Comparing home health services: Home health care vs. home care

Home health care vs. home care: Breaking it down

Home health care and home care are two separate ways to help aging relatives manage their health while providing them with a high-quality lifestyle. Home health care provides clinical services, whereas home care provides non-clinical help with daily living. Understanding the difference can help you land the best-fit caregiver and determine the optimal way to pay for those services.

The chart below offers a general overview of the two types of care.

Rehabilitation therapy
Administers medication
Performs medical tests
Monitors health status
Meal preparation and delivery
House cleaning
Assistance with bathing, dressing and grooming
Reminders to take medicine
Skilled nursing
Pain management
Wound care
IV therapy and injections
Incontinence care
Toileting help
Covered by Medicare
Covered by Medicaid or Medicaid Waiver program ✓ * ✓ *
Private health insurance
Private pay
Long-term care insurance ✓ **

* Details vary by state

** If specified in individual policy

Services provided under each type of care

Home health care can help with an individual’s medical care. Typically, a prescription from a doctor will be required to obtain these services, which are then administered by a health care professional, like a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse or a therapist. Home health care often includes the administration of medication, medical testing, caring for a wound or injury, help with recovery from an illness and different types of therapy, including physical, occupational and speech-language.

Home care focuses on providing the elderly with assistance in their daily activities. You might also see home care referred to as personal care, companion care, homemaker services, custodial care, unskilled or non-clinical care. Depending on the individual’s needs, a home care aide might assist with meal prep, laundry, light housework, bathing, dressing, eating, using the bathroom, transportation and mobility. They may also help alleviate loneliness by providing  companionship.

It’s important to note that the fields can overlap. Oftentimes, a home health care company may also provide personal care for an individual if it’s part of their care plan.

When to use in-home care services

Because of the medical nature of its services, home health care is usually needed after someone has been hospitalized, is undergoing rehabilitation or is transitioning out of a nursing facility. It can also be used when there has been a change in medication that needs to be closely monitored. If you’ve noticed a considerable decline in health and functioning, home health care can also provide the necessary therapy to help a senior regain independence and work on skills needed for day-to-day care.

Alternatively, older adults who don’t require substantial medical attention may benefit from home care if they need help driving or with transportation, require assistance with grooming and cooking or simply need companionship because they live alone.

How much do they cost?

If prescribed by a physician, Medicare will pay for skilled services at home — such as therapy and nursing. Medicaid may also be an option for qualified individuals. Eligibility for Medicaid coverage varies greatly from state to state, but it’s usually dependent on income and medical need for care.

Both home health care and home care can be paid out of pocket by the individual (also known as private pay). For home care, paying out of pocket is common for families where Medicaid and long-term insurance cannot be applied.

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