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Home Health vs Home Care

Home Health Worker with Senior

Home care and home health are distinct types of care which are both provided in a home setting, but most people aren't aware of the differences and use these terms interchangeably. The key difference is that "home care" is non-clinical care and "home health" is clinical care.

Home Health Care

Home health care is clinical medical care provided by an registered nurse, occupational therapist, physical therapist or other skilled medical professionals, and is often prescribed as part of a care plan following a hospitalization.  

Home Health Services

Home health care services include:

  • Therapy and skilled nursing services
  • Administration of medications, including injections
  • Medical tests
  • Monitoring of health status
  •  Wound care

When to Use Home Health

Situations in which home health is prescribed include:

  • Following an inpatient hospitalization, rehabilitation, or a stay at a skilled nursing facility - to help the senior transition back to independence
  • When a senior has had a recent medication change, in order to monitor for side effects and assure a new medication is effective
  • When seniors experience an overall decline in functioning - in order to help them to regain independence through therapy or learning new skills to compensate for their deficit

How to Pay for Home Health

Since it is considered medical care, home health is covered by medical insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid.

  • Covered by Medicare when prescribed by a physician
  • Medicaid for qualified individuals
  • Private pay (in rare cases when home health is not prescribed, but a senior desires such services)

Home Care

Home care is provided by caregivers, usually called home care aides, who are trained to understand the nuances of senior care. Home care aides can help older adults with activities of daily living, or just offer some friendly companionship. Unlike home health, home care is classified as personal care or companion care and is considered "unskilled" or "non-clinical."

When to Use Home Care

You might consider hiring a home care aide for older adults who:

  • Need assistance with activities of daily living ranging from grooming to meal preparation
  • Do not drive and require transportation
  • Live alone, may be at risk for social isolation and need companionship

How to Pay for Home Care

  • Private pay
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Medicaid for qualified low-income seniors

Home Care Services

Services provided by home care aides may include:

  • Meal preparation
  • House cleaning
  • Helping dressing, bathing and grooming
  • Transportation
  • Reminders to take medicine
  • Help with bill paying

Home Health & Home Care Comparison

The charts below highlight some of the differences between home health and home care, both in terms of services provided and method of payment:

Services Comparison

ServicesComparison Chart

Payment Options Comparison

Payment OptionsChart

Combining Services

Home health and home care are not mutually exclusive services. Many families find that utilizing these services in tandem best help a senior who, for example, is recovery after a hospitalization. The home health staff address clinical and rehabilitative needs during the transition home, while a home care aide can help with personal caregiving and household chores that the senior requires assistance with during his or her recovery.

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