Home Heath Care Boom

The Home Health Care industry has really taken off and industry analysts predict another boom is on the horizon.

Consider this: From 20-10 to 20-30, the number of baby boomers age 65 to 84 will grow by an estimated 80 percent. That alone will increase the need for more in-home medical services.

In the early days of Dr. Peyton Denman's practice some doctors made house calls or used nurse practitioners. Nowadays, licensed home health care providers are filling that void.

I've just been on this end of it, they weren't in existence when I was practicing," observed Dr. Denman during a recent visit from one of Memorial Health System's Home Care teams."

Once an Internal Medicine Specialist, Dr. Denman is now on the patient side of medicine. He's a part of a growing senior population that analysts say will assure the future customer base for home care services. His Home Care nurse is Rose Lamb. "I came and a gave you your shot every other week." "Oh yeah, that was a big job," responded Dr. Denman."Yeah, that was a big job," said Nurse Lamb.

New medical technologies, substantial cost savings, and patients' preference have caused this once-small segment of the industry to swell into one of the fastest growing parts of the economy. Those advances are also making it possible for patients to stay at home longer than ever. "We are a liaison between the patient and the doctor. We come out and evaluate and assess the patient's needs...condition. We report directly back to the physician any time we find anything with the patient's condition at any time," Nurse Lamb said.

Nurse Lamb says the ties to the home health patient are stronger, oftentimes developing into lifelong relationships. "I'll never forget Dr. Denman. We work toward getting those patients back to where they were prior to going to the hospital. Some of my cases are really hard. I see people who are living in very poor conditions and that's their personal choice. It's hard not separate your work from your personal life some times."

It's not a job for everyone.

Before Nurse Lamb can answer the question, "What's your greatest challenge in this job?." Dr. Denman chimes in "The patients." Nurse Lamb agrees. "Patients. Patients are actually the best and worst part of this job because you meet all different types of patients. I've gone into all different types of ("No, you love them all, Dr. Denman said.") situations and I did love them all, however, you have to wear a different hat and be a different person according to what that person needs and whatever those people's needs are, that's what we're out there to try and do."

There are more than 25-thousand home health care providers for nearly nine million people living with acute illness, long-term health problems, disabilities or terminal illness. That's according to the national association for home care. "A lot of times you're the only person that they see. You're the only person that they see the whole month and so if you can do something in that one visit to make them say, "Hey, you know what this world isn't all bad." She says Home Health Care is her calling and she advises anyone who is thinking about getting into the business to "Pray. Talk to someone who is in Home Health Care. Then think seriously about whether or not you can be that person."

Nurse Lamb, a recipient of the prestigious 2005 Achievement Award presented by the Texas Association for Home Care State Trade Association, admits the industry is not without its challenges. Home Health Care faces a shortage of registered nurses and home health care aides. Plus, there's a high rate of turnover, which is often the result of enormous paperwork and governmental regulations that add hours and stress to the job.

As with any business decision, medical experts advise that you should check the provider's performance and references before you make a commitment.