Most people do not know the difference between home healthcare and home care, or a home health agency versus a home care agency.  You might even search the above terms on Google and get nearly the same search results, which can be even more confusing.  The reality is that unless you have prior experience in receiving in-home services or you work in the senior healthcare industry then there is no reason to be educated on the subject.  It's not as if they teach senior healthcare 101 in high school alongside algebra and chemistry.  People only familiarize themselves with the above terms when they reach a point in their life, or their parent's lives, when making a decision about in-home care is required.  If you're reading this article, that very well might be your situation.  Below is a detailed description of both home healthcare and home care.

Home Healthcare

Home healthcare, also known as skilled care at home, refers to medical and rehabilitation services provided to a homebound patient by a home health agency.  These services are usually administered by a registered nurse (RN) or licensed therapist; although social workers, home health aides, certified nursing assistants, and care managers might work alongside for additional support.  Home healthcare services typically include:

  • Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy
  • Skilled Nursing
  • IV Therapy
  • Pain Management
  • Wound Care
  • Medication/Prescription Management
  • Social Work

In order to receive home healthcare one must have a written prescription from a physician. Furthermore, the home health agency providing care must adhere to the medical plan put forth by the prescription.  The reason is a prescription is required is because most home health agencies are Medicare certified, which is important for the following reasons:

  1. Medicare helps pay for medical home healthcare, although there are private pay and 3rd party insurance options available.
  2. Medicare will only pay for a certain length of time.  To continue to receive Medicare benefits a physician must update and approve your home healthcare plan every 60 days with a written prescription.
  3. Various non-medical home care services are paid for such as bathing, grooming, laundry services, transportation, etc.  Medicare discontinues paying for non-medical services once the prescription has expired.
  4. Home Health Agencies that are Medicare certified must meet specific Federal guidelines and standards regarding patient care.

There are countless reasons why a senior citizen would require medical home healthcare.  Several common situations include: the need for extended therapy after being discharged from a nursing home or short-term rehab facility,  post-surgery rehabilitation, post-emergency room care, a recommendation from your physician following a check-up, and care for a degenerative disease such as a stroke, Parkinson's Disease, ALS, etc.

Home Care

Home Care, commonly known as custodial care or homemaker services, refers to  non-medical, non-rehabilitative, and non-skilled services provided to homebound patients by a home care agency.  The purpose of home care is to help individuals remain independent, healthy and happy through non-medical services such as companionship and assistance with activities of daily living.  Care is usually administered by a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or home health aide, although supervision is commonly overseen by a registered nurse.  Home care services include:

  • Homemaking Services - laundry, cooking and housekeeping 
  • Companion Care
  • Personal Care - assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grooming, feeding, hygiene, continence care, and mobility
  • Incidental transportation to doctor appointments and errand running
  • Medication Reminders

Non-medical home care services are not covered by Medicare but rather are paid for through private pay and long-term care insurance.   Unlike their home health counterparts, non-medical agencies are not Federally regulated but instead licensed and regulated on the state level.  For that reason, when choosing a home care agency you should also perform research on the regulations and policies for the state you are seeking service.  

Article written by Alex Milzer with the Senior Directory, LLC on 11.9.14