It's back to the future for home care

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dr. Steve Landers of the Cleveland Clinic said something very interesting at Invacare's annual Media Day in late August. He called home care

"futuristic." That's not something you hear every day, especially with Medicare and other payers cutting reimbursement right and left. Heck, CMS seems intent on blasting HME back to the Stone Age.

Media Day included a ton of interesting speakers, but Landers, who specializes in home care at the Cleveland Clinic, really impressed me. I mean, here's a guy who still goes out on house calls. He understands how important remaining at home is to seniors. "Home care is very intimate, and often times, (seniors) will hug and hold hands with you," he said.

By futuristic, Landers means that home care is the future of health care, or at least a key component. It's inevitable that more and more institutional care will transition to the more cost-effective home setting, he said. Healthcare reform demands it.

During his 30-minute talk, Landers also said that "home is integral to one's health and well being" and that "seniors fear nursing homes more than death."

I know from personal experience that this is true. My father-in-law, Bob, recently died at home after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. During his last days, Bob slept in a hospital bed in his office, getting up (with much help) only to use a commode. Toward the end he didn't get up anymore. My 12-year-old son sat at Bob's side, holding his hand. My 9-year-old daughter sat on the other side of the bed and dropped ice chips into his mouth. Being at home, as much as possible, eased Bob's mind. Death was inevitable, but a hospice nurse, HME provider and family members made his last weeks as good as possible.

A friend of our family, an ER doctor, said Bob died the way most people died 100 years ago: at home surrounded by family.

So, while home care is futuristic, as Dr. Landers said, it's also coming full circle, and as far as I'm concerned, both are