Dec 22

Help for Living Independently

By: DILLON KATO

Recovering at home from a surgery or other injury is shown to lead to faster rehabilitation times and is also a cost effective measure. It’s also never been easier for a patient to use this method of healing. 

Home health services are one way to integrate health and wellness experts into your normal home routine, said Jen Krum, executive director of First Choice Home Health in Bozeman. First Choice operates two types of in home care, a skilled health service and a more custodial focused experience that assists with bathing, meal preparation and light housekeeping.

The skilled health service includes registered nurses as well as physical and speech therapists who can come to the home of a patient with the goal of helping them return to their health baseline following surgery or illness.

“I like to say it’s about regaining and maintaining their independence,” Krum said.

Unlike hospice care, the home health First Choice offers is about recovery and trying to get a person back to being fully independent. Krum said it’s all about having them be safe in their own homes, and preventing another health downturn.

The difference between having therapy sessions, for example, be conducted in the home as opposed to at another facility, is one of safety and comprehensiveness. Having a person who just had a hip replacement surgery and needs to do physical therapy have to get into their car, drive, walk across an icy winter parking lot, and do all that again in reverse can be dangerous.

Medicare has a “homebound” regulation to be able to pay for in home health services, Krum said.

“A lot of times that conjures up images of bed bound, but truly, if they need assistance of another person, specialized equipment or special transportation to leave the home, that counts as homebound,” she said. “If you’re questioning it, mostly likely the person does qualify.”

The other benefit of home health services is that multiple specialists can all see a patients together. A nurse can come to check on medications or look at a wound, therapists can do their walk and communicate with other health staff directly, and custodial help can ensure a patient is able to shower and get dressed comfortably and safely.

“We have a case conference where everyone is in the same room, sharing their cumulative knowledge,” Krum said. “it makes sense, people heal better in their homes, not exposed to the same pathogens of public, and we take care of insurance, billing, the whole situation.”


First Choice also has around the clock registered nurses on call who can look at a patient’s records and medications to make sure they are doing what their doctors had asked of them.

Apart from recovery from surgeries or other injuries, Krum said home health is also useful for patients recently diagnosed with chronic conditions like heart failure, diabetes or COPD.

“There is a lot of teaching to be done. Our nurses can go in and teach a step by step approach with a patient and family members,” she said. “It’s about setting them up for some success. There’s a feeling of ‘Well, I have to go to the nursing home now.’ No, not at all. This can save them money and keep them home.”

Even for patients who do choose to enter an assisted living facility, First Choice can still be hired to come in for one-on-one devoted care, which can be less expensive and more targeted to individual needs.

For seniors who have had an injury as well as those that are healthy, simple changes to their homes can help to prevent future incidents, including falls. Bathrooms are an area where falls are common, and companies like Kalispell Medical Equipment can help install tools and equipment to make it safer.

Grab bars are one inexpensive way to provide a stability boost in a bathroom. While they might only cost a few hundred dollars, they can prevent a future hospitalization from a fall that can be far more expensive. Grab bars have recently began being produced in decorative styles to better blend into existing decor of a person’s bathroom and make them a more subtle addition.

Kalispell Medical Equipment also installs tub transfer benches, which is an easy solution to allow a person to get in and out of a bathtub. This mitigates the need to remove an entire existing tub to install a shower stall or walk in tub.

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