter- oh yeah, and two very yippie chihuahuas. One of them was very protective of him and did NOT want to be touched… and she would let you know it by barking constantly. Once he had his daughter take the dog from the room, we were able to work a little better. Now this house was not quite as tidy as the first house but I’ve definitely been in worse homes too. And this family too was so helpful and so nice. That seems to be the theme with the patients we saw today- they all have very caring families that just want to see their loved ones get better. This man was very eager to get better so he had no hesitations with performing his exercises.
The last place we stopped was an assisted living facility. There was a woman living there that Tammy has worked with in the past that has been falling recently. She had suffered multiple falls in a single day so her family requested she begin home health therapy to improve her balance and safety around her facility. We went and spoke with her and assessed where she was at with her strength, balance and safety. She was also a very nice woman that offered us a drink when we got there and had a lot to tell us about her son, daughter and the rest of her family. Again, many of my preconceived notions were torn apart with this visit.
So, what do I think of home health care now?
I am definitely more open to the idea of home health care. I’m sure there are still instances where you run into a patient that you don’t enjoy seeing, but you’ll get that in any setting you’re practicing in. I get that now in the nursing home setting even. Tammy told me that she has had the occasional house that is a mess and she dreads going to but the important thing is to not allow those things to affect the treatment that the patient is receiving.
I am so grateful that Tammy took time out of her busy (and believe me… she’s ONE. BUSY. LADY!) schedule to teach me a little bit about home health care. I went from having the attitude that I wanted nothing to do with home health, to at least keeping that option open and actually wanting to learn a little bit more about it.