Long-term care is something many people will need as they grow older. According to statistics, 52% of people aged 65 and older will need long-term care at some point in their lives. Most people prefer to have care provided in the comfort of their own home through home healthcare programs. However, caregiver availability is low.
Although home care needs are rising, U.S. home healthcare programs have been short-staffed for quite some time. This shortage is getting even worse due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Home health services are provided by organizations that accept private clients and Medicare clients. Regardless, these organizations are struggling to maintain revenue cycles while workers are either quitting or being laid off. Thankfully, healthcare consulting services can help home care organizations maintain profitability – even through the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s not clear how many home healthcare organizations are taking advantage of consulting firms, but if struggling organizations don’t do something soon, they may not make it.
How the coronavirus crisis is straining an already-strained home healthcare system
There are several ways the COVID-19 pandemic is straining the home healthcare system.
- Fear is reducing worker availability.
While home health patients fear contracting the COVID-19 disease from their caregivers, they also fear giving the virus to their patients. Some patients are so scared of contracting the virus that they’re canceling routine home health visits. This takes away vital hours from caregivers and home health aides. When workers don’t have enough hours to pay their bills, many either go on unemployment or get a different job.
- Supplementary services are unavailable.
States have shut down adult daycare centers, further restricting access to necessary care services. Some patients who use home healthcare services rely on a mix of state workers, family, friends, and adult daycare services to get all their needs covered. When just one of those components is unavailable, it makes care even more difficult.
Without access to adult daycare centers, some patients will try to get more home healthcare hours either by paying out of pocket or filing an appeal with Medicare. Although the state is required to provide adequate hours for each client, if workers aren’t available, they won’t get the extra hours they need.
- Workers might be providing lower quality care.
It’s understandable that a home health worker might not feel comfortable caring for a patient unless they have access to personal protective equipment (PPE). All home care workers are in the same boat as doctors and nurses facing the shortage of PPE.
Without PPE, some care workers might not feel comfortable performing tasks that require close contact like bathing and other personal hygiene tasks. It’s possible that some workers might be skipping tasks or performing incomplete tasks to avoid contact.
If clients aren’t happy with their home health aides, they’re going to complain to the home health organization and ask for a different worker. If their situation isn’t resolved, they might post negative reviews online about the company.
The extra strain on home health isn’t anyone’s fault
Nobody expected a pandemic to occur, and the extra strain on home health organizations isn’t anyone’s fault. Clients were already feeling the effects of the existing staffing shortage and that’s only being amplified by the pandemic.
The biggest problem home health clients face is limited resources and lack of coverage from Medicaid. Sometimes Medicaid denies necessary appeals for more hours. Without a successful appeal, many patients end up forced into nursing homes and care facilities.
Few home healthcare clients can afford extra hours
Although the state pays for a limited number of hours through Medicaid, additional hours must be paid for out-of-pocket. Most patients receiving home health care services are on a fixed income and can’t afford to pay out of pocket for just one extra hour of care each day. However, even if they had the money, getting additional home care hours would still be difficult due to the staffing shortage.
The future is uncertain
At the moment, the future of home health care in a post-coronavirus world is unclear. Hopefully home care organizations can consult with professionals to grow their workforce and revenue at the same time.
Thousands of people will need the home healthcare system to be intact when they get old enough to require services. Hopefully by then, the organizations will have recovered and found a solution to take care of their clients and workers at the same time.