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Your Guide to Home Care

Written by Grace Styron
 about the author
8 minute readLast updated March 7, 2023

Determining just how much help an aging loved one needs can be a challenge. Many families utilize in-home care for support. Home care services can be an invaluable source of care for seniors and peace of mind for family caregivers. Learn about the basics of home care to help you navigate care decisions for your loved one.

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What is home care?

The definition of home care is simple: It’s a type of elder care that can be personalized and provided wherever a senior calls home. Services can be supplied in senior living settings, such as independent living and assisted living communities, but home care is usually provided in a private residence.
In-home care for the elderly enables aging loved ones to continue living in the comfort of their own home (or that of a family member) for as long as possible. For older adults, in-home care offers the assistance, supervision, and companionship they need to age in place safely and successfully.

What services do in-home caregivers provide?

The monthly median cost of a nursing home and cost-related factors.
Professional in-home caregivers can provide a wide variety of services that help seniors continue living as independently as possible at home. Services can be customized to meet a person’s unique needs and might include the following:
  • Companionship
  • Transportation
  • Light housekeeping
  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like feeding, bathing, dressing, toileting, walking and transferring, and incontinence care
  • Skilled nursing care

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Types of in-home care for seniors

Home care options are generally divided into two categories: nonmedical care and home health care. Most in-home care providers offer a mix of the following care types:
  • Homemaker and companion care includes services like light housekeeping, laundry, meal planning and preparation, transportation to doctor’s appointments and for errands, social interaction, and medication reminders.
  • Personal home care assistance involves help with ADLs. It may also include some homemaker and companionship services.
  • Home care for dementia patients may include any of the services above, but it is provided by caregivers with specialized training in conditions that cause memory loss and behavior changes, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
  • Home health care is medical in nature, usually requires a doctor’s order, and must be provided by skilled professionals like nurses and therapists. Wound care, physical therapy, nutrition counseling, and administration of IV and injection medications are a few common types of home health care services.
It’s important to understand that these services extend beyond mere care in the home. In-home caregivers may also accompany a senior on outings, help cook a cherished family recipe from scratch, prevent hospital readmissions, assist in caring for a pet, take notes during important appointments, and keep family members informed of any changes or concerns. Hiring care for seniors at home often provides the support they need to stay safe, healthy, active, and engaged.
When deciding whether home care is the best option for an aging loved one, it often helps to draw comparisons between other elder care types and settings.

Is it time for home care?

The following are telltale signs a loved one’s needs are increasing and they may benefit from at-home help:
  • Difficulty performing ADLs on their own
  • Changes in physical appearance, such as noticeable weight loss or poor hygiene
  • Changes in their behavior, such as trouble sleeping, extreme mood swings, or difficulty keeping track of time
  • Difficulty performing instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), which include cooking, shopping, housework, and managing finances
Providing care in any capacity can be emotionally and physically challenging, and your needs as an informal caregiver should also factor into the decision to hire home care. It’s important to be proactive about balancing caregiving and other aspects of your life to prevent burnout.
Signs of stress and burnout from caring for an aging loved one may include the following:
  • Health problems, including headaches, stomachaches, or high blood pressure
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Feelings of helplessness, anger, or resentment
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or otherwise enjoyable activities. If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself, it’s important to take steps to reduce your caregiver burden. In-home care is an excellent source of respite, which can help you prioritize your own self-care.

How much does in-home care cost?

The monthly median cost of home care and cost-related factors.
According to Genworth’s most recent Cost of Care Survey, the median cost of homemaker services in 2021 was $26 per hour, and the median cost of personal care services was $27 per hour. However, hourly rates vary by location and from company to company.
Since in-home care providers schedule and bill services by the hour, seniors and their families have a lot of flexibility when deciding how much assistance they want, need, and can afford. Keep in mind that companies often set a minimum time requirement for home visits — usually between two and four hours.
In-home care is often the most affordable elder care option for seniors who only require a few hours of care per day or per week. However, more comprehensive home care services like 24/7 home care and live-in home care are typically more expensive than senior living options like assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes.

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How do I pay for home care?

Care for seniors at home is typically paid for using a combination of sources, including the following:
Many Americans incorrectly assume that Medicare will pay for all or part of long-term care services and supports. It’s important to understand that Medicare only pays for home health care on a short-term basis when a senior meets specific eligibility requirements.

How do I choose a home care provider?

To ensure you’re hiring the best possible care for your loved one, follow these steps:
  • Determine whether your loved one needs nonmedical home care, home health care, or both. Home health care is usually appropriate for seniors who are recovering from an illness or injury or who have chronic medical conditions. Nonmedical home care is best for older adults who would benefit from companionship and assistance with personal care and daily tasks.
  • Decide whether to hire an independent caregiver or hire through an agency. Going through an agency is typically more expensive than hiring a private caregiver. However, an agency handles all administrative tasks, including background checks, payroll, workers compensation, and settling disputes should any arise. Hiring privately can give you more freedom and flexibility because you’re the caregiver’s employer. However, it also comes with much more responsibility.
  • Understand the costs of care. Request information on rates and time minimums from all potential care providers to compare costs easily. You may also want to ask what other sources of payment each accepts to get an idea of how the total cost will fit into your loved one’s budget.
  • Request information on caregiver training and education. Regardless of whether you hire home care through an agency or privately, be sure to verify that your potential care provider is properly trained, licensed, and certified.

How do I hire a home care provider?

When hiring an in-home care provider, the process will depend on whether you choose to hire through an agency or to hire privately. If you work with an agency, they’ll usually handle most of the process for you. An agency staff member will arrange an initial interview during which you’ll be able to discuss your loved one’s care needs, budget, and interests. You’ll work together to create a customized plan of care, select an in-home caregiver, calculate a total cost estimate, and agree on a start date for services.
If you choose to hire a private caregiver, you’ll be responsible for interviewing candidates, drafting a care contract, handling payroll and scheduling, and managing the caregiver’s work.

How do I talk to a family member about receiving care at home?

Aging loved ones are often reluctant to acknowledge their changing abilities and accept help — especially from an outside party. How you discuss new care options can influence how receptive a senior is to changes in their care plan. Preparing for these conversations will help ensure they go as smoothly as possible. Use the following tips to guide your discussions on long-term care planning:
  • Be respectful.
  • Set a common goal.
  • Research all care options.
  • Include them in the decision.
  • Ask about their concerns and identify the what-ifs.
  • Make future plans a topic of ongoing discussion.
Some seniors refuse in-home care no matter how tactfully you try to approach the subject. If your loved one is still of sound mind and capable of making their own decisions, then you may need to table the idea until a new development necessitates a change in their care plan.

How do I find home care near me?

Our Senior Care Advisors can simplify your search for in-home care. These experts can help you assess your loved one’s needs, identify financial resources that can cover their care costs, and connect you with local home care providers that fit your loved one’s budget. They can even help you schedule initial interviews with home care companies in your loved one’s area — all at no cost to you.


  1. Genworth. (2021). Cost of care survey.

Meet the Author
Grace Styron

Grace Styron is a writer at OurParents specializing in assistive technology, memory care, and home care. Before writing about healthy aging, she worked for an online women’s lifestyle magazine and as a grant writer for a nonprofit regenerative permaculture farm in Virginia. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University.

Edited byOurParents Staff

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