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

Caregiver helping an elderly man in a home care situation
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By: Claire Samuels, staff writer

The terms “home care” and “home health” sound similar, but they provide distinctly different services. Home care offers non-clinical help, such as meal prep and companionship, while home health provides professional medical assistance. Another difference is that home health is generally covered by Medicare or private insurance while home care isn’t.

Both types of care, however, are available to your loved one in the comfort of their home, and can be tailored to fit their needs.

Home health care

Home health care is clinical, medical supervision provided by a licensed professional. Registered and licensed practical nurses, occupational therapists, and physical therapists can all provide home health care, often through home health agencies, or in some cases, hospice agencies. This type of care is usually prescribed by a doctor as part of a senior health care regimen following hospitalization or injury. It can include:

  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Administration of prescription medications or shots
  • Medical tests
  • Monitoring of health status
  • Wound care

Who can benefit from home health?

  • Seniors recently discharged from rehabilitation, a hospital stay, or a skilled nursing facility
  • Elderly people who need monitoring after a recent medication change
  • Loved ones whose fragile health prevents them from safely traveling to and from doctors’ offices
  • Seniors experiencing an overall decline in function who could benefit from occupational or physical therapy to regain independence

Home care

Home care provides compassion and help for seniors who need assistance with daily activities. Levels of care vary by need, and can span from weekly meal prep to incontinence help. Home care aides are trained to understand the nuances of senior care, but are generally not licensed to provide medical services. Senior home care services include:

  • Companionship — reading aloud, chatting, and in-home activities
  • Transportation to appointments
  • Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like dressing, bathing, and grooming
  • Meal preparation or delivery
  • Cleaning and organizing
  • Help with bills or financial management

Who can benefit from home care?

  • Seniors who need help with activities of daily living (ADLs), from bathing to using the restroom
  • Elderly people who are still active but require transportation to and from activities and medical appointments
  • Loved ones who would like help with cooking, cleaning, and other household responsibilities
  • Seniors who need companionship or feel isolated at home

Combining in-home care services

Often, families find that a combination of home health and home care is beneficial for their loved one. Health professionals are able to provide medical services, while care aids assist with everyday activities. This holistic approach ensures that seniors’ emotional and medical needs are both met.

Paying for home health and home care: what does Medicare cover?

As you know by now, home health generally falls under the umbrella of medical services, while home care involves daily personal assistance. Insurance tends to cover these types of care accordingly:

  • Medicare and private insurance plans cover home health when prescribed by a physician. Ask your loved one’s doctor about home health if you think it would be beneficial. This service is available to any senior who qualifies for Medicare.
  • Medicaid covers both types of care for income-qualified seniors though coverage amounts vary by state.
  • Private Pay is common for home care, but is only necessary for home health that hasn’t been ordered by a physician.
  • Long-Term Care Insurance covers home care only if it’s included in your loved one’s plan. Check with their insurance agent for specifics.

Comparison of payment options for home health and home care.

Home health and home care services comparison chart

This chart further outlines services offered by home health professionals and home care aides.

Comparison of services offered by home health and home care.