Healing at Home
Over the past year and a half, some of our most vulnerable populations — those who are elderly, disabled or suffering from chronic health conditions — faced an uncertain and distressing environment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have relied heavily on home care professionals as our nation grappled with this health crisis.
November is National Home Care and Hospice Month, and we would like to pause for a moment to recognize and appreciate the heroes in home care.
Home care connects patients with services across many specialties to allow them the opportunity to maintain an independent lifestyle or continue therapies from the comfort of their own home. UF Health Shands HomeCare can assist homebound seniors and those in need with daily duties or caregiving.
Eileen Branham, a licensed physical therapist for UF Health Shands HomeCare, finds that patients with almost every diagnosis can benefit from home care — especially physical therapy.
Physical therapists work to help patients maintain functional independence at home, she said, including getting in and out of bed, moving safely around their home, establishing home exercise programs and addressing balance deficits.
“Patients with every diagnosis can benefit from HomeCare,” Branham said. "We see patients post-surgery, patients recovering from trauma or recent stroke, patients with various neurological conditions (including Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and dementia), and patients with balance disorders or generalized weakness from recent illness. The variety of patients I care for is one of the things I love most.”
UF Health Shands HomeCare offers programs tailored to patients’ needs. In addition to traditional home care services, our team of highly skilled specialists can help those who need medical treatment at home while recovering from surgery and can provide ongoing care for a long-term illness, continued care after a stay in a rehab facility, disease management or help with daily living tasks.
Services include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, social workers, home health assistance and telehealth monitoring.
Sue Hoffmann, MS, CCC-SLP, COS-C, CDP, is a speech pathologist providing speech and language services to patients. What she enjoys most is the opportunity to develop a more personal connection to her patients.
“You see a personal side of someone when you see them in their home, meet their family and see their lifestyle. This helps me better customize a plan to keep them safe and independent in the place they want to be — their home.”
UF Health Shands HomeCare offers a wide array of support services and assistance, much of it covered by insurance and Medicare. Despite that fact, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made many patients fearful of having someone come into their home. Many requested to cancel services altogether, which is difficult for a health care provider to accept when they know how valuable these services are to the patients they treat.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long until patients realized the benefit of having a provider come to their home rather than visiting a busier clinic with the potential for more exposure.
Branham explained, “We were able to monitor patients at home, reducing their exposure and still being able to safely provide services. We were also able to update their doctors on their needs without the patient having to go into the community.”
The pandemic has still presented challenges for therapists. Changes have been implemented, such as wearing full personal protective equipment, or PPE, when visiting someone’s home. This presented its own challenges for Hoffmann as a speech therapist since masks can muffle speech and obscure gestures and facial expressions that enhance communication.
“A large part of our training as speech pathologists is to adapt our care to the needs of our patients. Although COVID-19 has created more opportunities to think outside the box, my care hasn’t really changed — I simply do so while wearing more PPE,” Hoffmann said.