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Demand for home health care expected to keep rising

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, at 6:49 p.m.

Demand for home health care is expected to continue to grow in Wichita, reflecting national trends.

While the bulk of services are directed to elderly people, home health care businesses also work with people with disabilities.

“People will want to stay as long as they possibly can in their own home,” said Jay Stehley, owner of Interim Health Care of Wichita Inc. “If they have the means to pay for it … I think we’re going to see that trend continue.”

Home health aides can help with things such as housekeeping, grooming and meal preparation. Some are trained to provide speech or physical therapy, or are certified to administer medicine to clients, depending on their needs.

Nationally, the jobs outlook for home health aides is expected to grow by 69 percent between 2010 and 2020 with about 1.3 million jobs being added, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Different home health agencies have varying requirements for hiring home health aides and home health attendants, but aides are required by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to pass an exam and to take six to nine-week training courses, which are typically offered by career and technical colleges.

The median pay for home health aides in 2010 was $20,170 per year, or $9.70 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Interim Health Care has seen an increase of about 10 percent over last year in the demand for private duty home health services, for which clients pay out of pocket, Stehley said. Interim has added at least five full-time staff on the home health side in the last year.

Home care is increasing as an alternative to retirement communities and nursing homes, said Michael Steinberg, local franchise owner of Home Instead Senior Care.

“Certainly population growth has something to do with it, and it’s certainly something that’s been growing for a long time,” Steinberg said. “There are a lot of seniors that really do need someone to help.”

But he also thinks the economy has played a role.

“People are becoming more secure in the idea they can spend money on their own care,” Steinberg said.

Home Instead has seen a 52 percent growth in revenue locally since this time last year, he said.

“We’re always hiring,” Steinberg said. “We have about 60 employees on staff, and we’re adding an additional five or six per month to keep up with demand.”

Stehley said he has seen growth in the Medicare area and hospice, but not for Medicaid patients because reimbursement rates are stagnant and Medicaid dictates what services are provided and mandates prior authorization.

Medicare reimbursements, in contrast, have been growing.

Anthony Ndungu, administrator for Home Health of Kansas, said they have between 30 and 40 employees and also have hired five or six in the last year to keep up with demand.

Ndungu said he expects the growth to continue. The company used to have to explain services and seek out clients, he said, but now people call the company and they already have an understanding of the services offered.

“People are more tech savvy,” he said. “They go online and try to find out what services are out there.”

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com.

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