Six Questions to Ask a Home Health Agency About COVID-19

Is it still safe to use home care?

Author: Brenda Sweeney

Many caregivers such as home health aides are still caring for seniors and going inside patient’s homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has changed the way caregivers think about interacting and socializing with others.  

Home health and visiting nurse agencies provide health care services in a home for an illness, injury, or chronic illness that needs monitoring. Throughout the pandemic, many people are questioning whether having someone else is their home is the right decision. For those who need skilled medical care, like feeding tubes or wound care, they may not have a choice. And staying on top of a chronic condition can help prevent unnecessary hospitalizations, which bring their own increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.

As Hebrew SeniorLife’s Director of Quality for Home Health, we’re taking every precaution necessary to make sure home health workers are safe and reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 when they’re inside a patient’s home.

If you or your loved one is considering a home health agency, here are some questions you can ask to make sure they’re following proper protocols, and to make your care as safe as possible:

  1. What is your COVID-19 screening procedure? Ask any potential agency if they are screening employees for COVID-19 by doing temperature checks and assessing for other symptoms and/or exposures to virus. What policies are in place if an employee tests positive? Hebrew SeniorLife’s home health team has access to the organization’s occupational health experts for assistance with monitoring employee health and contact tracing, if necessary.
  2. What are your staffing levels? Does the agency have enough staff to cover if an employee calls in sick? If the home health agency is part of a broader health care system, like Hebrew SeniorLife, they may be able to draw staff from other areas to ensure that home health clients receive the care they need.
  3. What are the infection control policies? Are they following proper Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines?
  4. Do you have necessary personal protective equipment? It’s important that a home health agency has proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff are wearing masks, gloves, and face shields for all visits, and gowns when necessary per the policy of the home health agency.
  5. Are you able to test patients for COVID-19? Do you have sufficient supplies to be able to test a patient in their home if it’s requested by their medical provider? At Hebrew SeniorLife we are able to offer testing for active home health patients and with your physician’s order.
  6. What is your staff testing and vaccination policy? Is a surveillance testing program in place? The best home health agencies, including Hebrew SeniorLife’s, have instituted regular surveillance testing of staff to catch asymptomatic cases. And does staff have adequate access to the COVID-19 vaccine, now that home health workers in Massachusetts are eligible? How is the agency educating staff about the importance of receiving the vaccine? 

COVID-19 has significantly changed the landscape of health care in many ways but Hebrew SeniorLife’s Home Health is still a resource for you and your loved ones.

Our team is trained in managing transitions of care as patients’ needs change. We work with hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and community-based primary care providers to ensure care is coordinated so patients don’t need to return to the hospital. And, we’ve established best-in-class protocols for delivering care safely during a pandemic, including ensuring that all staff has access to proper PPE and uses it properly and consistently, and increasing the use of telehealth to minimize the number of people on the care team who are entering a patient’s home.  

Home health care is critical to helping seniors live safely in their homes, and with the proper precautions, it remains a safe option to help you return to health and independence.

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Hebrew SeniorLife is known for delivering the highest quality health care to older adults, and our in-home care services are no exception. Whether it's nursing care or rehabilitative therapies, we work closely with you to set personal goals for care.

Brenda Sweeney

About Brenda Sweeney

Director of Quality, Hebrew SeniorLife Home Health

Brenda Sweeney is Director of Quality for Hebrew SeniorLife’s Home Health. She completed her bachelor of science in nursing from St. Anselm College in New Hampshire. Prior to working for Hebrew SeniorLife, Brenda worked at Steward Home Care in different...

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