There’s a one-word difference between home care and home health care, but the terms refer to completely different services, says Scot Cheben, co-founder of the Senior Providers Network. No wonder so many families are confused!
Here, with the help of Cheben, we outline the differences between home care and home health care so you can make an informed decision about the right type of services for your loved one.
A Primer on Home Care
The key thing to keep in mind is that home care is nonmedical care, says Cheben. Home care workers are not medical professionals; they are caregivers who receive short-term vocational training.
Home care services typically include assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, and mobility. Depending on the provider, services may also include cooking, cleaning, laundry, transportation, and medication reminders. “It’s a broad category,” admits Cheben.
In terms of frequency, home care may be provided anywhere from one hour a week to every day, 24/7. It all depends on the provider, as well as the level of service your loved one requires.
Typically, home care services are charged on an hourly or flat-rate basis, with costs depending on your location and level of service, says Cheben. Families either pay out of pocket or through long-term care insurance.
Note: Home care may also be called in-home care, custodial care, private-duty care, or supportive care, so keep an eye out for those labels as well.
A Primer on Home Health Care
Unlike home care, home health care refers to medical services provided to people in their home, says Cheben. It’s designed for those who need medical support at home while recovering from an illness or injury. As such, he says, it’s typically a short-term service available for an hour or two each week.
Home health care services are provided by skilled medical professionals such as nurses, therapists, and medical social workers, with care including medication administration, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and more. Meals, personal care, and round-the-clock care are not included, notes Cheben.
Homebound seniors must get a doctor’s order to qualify for home health care, and services are usually covered by private health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare. Before you hire a home health care agency, however, make sure they accept your particular insurance.
Note: Keep in mind that home care and home health care are not mutually exclusive—your loved one may need both. In fact, Cheben says that when seniors receive both types of care after an illness or injury, it decreases their likelihood of hospital readmission.
A Word About Hospice Care
Finally, home care and home health care are not the only services available in the home environment. Home hospice care is also available to those who are nearing the end of life. So where does hospice fit in with the other two services?
“Home health care and hospice can’t work together,” explains Cheben. “Hospice will step in and do the home health care.”
As for whether hospice and home care services can be combined, Cheben says it depends on the hospice agency. If the hospice doesn’t offer round-the-clock care, a home care provider may be able to fill in the gaps. If you’re considering hospice care for your loved one, be sure to ask the hospice agency whether it provides 24/7 services, or if home care will be necessary.
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