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More Babies With Medical Needs Cared for in the Home

December 10, 2012
 
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For parents, the prospect of caring for a fragile baby can be daunting. Yet, an increasing number of children with complex medical needs are being cared for at home. Consequently, some Los Angeles County hospitals are taking measures to help parents cope with the logistical and emotional challenges of providing in-home care for their infants.

Hospital care can cost four times as much as in-home care, making finances one motivator for families to care for their babies in the home. In other cases, insurance covers a limited number of days in the hospital.

Regardless of the reason, "We make sure parents know exactly what they're getting into before the baby goes home," says Peggy Hoyt, a clinical care coordinator at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. She notes that home care training for parents begins even before the baby is discharged.

The type of home support a family may receive varies depending on the circumstances. Generally, a hospital team of health care professionals trained to work with babies who have serious medical needs will advise parents on whether equipment such as ventilators or feeding tubes are necessary. They can also provide recommendations for home care agencies if the baby will need nursing specialists in the house.

In addition, a hospital social worker can help parents living in dangerous or unsuitable conditions find more appropriate housing or address issues such as mold, pesticides or other potential hazards. "We will not discharge an infant to an unsafe environment," Hoyt says.

To ease the emotional strain of caring for a fragile infant at home, parents should learn as much as possible about their baby's condition and the different medications or medical devices she may need. It may help to enlist trusted friends and family for support with errands or chores. The goal, Hoyt says, is for caregivers or parents to recognize signs of distress and be fully competent in using medical equipment.

Most important, notes Hoyt, is the awareness that "in the middle of all that equipment, that's their baby, and she needs to be held, loved and nurtured."




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