What are the differences between Home Care and Home Health?

Most older adults desire to “age in place.” What do we mean by this? Aging in place is a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice, for as long as they are able, as they age. This includes being able to have services brought into the home as care needs change. Services needed as one “ages in place” often include home care and home health care.

The terms “home care” and “home health care” sound similar, yet they provide distinctly different services. How does one know what’s needed and when? Who pays for what?

What is Home care?

Home care, also known by the terms “personal care” or “private duty care”, offers non-clinical help and personal care assistance. These services may include meal prep, light housekeeping, medication reminders, errands, transportation, as well as companionship.

What is Home health care?

Home health care, on the other hand, provides professional medical assistance. Skilled services are necessary, such as administration of injectable medications, or physical/occupational/speech therapies. People who qualify for home health may need help managing a chronic medical condition or they could need help recovering from hospitalization, injury, or illness.

Home care caregivers are often Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) or have no formal training, whereas home health representatives are Nurses, licensed Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, Social Workers, and Home Health Aides.

How are they different?

Home care services are typically 4 to 24 hours per day, up to 7 days a week. If an individual is receiving home health services, patient visits are intermittent (often for one hour), 1 to 5 times per week.

A physician order is not needed to begin Home Care services because it is paid privately or through long-term care insurance. A physician’s order is required to initiate home health care because Medicare or private insurance is billed.

Consider these examples:

Frank is an 84-year-old man who lives independently, but does use a walker and no longer drives. Frank’s wife was always the family cook, but now that she has passed away and Frank is not up to the task of preparing nutritious meals for himself. Frank has hired a home care caregiver 4 hours/day to provide meal preparation, medication reminders as well as transportation as needed. He pays for these services directly. 

Elaine is an independent 82-year-old, who recently suffered a mini-stroke resulting in a fall which broke her hip. After spending 10 days in rehab, she has returned home, but still requires therapy. She qualifies for home health care. Physical, occupational, and speech therapists are visiting her in her home 2x/week and are helping her regain her strength and mobility so she can safely remain living in her home. Medicare pays for these services.

The decision to “age in place” requires a solid long term care plan. Hurley Elder Care Law can help you and your family create a plan to help take some caregiving responsibilities off family members while providing necessary care. Call us at 404-843-0121 to discuss your situation.


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