Consider Visiting Nurses for Elderly Caregiving

Visiting nurses are becoming increasingly important in the care of the growing elderly population. Older patients who need ongoing medical care used to be cared for in hospitals and residential facilities, but a newer model of health care is keeping elderly patients who are capable of living at home, healthy, functional, and as active as possible.

These nurses take care of patients of all age groups with a wide range of health needs. Home health care is an affordable and comfortable way for patients to receive the medical care they need and many of the same services they'd receive in a hospital, in the comfort of their own homes and communities. 

Visiting nurses are usually registered nurses who evaluate patients' health needs, communicate directly with the patient's physician, help design an individualized treatment plan, and facilitate a home health team. That team might include a home health aide (who might help with bathing, cooking, cleaning, and other activities of daily living), physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, and sometimes even a physician who makes house calls. 

How do you find a visiting nurse?

  • Start at your physician's office. Once it's determined that a patient needs ongoing in-home medical care, your physician will provide resources and recommendations for choosing a home health agency and visiting nurses. 
  • Your hospital and insurance provider has lists of agencies with strong reputations and are covered under your insurance plan. Many hospitals have their own home health departments and visiting nurses who treat patients after discharge from the hospital or in place of inpatient care.
  • Contact Medicare, Medicaid, and your county health department for names of healthcare agencies.   
  • The Visiting Nurse Associations of American website's interactive map helps you locate visiting nurse associations, home health, and hospice providers in your area.
  • Research home health care and nursing agencies in your phone directory or online, but be sure to get and check references carefully. 

What will the visiting nurse do?

The amount and type of care a patient needs is very individualized and depends on the extent of her illness, the availability of family members to provide support, and the patient's own level of independence. Nurses work with patients and families to determine what additional services they might need. In some cases, when patients have serious medical problems, two or three nurses might be needed, to cover round-the-clock care.

The first visit includes a complete physical assessment, a lengthy interview, and lots of paperwork as the nurse gets to know his patient. He'll also have orders and instructions to follow from the physician for the type of care and treatments needed such as wound care, medication administration, catheter care, IV care, and pain management.   

Most home health agencies and visiting nurses do a great job at providing skilled, compassionate care to their patients, but not every nurse-patient relationship is a complete success. When personalities clash or other conflicts come up, a conversation between the patient, nurse, and a family member is usually all it takes to smooth things over and communicate the type of care a patient needs. If that doesn't solve ongoing problems, however, ask the agency to assign another nurse who might be a better fit. 


Visiting Nurse Associations of America
Find a Visiting Nurse Near You