Home health care is often thought of for elderly patients, to allow them to reside at home while receiving ongoing nursing care or therapies. However, home health care can also be referred to for pediatric patients from infants to teens, with a wide range of medical needs from medically complex to short-term follow-ups after a hospital discharge.
There is a wide variety of at-home health care services that can be provided to children.
Children may have short-term or long-term needs for receiving life sustaining or healing drug infusions and injections at home. Short-term infusion needs are often for post-surgery drug infusions at home to help children heal safely without infections, or to provide hydration.
One example of long-term drug infusion needs is a child who has been diagnosed with hemophilia, a genetic blood disorder. A child with hemophilia has blood that does not clot properly, which means something like a cut or bruise could be harmful or life-threatening if they do not have immediate access to an infusion drug known as factor. After a hemophilia diagnosis, the child’s family is trained on how to provide the infusions or injections of the drug at home. Home health providers work with the child’s hematologist, a Hemophilia Treatment Center and their local Hemophilia Society to ensure families have the home health support and infusion training needed to keep their child safe at home or on the go.
Durable Medical Equipment (DME) or Home Medical Equipment (HME)
Pediatric patients may need feeding pumps, aerosol machines, ostomy, or pulmonary supplies, such as trach equipment and oxygen. DME/HME are designed to meet the special needs of patients at home. Often the equipment needs are as simple as crutches, a walker or wheelchair. Sometimes the needs are more complex; for example, home infusion pumps and supplies.
Home Health Nursing
At-home nursing care may be needed for an infant or child at home for a short (or intermittent) period of time, to help a patient transition to home with their family for healing post-surgery, or after being treated for an injury or ailment. If a child is medically complex and has long-term health care needs, private duty nursing may be prescribed to assist with safely providing 24/7 health care to the child at home. Private duty nurses provide instruction and support to the entire family, including siblings.
Skilled Therapy Services
Therapy services (occupational, physical, or speech) are provided at home to aid in recovery post injury or surgery, or assist a child with meeting long-term mobility, speech or daily living goals. Therapists work with parents to support the patient with a variety of age-appropriate therapies so they can thrive with their family at home. The therapy team may include music and massage therapy to address each individual child’s needs, making it easier for them to engage with their siblings and parents.
Home-Based Palliative Care and Hospice
Children with life-limiting illnesses may require home-based palliative care to manage long-term complex medical needs. The focus is on relieving pain and managing symptoms, allowing the patient to have dignity and enjoy as many typical childhood activities as possible. Physical, social, emotional and spiritual support is provided by an interdisciplinary care team, all focused on returning the child to the most normal, pain-free life possible.
Hospice is available to pediatric patients with a life-limiting diagnosis. Pediatric hospice recognizes that they are children who, although may have their life span cut short, still want to be a “kid” and be at home with their family and friends to participate in life, playing, laughing and learning. Trained pediatric hospice professionals, (nurses, pharmacists, social workers, therapists, chaplain, and volunteers) provide care and support, enable the pediatric patient to live each day to its fullest in their home, with the familiar sights and sounds of loved ones.
As with all pediatric home health care, all the providers on the team include the parents, siblings and other family members who are providing care for the patient at home.
What Makes Pediatric Home Health Care Unique?
Providers of home health care for pediatric patients are often providing care or instruction to the child’s family too. The nurse, therapist or social worker may need to train the child’s parent or guardian on continued care of the child or administration of medications once the visit is complete. If the patient has siblings, then they also often need to be considered and included when providing ongoing care to the child at home. If there is long-term treatment of therapy, a sibling may be included in providing that therapy.
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