Home Care vs. Home Health Care

A home care provider is helping a senior woman use her tablet.

When you think about home care, you may assume home care and home health care are the same. But that’s not the case. Each service provides tools to assist you or your loved one in different situations.

Home care offers a range of services so you can enjoy living at home for as long as possible. Meanwhile, home health care is more suitable if you have a specific medical complaint. Read on to find out more about home health care vs. home care.

Differences Between Home Care and Home Health Care

Both home care and home health care services are designed to help older adults with the challenges of aging. We can help you choose the right level of senior care based on you or your loved one’s needs. 

See the table below for a simple comparison of home health care vs. home care:

Service Home Care Home Health Care
Doctor Prescribed  

Skilled Services  

Administer Medication  

Medication Reminders

 
Help with Activities of Daily Living

Personal Care – grooming, dressing, bathing

Home Therapy – speech, occupational, physical

Light Housekeeping

 
Transportation

 
Wound Care  

IV Care  

Injections  

Payment Options Private Pay, Long Term Care Insurance Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Benefits

 

What Is Home Care?

Home care services are non-medical and provide companionship and assistance with daily activities. Home care aides can provide bed baths, light housekeeping, help with dressing, assistance with those using disposable undergarments, meal prep, as well as transportation. 

These services can be provided from four hours a day up to 24 hours a day. You do not need a prescription from a doctor and you usually pay out of pocket, though some services may be covered through a long-term care insurance policy. 

It is possible for a total bed bound patient to receive help from a home caregiver, but additional help is needed to set up medication boxes or administer any sort of injections or therapy. 

What Is Home Health Care?

Home health care refers to medical skilled services that require a written order from a doctor. This type of care is usually ordered for someone who may be recovering from an injury or operation on a more short-term basis than home care. 

Patients are often coming home after a stay in a hospital or rehab facility and need extra support at home while they are recovering. All in-home therapy and IV treatments are included. 

This service is primarily paid for by Medicaid, usually up to eight hours a day, depending on the doctor’s orders. Medicare will cover a few skilled services, but normally not more than one or two hours per day.

Can You Get Both Home Care and Home Health Care?

Yes, it is possible to receive a combination of these two services and it is often beneficial to do so, as home health care cannot be provided 24 hours a day. 

When to Choose Home Care vs. Home Health Care

If you’re still feeling a little confused about which service is right for you, here are a few more differences between home care and home health care to help you choose the right level of care.  

When Home Care Is the Best Choice

At the most basic level, home care refers to any services that help to keep an individual safe and comfortable in their own home. Choose home care if:

  • You don’t need the home care aide to provide any specific healthcare treatments.
  • Children and grandchildren live too far away to schedule regular visits and home care services can offer peace of mind that your loved one is being cared for.
  • You want to help your senior loved one age in place
  • You are willing and able to pay for home care out of pocket. 
  • You want a significantly more affordable option than moving into an assisted living or nursing home community.

Note that non-medical home care services are not covered by insurance unless they’re advised by a doctor under specific, temporary circumstances. 

When Home Health Care Is the Best Choice

Home health care refers to home care that involves more skilled, medical assistance. Choose home health if:

  • Your loved one has a medical condition requiring assistance from a licensed medical care provider.
  • Your loved one is in some version of post-surgical or outpatient status, following their hospital, rehabilitation center, or skilled nursing facility stay.
  • Your loved one is unable to get to follow-up appointments on their own and/or unable to perform any of the basic recovery recommendations prescribed by their physician or surgeon.

Because the services are medical, they may be covered by Medicare, Medicaid and/or a private health insurance carrier, depending on the specifics of your case and the policy.

Popular Home Care Services

Home care services are available for older adults who find it hard to complete basic, day-to-day activities. Below are some common types of care and the benefits they bring.

Without this kind of assistance your loved one may be:

  • At risk for injury, which is why we also recommend making modifications to the home.
  • Malnourished, which is why we can help with meals.
  • More prone to depression and at risk of losing mental, physical, and emotional health, which is why we offer the support of compassionate caregivers.

Companionship

These home care services are highly popular because even those who enjoy living alone can get lonely. This loneliness often intensifies if you’re housebound or confined to your chair or bed. 

Companionship services may include: 

  • Attending social engagements together
  • Playing cards
  • Reading
  • Listening to music
  • Gardening
  • Walking the dog
  • Listening to stories
  • Crafting 
  • Any other activities that your loved one enjoys

Medication Reminders

Memory lapses are normal as we age, even without dementia or Alzheimer’s. Loss of memory can grow worse when seniors have been retired for a while because it’s easy to lose track of dates or days without a daily work routine.

Luckily, a home care aid can remind seniors to take their meds as prescribed and call in or pick up medication refills. (If you need medications to be administered, you will need a home health provider).  

General Housekeeping

Getting help with general housekeeping services can help seniors conserve energy so they have more interest and stamina for enjoyable activities and hobbies. Regular house cleanings also ensure living conditions are safe and sanitary.

Light housekeeping services may include: 

  • Cleaning the house
  • Changing sheets and doing laundry
  • Watering plants
  • Taking care of pets
  • Reorganizing closets and cabinets so they’re more accessible
  • Replacing burned out lightbulbs
  • Alerting responsible parties when maintenance issues need to be addressed

Grocery Shopping & Meal Prep

Cooking for one person is rarely any fun. It requires a lot of energy to prepare, cook and clean up. In addition, many seniors can’t get to the grocery store easily. 

If your loved one lives alone and can’t prepare healthy meals, they may be at risk of malnourishment, bone density loss and weakening of muscles and joints.  

Grocery and meal prep services ensure:

  • There are always healthy foods and snacks available.
  • There are delicious, easy-to-heat meals so your loved one has three square meals per day. 
  • Your loved one has company while they eat, which promotes better appetites.

Basic Hygiene and Toileting

Basic hygiene is another thing that can slip by the wayside as one day fades into another. Sometimes seniors have stiff joints or a fear of falling, which makes it more difficult to get dressed or take regular showers.

A caregiver is happy to assist with these basic, daily necessities:

  • Bathing and dressing
  • Styling hair
  • Trimming and filing nails
  • Putting on accessories
  • Any other task that can help your loved one feel like themselves again

Common Home Health Care Services

Home health care services are typically provided after a person has had an inpatient stay or an outpatient surgery. In this case, a doctor’s referral allows the client to contract with a licensed home health care agency who will send out the appropriate caregiver, ranging from RNs, LVNs, CNAs, and occupational or physical therapists.

Medical Case Management

What usually happens is that an RN is assigned as a medical case manager under the remote guidance of a physician. The manager will check-in regularly to monitor the patient, read caregiver notes, make changes as necessary, and discuss the case with the doctor if it’s felt further intervention or prescription changes are needed.

Under the RNs supervision, other members of the health care team provide medical care on a daily or multiple-days per week basis.

Depending on the medical treatment provided, home health care services include:

  • Wound care and dressing changes
  • Catheter care
  • Administration of medications
  • Intravenous (IV) care
  • Parenteral nutrition (PN)
  • Injections
  • Patient and caregiver education
  • Occupational and/or physical therapy
  • Medical equipment such as hospital beds, showering aids, oxygen, bedpans, etc.

This medical-care-at-home model provides care that is equivalent to the level of care provided by a hospital, outpatient surgical care center, rehabilitation center and so on, but it tends to cost less.

Studies show that the home health care services make a notable difference in hospital readmission rates. Plus, it’s a rare patient who prefers to recover in a hospital when home health care is an option.

Home Care vs. Home Health Care: Can They Overlap? 

It’s not uncommon for home care services to overlap with home health services. Sometimes the one leads into the other. Other times a person who had home health care services never fully recovers to their original “self.” Employing home care providers can improve their quality of life.

A Typical Example of Merging Care 

Here is a typical example of how home care services can merge with home health care services:

  • Let’s say Mary is an 80-year-old woman who enjoys bi-weekly visits from a home care provider. She’s employed the same caregiver for three years and they have an established, caring bond. She pays for these services herself.
  • Mary undergoes a knee replacement and experiences complications. The doctor allows her to return home but prescribes home health care services to help her with the recovery instructions and basic care that Mary isn’t able to perform on her own.
  • Any services recommended by her doctor for the recovery period may now be covered by her insurance, including home care services like bathing, hygiene, and meal prep, as well as medical home health care services from a licensed home health provider.
  • Once Mary is fully recovered, the doctor will sign off on the home health care aspect of her services. The medical care providers will phase out, while her home care provider will likely remain in place, and Mary will resume paying for the services out of pocket.

Next Steps: Exploring Home Care Services 

Do you have a senior loved one who would benefit from home care? Our services can help your loved one age in place and enjoy life at home for as long as possible. Our compassionate team will work with you to personalize our services to meet your loved one’s needs.

We’re also happy to partner with your existing home health care team to improve the level of care provided for your loved one. Our home care services can complement their current home health care services.

Learn about our Senior Home Care Services