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Home Care vs. Community Care: How to Decide What’s Right for Your Family

9 minute readLast updated October 11, 2022
Written by Melissa Bean

When a loved one faces challenges to their health or independence, they may need some extra support to maintain their quality of life. Your loved one’s care can take place at their residence through home care services or in a group setting through community care. Learn more about each care setting, their benefits, projected costs, and how to find appropriate care for your loved one.

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What is home care?

Home care is care delivered to your loved one in the place they call home. This type of care is typically more personalized as the caregiver has a 1-to-1 relationship with their client in the client’s personal residence. Home care agencies hire caregivers that can support people with a variety of everyday needs. Most home care caregivers offer services like the following:

  • Activities of daily living (ADLs) assistance
  • Companionship
  • Light housekeeping
  • Meal preparation
  • Transportation
  • Scheduling appointments and activities

This type of care is almost always non-medical in nature. Home care may also be referred to as homemaker services.

Home care vs. home health care

While home care and home health care may sound very similar, these two care types are distinct from each other. Unlike home care, home health care focuses on the medical needs of the client. Home health care services are usually provided by a licensed nurse. Home health care costs may overlap with the costs of palliative care at home. Some home care agencies have nurses on staff that can also provide home health care, if needed.

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What is community care?

Community care is care received in an assisted living facility, residential care home, or nursing home. Such communities offer a supportive atmosphere for people with a variety of care needs. Though, community care typically has a lower caregiver-to-client ratio than home care. In some communities, there may be one caregiver to 15 residents per shift.

Community types

There are several types of community care options for people in need of care. These include the following:

  • Assisted living. Communities that fall under this type can be very generalized or very specialized. Though it’s a catch-all term, these types of communities typically have many residents and offer assistance with ADLs, convenient services, programs, and activity schedules. Assisted living communities are usually staffed around the clock.
  • Residential care home. These types of care communities are residential homes with several bedrooms where residents live alongside caregivers in a family-style environment. Caregivers are staffed to assist the residents around the clock. Though, these homes typically have a higher staff-to-resident ratio than larger assisted living facilities, so caregivers are enabled to form a more personalized relationship with each resident. The care services available at care homes are specific to each home, ranging from basic assistance with ADLs to advanced medical care.
  • Memory care. Memory care communities may be standalone entities or may be secured memory care units within an assisted living community. The care offered here is specialized for people with memory issues caused by Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. The living environment usually offers a secure atmosphere with human-centered design and 24/7 supervision to make living with memory impairment safer and easier.
  • Nursing home. While a nursing home is also often used as a catch-all term, it’s actually a very specific care setting. It only applies to communities that provide skilled nursing care for people who have advanced medical care needs. These communities may also be referred to as skilled nursing facilities and provide medical support and around-the-clock supervision. Like memory care, some assisted living communities as well as care homes may have skilled nursing care services on-site.

What should I consider when looking at care types?

When trying to determine what care is appropriate for your loved one, you need to consider several factors. To start the process, evaluate the following:

  • What is your loved one’s overall mental and physical health condition?
  • Do they have any serious or chronic illnesses that require additional support?
  • Do they need non-medical or medical support?
  • Do they need occasional care or round-the-clock care?
  • Do they enjoy a quiet atmosphere or a more social atmosphere?
  • Do they prefer to remain in a familiar environment, or are they open to moving?
  • What is the budget for care? Who is paying for care and how?

Once you review these points, you’ll have a clearer picture of your loved one’s unique situation, needs, and preferences.

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Who would benefit from home care?

Those who prefer to stay in their homes for longer may be a good fit for home care under certain conditions. A person may benefit from home care if the following are true:

  • They have no major medical issues.
  • They can handle medical needs by themselves.
  • They don’t need 24-hour supervision.
  • They enjoy the flexibility of setting their own schedule.
  • They want highly personalized care.
  • They don’t have significant memory loss.
  • They enjoy living a quieter life or are an introvert.
  • Their home environment is appropriate for their limitations.
  • Their home features a safe working environment for a caregiver.

Who would benefit from community care?

People may find community care a good fit if they prefer a more social atmosphere or need an elevated level of care and resources. Your loved one may benefit from community care if the following are true:

  • They have medical issues that need extra support.
  • They need round-the-clock support or supervision.
  • They don’t mind their schedule being set by their caregivers.
  • They like the idea of being part of a community composed of their peers.
  • They have memory loss issues that impact their daily life and need a secure atmosphere.
  • They enjoy participating in group activities and socializing on a daily basis.
  • They want to live in a lively atmosphere and utilize community amenities.
  • Their home environment is not safe for them or safe for a caregiver.

Home care vs. community care cost comparison

Home care typically charges on an hourly basis. Whereas, community care usually charges a monthly fee for residents. The median costs related to home care are calculated at a rate of 44 hours per week by the Genworth Cost of Care Survey. Compare home care and community care in the table below.[01]

Care typeMedian daily cost*Median monthly cost*Median yearly cost*
In-home care
Home care services (44 hours per week)$163$4,957$59,488
Home health services

(44 hours per week)

Community care
Assisted living facility$148$4,500$54,000
Nursing home (private room)$297$9,034$108,405
Nursing home (semi-private room)$260$7,908$94,900

*2021 data

It’s important to note that 44 hours of care per week does not equal around-the-clock care. In fact, 24/7 care across one week would total 168 hours. That said, the national median cost for 24/7 care (168 hours per week) for one month was $18,927 in 2021.

The flexibility of home care means there are many different scenarios with different cost outcomes, as shown in the table below.[01]

Possible home care scenariosWeekly hoursNational median monthly cost in 2021
2 hours of care / 4 days a week8$901
4 hours of care / 5 days a week20$2,253
8 hours of care / 5 days a week40$4,506

Additionally, home care does not cover a person’s basic living expenses. Whereas, in community care, basic living expenses are usually included in the cost.

Community home care: Can care types coexist?

Yes, community home care is always an option. If your loved one is already living in a community setting and is not satisfied with the on-site care services available to them, it’s possible for them to supplement with a third-party home care agency. Home care agencies are very agreeable when it comes to where their client lives, and a care community is no exception.

Here are just a couple of situations where community home care may be a great fit:

  • A senior in assisted living requires 24/7 support at the end of their life, but they don’t want to (or can’t) be moved to a community with hospice care. A home health care agency that offers hospice care may then be the best option.
  • A resident has social or medical appointments at a time when the community’s transportation service is unavailable, so the family hires a home care agency to transport and escort them instead.

How can I find care?

It can be challenging to know where to start when looking for care. Whether you are looking for home care or community care, the Senior Living Advisors at A Place for Mom can help you find care for your loved one, all at no cost to you. These advisors can also help families find home care for disabled or ill adults. Whatever your family’s needs, through our free service you can learn about the options available to you locally for home care or community care.


Meet the Author
Melissa Bean

Melissa Bean is a copywriter at A Place for Mom, where she primarily creates content for veterans and caregivers. She pairs over a decade of writing experience with expertise gained from her time as a military programs volunteer and military spouse. She studied journalism at the University of Kansas.

Edited by

Marlena Gates

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