As part of my continued quest to bring the most varied information out there about Elder Law and elder care, I had the opportunity to speak with Ruth Huffstetler from Helping Hands Nursing Services, Inc. To give a little background on this company: it was founded in 1975 and is current located at 1105 Earl Road in Shelby.
Ruth provided some invaluable facts, figures, and information about what Helping Hands does, as well as what the differences are between home care and home health care.
Many of you know that I continue to remind my listeners and readers about the statistics. 7 out of 10 seniors are going to need some type of care, whether it’s in-home, assisted living, or nursing home care. Although North Carolina is renowned for its assisted living and nursing home facilities, who is really going to jump on the opportunity to spend their elder years outside of their home? Ruth discussed this idea and many others in our conversation:
What are some of the services that Helping Hands offers?
There’s no doubt that people want to stay at home. It can be a very traumatic experience for our elders – especially if they are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s – if they are taken from the surroundings that make them comfortable. Continuity is so important, so by keeping them at home, we’re able to stay with them and monitor them. We can go in and make sure that they’re not turning on the stove, putting tin foil in the microwave, wandering out in the streets or the middle of the night.
We can also dispense medication. The thing about us is we’re doing whatever the family has asked of us. If the family wants us to walk the patient around the house three times at noon for exercise, then that’s what we do.
What about nursing services?
Again, if we come to you and your parents are diabetics, and you need them to have certain meds or certain injections as far as their insulin and whatnot, then we help them with those medications or injections. Whatever the family asks of us, we do.
With home health, the doctor is ordering certain physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy. With us, the family is calling and saying, “I’ve got to go to work, somebody needs to be with Mom and this is what we want done while you’re there” or “My mom lives in Shelby but I live in California now. I need 24 hour care and this is what I want done.” Sometimes we’re truly the only family around because everybody is long distance, and we’ll take them up to see the leaves change colors. We’ll take them to go visit the old people at the nursing home so they can stay in touch with their friends. We’ve learned how Chick-fil-A has bingo on certain days and different places we can take them. They can stay involved with their friends.
Can you differentiate between home care and home health care?
The biggest difference in simple terms is that in home health, you have an RN that is supervising everything that’s happening, there has been an assessment done and a list of needs that the doctor has ordered. That is home health. They’ve ordered all the different therapies and there’s an RN supervising and making sure those things happen. With home care, you as a family member says, “This is what we need, whether it’s someone to be here so we can go see our grandson play football for 4 hours” or “We need 24-hour care”. Whatever you want is what you’re going to ask us for. That’s home care.
Do home health care agencies sometimes refer to you?
Yes they do. Let’s say the doctor orders a bath three times a week. They’ll have a CNA that’s going in on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday giving a bath. There’s no set time. It could be at 9 in the morning, it could be 4 in the afternoon. So if the family says, “We need somebody here during the day so we can go to work”, those home health agencies will refer to us and say, “Okay, if you call Helping Hands Nursing Service, they can refer someone to you that can be here from 7 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. They’ll be here the whole time to prepare the meals”, and then when Home Health comes in to do the therapy or the bath, we let them in, we can assist them, but it’s their doing, and then they leave. But we stay.
Do you screen your employees?
First thing is, I have no employees. They are all independent care givers because we are a referral service. Past that, they are all criminal background checked and reference checked. So if you call and say, “I need a caregiver to come out and bathe my mother Monday, Wednesday, and Friday”, then we’re going to find where you live and what kind of limitations your mom has and we’re going to pick who we feel is a good choice based on what you’ve told us. We’ll then refer that person to you. Very important question about the personality: just because I think they’re a great choice and I love them dearly, your mother may hate redheads and “I don’t want that redhead in my house because she reminds me of my ex son-in-law’s wife” or whatever. It doesn’t matter. Whatever that case may be, you make a simple phone call and we will send someone else out. You don’t have to give us a reason at all because there’s personality conflicts with the greatest of people; they just don’t see eye to eye.
Do the people you refer provide the transportation or do they take the family’s car? Are they paid by the mile if they use the car?
All of the above. If we take their car, of course there’s no fee and we can drive them. If the caregiver uses her own car there is a charge which is just the government rate, I think 0.55 and a half cents now. They do add mileage to their hourly rate.
Do you have written policies for these people or contracts?
What we have is a contract with the caregiver since they are referred and they are actually paying us to keep them working. If they have to call in sick at 3:00 in the morning, they’re not calling the family, they’re calling me. I make sure someone else is there so you can still go to work. We do have guidelines that we require of them, things that just make me happy as far as what they wear and tattoos not showing, things like that. They are my guidelines. But as far as written rules, it’s whatever the family wants. Again, the family may say, “You can take Mom to the beauty shop” and that’s all or “Mom’s been dying to go see her friend at the VA in Salisbury, would you mind spending a day and taking her there?” And we’ll do it. A lot of times the family’s car is easier to get in and out of than the caregiver who might drive a big SUV or a little sports car that’s hard to get in and out of. So we’ll do whatever is best.
How can people pay for home care?
Home care is paid out of pocket or if their long-term policy will allow assignment back to the family, so the family is getting reimbursed for what they have paid. We can assist with that, but it is an out-of-pocket. We do not take Medicare, Medicaid, or private health insurance. Insurance might pay for some home health benefits, but they will not pay for the home care.
If you’d like to get in touch with Helping Hands, call them at the office at (704) 419-8222.
Call me if you have any questions:
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street, Shelby