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Jeanne Ryan: Home care is caring, cost-effective

Five percent of patients account for 50 percent of rising health care costs, and many of our country’s seniors and disabled oppose the idea of being placed in a nursing home or assisted living facility. According to a nationwide Gallup survey conducted for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, nine out of 10 adults would prefer to be cared for at home rather than in a hospital or a nursing home if diagnosed with a terminal illness.

As the name suggests, home care is health care provided in the home by licensed health care personnel and support staff. Hospice provides end-of-life care in the home or a facility for patients with terminal illness. Home care is cost efficient as well as effective. It costs Medicare $44 a day for a patient to receive home care — far less than the $559 Medicare spends on average for a day in a nursing home and the $1,932 it spends for just one day of hospital care.

Every year I go out into the field with the staff from the VNA & Hospice of Cooley Dickinson to make co-visits, so I can see the work they do and meet the patients we serve.

Inevitably, I hear from patients the many ways in which our staff have helped them to adjust to life with a serious illness, stay out of the hospital, or to help their loved ones spend their remaining days in the presence of those who bring them the most comfort. The nurses, physical, occupational and speech therapists, social workers and home-health aides provide services that allow patients to remain in the home, where they most want to be.

I have seen firsthand the dedication of these professionals, reaching their patients despite tornados, hurricanes and surprise snow and ice storms.

I am proud to say that I work with an incredibly talented and committed group of caregivers who provide high quality care every day in the homes of our neighbors, families and friends.

Jeanne Ryan is executive director of the VNA & Hospice of Cooley Dickinson in Northampton.

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