Although aging inevitably carries particular challenges, most people prefer to stay in their own homes rather than live in an assisted living or nursing facility. A recent national survey found almost 90 percent of those over 50 want to “age in place” in their private home.

Thriving at home is possible for anyone struggling with physical or mental limitations. With the proper assistance, your loved ones can stay safe as they keep the highest level of independence possible in the surroundings they love.

To ensure your loved ones get the in-home assistance they need, it’s essential you understand the difference between home care and home health care. Although both services provide care and support in the comfort of your loved one’s home, the focus of each is distinctly different. Your loved one may need one or both types of professional services.

What is Home Care?

Caregiver staff provides home care in a client’s private residence, focusing on keeping them safe in their familiar surroundings while assisting them with personal needs. Even though home care, also called personal or companion care, is nonmedical, it can be highly beneficial for those with physical or mental impairments. Typically, personal care aides or home health aides deliver home care services.

Home care services may include:

  • Companionship.
  • Help with activities of daily living (ADLs) — toileting, bathing, grooming, dressing, walking, and transferring.
  • Help with household tasks — housework, shopping for and preparing meals, laundry, pet care, and errands.
  • Medication reminders and management.
  • Transportation to social outings or appointments.

Personal aides may deliver respite care, meaning temporarily, to give family or other caregivers time off, or they may have a regular short- or long-term schedule. Depending on your loved one’s needs, their care aide or aides can work a few hours a day, all day, overnight, on a weekday or weekend schedule, or any combination of days and hours.

Medicare and most private insurance policies do not cover home care, so expenses are typically out of pocket. Veteran’s benefits, Medicaid, and long-term insurance will pay for home care services in some situations.

What is Home Health Care?

Home health care is skilled medical care delivered in the home (which includes a private residence, assisted living, or nursing home) for those recovering from an acute medical condition or living with a chronic disease. Health professionals who may deliver home health care include nurses, physical therapists, and providers of medical social services. Home health aides may also provide certain services if your loved one receives skilled services concurrently.

Medicare typically covers the following home health care services if a doctor has ordered the services and your loved one is homebound. Medicare specifies that “homebound” means the person needs help to leave home, and their doctor verifies the person’s health could worsen if they go out unattended. Even if a person qualifies as homebound, they can leave for medical treatment, religious services, to attend an adult day care center, and for other reasons.

Home health care services may include:

  • Companionship (although their primary function is to deliver medical services, home health personnel can still help fulfill your loved one’s social needs).
  • Help for those recently discharged from the hospital or a rehabilitation center who are recovering from an acute condition such as surgery, injury, or illness.
  • Help with chronic medical conditions like diabetes.
  • Physical, occupational, or speech-language pathology.
  • Medication management or administration.
  • Wound care.
  • Injections, such as osteoporosis medication.
  • Durable medical equipment.
  • Home medical supplies.
  • Other skilled nursing care.

Medicare may cover skilled nursing care and home health aide services up to seven days a week and eight hours a day for up to 28 hours a week. Medicare requires your homebound loved one to be evaluated and recertified every 60 days to continue receiving home health care.

What Are the Key Differences Between Home Care and Home Health Care?

While both types of care take place in the person’s home, key differences include:

Home care

  • Help with ADLs and household tasks.
  • Companionship.
  • Does not include medical care.
  • Most home care is private pay, so there are no eligibility requirements, maximum number of hours, or predetermined length of care. Some long-term policies, Medicaid, and Veteran’s benefits cover home care.

Home health care

  • The focus is on medical care ordered by a physician.
  • Nurses or therapists provide skilled care.
  • Home health aides may assist with ADLs.
  • Medication management, including injections.
  • Medicare and private insurance may restrict the number of hours covered.
  • Usually paid by Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance if the person meets eligibility requirements.
  • Continues as long as the senior meets eligibility requirements.
  • Care may be provided in a private home, assisted living, nursing home, or group residence.

Deciding What Type of Care Your Loved One Needs

Many elderly or disabled people can benefit from both types of home care services. If you have noticed a decline in your elderly loved one’s physical or mental health, it’s critical you discuss your concerns with their health professional. Their doctor or physical therapist will help determine if home health care is appropriate and whether it is care that is likely to be covered by insurance. Always verify coverage with your loved one’s health policy experts before deciding.

It can be trickier to decide what home care services are essential for your loved one’s safety and well-being and what schedule is most appropriate. Home care can effectively address many red flags you may have noticed with your loved one, including:

  • Increasing confusion or forgetfulness.
  • A recent fall.
  • Declining hygiene and grooming.
  • Weight loss.
  • Medication concerns. Are they taking medication as directed and refilling prescriptions? Note: This will be easier to track if you have set up a pill organizer and maintain a list of all prescription and OTC pills they take.
  • Overdue bill notices.
  • A cluttered or unclean home.
  • Loss of interest in activities or people previously enjoyed.
  • They seem anxious or depressed.

Although it can be difficult, start an honest conversation with your loved one about your concerns. Ask them if there are areas where they recognize they need some help. Assure them you respect their independence and will do everything you can to keep them in their home, but you need to know they are safe. Do your research to find the best home care and home health care that fits your loved one’s needs.

At Home Harmony provides the highest standard of home care and home health care, helping to fulfill the desire most people have to remain in their private homes despite physical or mental limitations.

Contact us today at 804-210-3103 or [email protected] for help identifying the services that will keep your loved one safe and thriving at home.