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Home Health Care vs. Non-Medical Home Care
The Differences of Home Health and Non- Medical Home Care

The significant difference between home health care vs. non-medical home care is the level of medically skilled care administered by the home health care staff. Home health is care given to patients at home by medically trained and licensed professionals. It is an alternative to receiving care in a nursing home or hospital to regain health and independence.

In-Home care allows individuals to age in place at home by offering custodial care, homemaker services, in-home care, and companionship services. Family members, private caregivers, or caregivers employed by home care agencies, a licensed agency that holds a Home and Community Support Services License provide the care at home.

Home health targets are recovering patients who are ill with a chronic condition like heart failure or an acute health condition like surgery for a hip replacement, or has an injury. Home health care permits early discharge from a hospital, reduces hospital admissions and assists with rapid recovery. It's less expensive, more accessible and as effective as care from a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

Home Health Care vs. Non-Medical Home Care

Home Health Care

The services of home health, prescribed by a physician, and administered by a nurse, home health aide, certified nurse assistant, licensed vocational nurse, or a doctor. Payment options are private medical insurance or Medicare.

  • Catheter care, injections, IV infusions, tracheotomy care, ventilator patient care and teaching diabetes management
  • Post-op rehab: physical (mobility training), occupational and speech therapies
  • Administer medication
  • Pain management
  • Discharge planning, skilled assessments, and training, facilitating support groups, grief counseling, child or elder abuse investigations and reporting
  • Education on disease management
  • Wound care
  • Teaching medication management
  • Durable medical equipment

Non-Medical Home Care

Non-medical home care (home care) services, offered by caregivers, perform only non-medical care tasks. Payment options are out-of-pocket private pay or long-term care insurance. Medicare does not pay for in-home care because Medicare only covers medical expenses, and in-home care is non-medical.

In-home care is not home health, and it offers:

  • Assistance with Activities of Daily Living and Personal Care such as feeding, bathing, toileting, dressing, ambulation and transferring
  • Assistance with Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, such as light housekeeping, laundry, grocery shopping, errands, meal preparation, medication reminders and companionship
  • Personal Assistant Services (PAS) which includes any hands-on assistance, incontinent care, and bathing
  • Companionship services which include social outings, playing cards, visiting and conversation, reading books, activities and hobbies, recreational activities and travel
  • Caregivers provide reminders to clients to take medication
  • Light transportation
  • Respite Care that gives caregivers a much-needed break

Who Uses Home Health Care Services?

People of all ages; 65 and older, newborns, centenarians but the mostly it's used for those ages 65 and older

  • When discharged from a hospital or nursing home but need additional care
  • Those terminally ill and want to live their final days at home
  • Individuals with short-term health needs
  • Those needing assistance, due to age or disability, to remain at home

Who Uses Non-Medical Home Care Services?

People of all ages but mostly older adults who need some help to remain at home safely and independently:

  • Need some help with meal preparation
  • Need some help with bathing and dressing
  • Need some help with toileting and transferring
  • Need some help with transportation
  • Want companionship and company
  • Need some help with housecleaning and laundry

The Cost of Home Health Care

Costs of Care
Costs of Care

According to the 2011 MetLife Market Survey, a home health agency is likely to employ a range of medical professionals. The types of positions include physicians, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, physical therapists, social workers, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and certified aides.

Medicare, as well as private insurance, will pay for some services, like visits by nurses, and speech and occupational therapists.

When discharged from the hospital, Medicare will pay for a nurse, occupational and speech therapist for the senior at home, but only according to a doctor's prescribed plan of care.

Most often, asking the costs of medical home care is like asking the price of knee surgery: it varies widely.

The Cost of Non-Medical In-Home Care

While more long-term care insurance companies are paying for non-medical home care, it's primarily paid for by the family or the seniors themselves. While costs are different in each state, prices run between $10 and $30 per hour.

While that price tag might sound expensive, consider that most care of this kind is for a few hours a week. In fact, a survey indicates that 22 percent of their clients employ caregiver services four hours or less per week and 20 percent use them between four and eight hours per week.

If an older adult prefers being at home, the cost of additional care is worth it.

When to Use Home Health or Non-Medical Home Care

There comes a time that an older adult needs to have both non-medical and home health care services at the same time. That's because the a licensed medical professional who administers home health care is different from the services given by a caregiver.

While both focus on the safety, well-being and healing of an older adult, the caregiver emphasizes and builds upon the personal relationship with the older adult. Non-medical home care is given long-term.

The licensed medical professional has little contact with the older adult, and the relationship is short-term. One example, an older adult recovering at home from heart surgery will see a licensed medical professional, and a caregiver until their condition has improved. Once the person shows improvement, they can keep the caregiver on for additional services, even if part-time.

What's the best option?

Home health care is typically chosen when a person leaves a hospital, skilled nursing facility or rehabilitation after an inpatient stay. Home health care benefits seniors with medication changes in need of monitoring and education on potential side effects. For example, it works best for individuals with decline in physical functioning by offering physical and/or occupational therapy in-home to assist in regaining independence.

Home care is best for individuals needing some help with activities of daily living like meal preparation, cleaning house and laundry. Transportation to and from doctors appointments, shopping, and errands. It's available short-term and used after a hospital stay resulting in limited mobility. In this case, recovering from surgery, one needs both, home health, and in-home care services.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.