By Nurse Diane
During my nursing career, I have had the opportunity to work in several different areas. I began working in a hospital, and then I did some part time work at home health. I moved to a nursing home following hospital downsizing, then did in home care for my husband after his injury. I was offered a job at the local hospice, however, did not feel up to the task after the death of my husband.
Each of these areas offers different types of care for the patient and for the staff. The hospital setting provides more urgent care, and these people usually get well and go back to their usual lives. The nursing home provides mostly long term care. The patients are for the most part elderly, and have a terminal illness, and require round the clock nursing and care.
Home health patients, or the ones I visited, are people who may require dressing changes, blood work, or brief care with some medical condition, they can usually care for themselves, and their conditions do not require constant care in the hospital. Home care, is the same as nursing home care. During home care, the patient requires round the clock nursing and care, but this is done at home. Hospice is end of life care. The patient has a terminal condition, and no expectations of recovery. This care is performed either at home, or professional setting.
Shortly after I was married, my husband became injured at work with a spinal cord injury. It was a progressive injury, and he continued working for a year until he was no longer able to walk. He stayed home, and tried to continue to function as he usually did, however this resulted in many injuries, and we made the decision for me to stay home with him. This was difficult financially, however we both preferred for me to stay with him instead of having a stranger spend the days with him, an option we couldn't afford. From that time on, I took care of all of his needs that he was not able to do for himself, and we were isolated for many years. We were no longer able to leave the house, lost contact with friends and co-workers, and only had each other for company. People who choose to stay home to care for family members have a difficult task. Not only do they take care of the sick, but also take control of every other aspect of the operations of the home. I tried to explain once to the judge ruling over his case, that being at home was just like being in the hospital. I provided his nursing care, pharmacy needs, lab work, dietary needs, supplies, as well as maintenance, both inside and out, laundry, every department in the hospital except for x-ray and surgery. In addition to his care, I was also caring for my young son who was 8 years old at the time of his injury. I was alone in these tasks, with no outside help.
Home hospice care is almost the same, except the person you are caring for will be expecting death sooner than expected. Hospice care provides not only nursing care, but they will send volunteers over to provide breaks for family members to get out and take care of other matters, or just rest. My aunt lived across the street from a single man who had developed cancer, and was in the end stages. She had taken care of him for a few years before he was no longer able to care for himself. His doctor ordered hospice care, and they had someone come in and help. This gave my aunt a break, but after two weeks of hospice he passed away.
This month is National Home Care and Hospice Month. According to numbers from the Department of Labor, 5% of the population will be responsible for 50% of the cost of rising health care. These are aging baby boomers, so the cost of them staying home for their care will be more cost effective and comfortable for the individual. If you know someone who is caring for a family member at home, give them a call or send a card, offer to give them a break, or fix them dinner. Just let them know that you are thinking of them, and support them for taking care of their loved ones at home.