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Team of Allies: A Glossary Of Certified Home Health Care Professionals

Your parents deserve the best care possible—and there may come a time when the level of care they require is greater than what you, as their child, can provide. Whether your parents need around-the-clock care or help managing daily errands, home health care allows them to retain their independence while remaining safe and comfortable at home. How can you tell which services are most appropriate for your parents’ needs? My recommendation is to consult your family physician or a home health care case manager who can perform assessments that will help you make an educated decision. A doctor or case manager can also help steer the conversation in a positive direction. This may be especially helpful when dealing with a parent who is resistant to the idea of receiving home health care services. Remember, the main goal is to avoid hospitalizations or in-facility stays, and home health care is one of the best ways to accomplish that. To give you a basic understanding of what home health care is all about, here is a glossary of the kinds of certified professionals who will work with you to ensure the health and well-being of your parents. Get to know these definitions, so that you can arrive at that first appointment with your doctor or home health care case manager prepared to have an informed discussion about all of the options available to you and your parents. Certified home health aides provide companionship and help with personal services, such as cooking, bathing, light housekeeping and errands. Under specific circumstances, they can also check vital signs and help keep track of your parent’s symptoms. Home attendants help with the basic activities of daily living—bathing, dressing, grooming, walking, eating, shopping, paying bills, doing laundry, taking a parent to his or her medical appointments. Licensed social workers assess a patient’s needs—whether they are physical, functional, emotional, environmental or social—and offer strategies and resources for support. Medical social workers assess patients and caregivers for the emotional strengths and weaknesses that may affect treatment and recovery, provide counseling and can recommend helpful community resources. Occupational therapists work with patients to help them strengthen or regain the fine motor skills they need to function in day-to-day activities, such as dressing and bathing. Physical therapists help increase balance, coordination and strength, and can recommend home safety improvements. Registered dietitians recommend changes to the kinds of foods a person eats based on an individual’s nutritional needs or any treatments that may affect the appetite. Rehabilitation therapists are clinicians, such as physical, occupational and speech therapists, who provide restorative treatments following an accident, illness or surgery. Respiratory therapists assist in the treatment of respiratory or pulmonary conditions. Speech therapists and speech language pathologists help people regain their ability to speak or understand speech after an illness, such as a stroke. For more information on the home health care professionals listed above or the services they provide, visit or