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Home Care vs. Home Health Care: What’s the Difference?

7 minute readLast updated September 11, 2023
fact checkedon September 11, 2023
Written by Haleigh Behrman
Reviewed by Maureen Bradley, senior care expert and former community directorMaureen Bradley, a specialist with A Place for Mom, has advised families on senior care for 20 years.
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Home care and home health care may sound similar, but there are distinct differences. Home care offers nonmedical services, such as companionship and help with daily tasks like bathing and meal preparation. Home health care is prescribed by a doctor and provided by medical professionals. Differing costs and payment options also set these two care types apart. Understanding the costs, services, and benefits of home care and home health care can help you choose the best care for your loved one.

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What is home care?

Home care — sometimes called “in-home care” — means nonmedical services for seniors who require assistance with daily tasks. Levels of care can vary based on a senior’s specific needs, while the frequency may range from daily to weekly visits to provide the following services:

Home care providers, who are sometimes referred to as “personal care aides,” can be hired privately or through a home care agency.

Home care benefits

Home care aides can free up time for overwhelmed family caregivers and provide support for seniors who want to age in place but need:

  • Companionship
  • Help with cooking, cleaning, and other household duties
  • Transportation to and from activities and appointments
  • Help with personal care tasks

What is home health care?

Home health care is prescribed by a doctor as part of a patient’s care plan. Services are provided in a patient’s home by licensed medical professionals.

Home health care is typically arranged and provided through home health agencies and may include the following services:

  • Skilled nursing care provided by a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN), such as wound care, medication administration, and medical testing
  • Skilled therapy provided by a physical, occupational, or speech therapist[01]

It may also include supporting a person with stroke recovery or hip replacement recovery at home.

The benefits of home health care

Home health care benefits someone who has challenging medical needs or is recovering from an injury or illness. This could include seniors who:

  • Need monitoring after a medication change
  • Experience an overall decline in function and require rehabilitative therapies to regain their independence
  • Have recently been discharged from rehabilitation, the hospital, or a skilled nursing facility
  • Can’t travel to and from doctors’ offices safely due to fragile health conditions

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Comparing home care vs. home health care services

The following chart compares the services that are provided by home care and home health care. However, keep in mind that nonmedical and medical home-based services can be combined to provide a senior with comprehensive support.

Home-based serviceHome careHome health
Bathing/dressing assistanceYesNo
Bathroom supportYesSometimes
Health monitoringNoYes
Injections and IV therapiesNoYes
Meal prep or deliveryYesNo
Medical testsNoYes
Medication administrationNoYes
Medication remindersYesYes
Pain managementNoYes
Rehabilitative therapiesNoYes
Skilled nursingNoYes
Wound careNoYes

Cost of home care vs. home health care

Home care and home health care offer different levels of care, which are reflected in the different costs families should expect to pay for each care type.

Cost of home care

The national median cost of home care in 2023 is $30 per hour, based on proprietary data gathered from A Place for Mom’s home care provider network.[02] Factors such as location, state wage laws, and agency requirements can affect the cost of home care near you.

Cost of home health care

The amount a family will pay for home health care depends on the type of insurance they have and the level of care their loved one needs. Because home health care services are typically prescribed by a doctor, Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance plans will usually cover at least some of these costs if certain eligibility criteria are met.

Any needed durable medical equipment is often included in addition to services like injections, wound care, and physical and occupational therapy. Home health care providers may also assist individuals with ADLs and other homemaking tasks if these services are part of a senior’s care plan.[01]

Out-of-pocket home health care expenses are usually higher than home care expenses because the services provided are specialized and are provided by licensed medical professionals. However, the costs can vary by location, services, and the level of care required.

Paying for home-based care

The following list highlights the most common payment methods and the types of home care they cover.

  • Private pay is the most common way families pay for nonmedical home care. For home health care, this method is only necessary when a senior doesn’t have health insurance or meet the eligibility requirements for other types of coverage.
  • Long-term care insurance typically covers nonmedical in-home care and home health care, but policies vary.
  • Private health insurance plans may cover some of the cost of medically necessary home health care services, but they generally don’t cover personal care services.
  • Medicare covers home health care if a doctor certifies that a beneficiary is homebound and has a medical need for intermittent skilled services. Some nonmedical home care services may be covered, but only if a doctor recommends them in addition to home health services in a patient’s care plan.
  • Medicaid covers home health care services in all states for seniors who qualify. Many states have expanded access to home-based care options, including nonmedical home care services. However, coverage and eligibility requirements vary by state, and some programs may have wait lists.

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Combining home care and home health care

Families may find that one type of home-based care service doesn’t meet all the needs of a loved one.

For example, a senior may require home health care after a hospital stay. It’s also logical that while they recover at home, they may need support with ADLs or help with housekeeping. In that case, it may be necessary for them to receive both home care and home health care services simultaneously.

If a senior’s doctor prescribes home health care, they might also include home care services in the senior’s care plan if they are necessary.

Finding home health and home care services

Your loved one’s doctor or hospital social worker will likely be the main resource for finding home health care services. They’ll either arrange services through a Medicare-certified home health agency or furnish a list of providers to contact directly.

If home care is the right fit for your loved one, you have the option to hire an independent caregiver on your own or hire caregivers through a home care agency. Both approaches have pros and cons, but hiring independently often requires a family to be fully involved in every step of the process. An agency is typically more expensive, but their staff handles things like background checks, taxes and payroll, and finding replacement care when it’s needed.

A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors can help you explore home-based care options at no cost to your family. They can answer your questions about home care, assess your loved one’s needs, and guide you through the next steps of your search.


  1. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Home health services coverage.

  2. A Place for Mom. (2023). A Place for Mom Proprietary Home Care Price Index.

Meet the Author
Haleigh Behrman

Haleigh Behrman is a former copywriter at A Place for Mom, where she wrote articles on senior living community types and services, healthy aging, and caregiving tips and trends. Before joining A Place for Mom, she managed several community-focused print publications and a wedding magazine. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.

Edited by

Danny Szlauderbach

Reviewed by

Maureen Bradley, senior care expert and former community director

The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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