A Caregiver's Questions Answered: What Should I Know About the Differences Between Home Health Care & Home Care?

Posted February 24, 2015

What’s the difference between home care and home healthcare?

To help us identify what caregivers should know about the difference, we interviewed Carol Marak, a leading advocate for older adults and family caregivers.

Home care is the effort of helping your loved ones age in place, within their home. Home healthcare, on the other hand, is actual medical treatment for someone for an illness or injury.

Home health care must receive a license from a state agency. These care services are administered by registered nurses, licensed social workers, physical therapists, or physicians. Home healthcare services include skilled nursing care, home health aides, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. This type of care addresses the medical attention of a patient.

Home care is provided by non-medical home care aides or home health aides. These are people who have earned a CNA (Certificate in Nursing Assistant), explains Carol.

“Home care companies are registered, but not licensed by the state health services agency or office.”

One of the other major differences that caregivers and older adults should be aware of, Carol adds, is the payment options associated with each.

Home health care is paid for by Medicare, as long as a patient receives a doctor’s order or a prescription for those services. Home care is paid from out-of-pocket resources, private health insurance, and/or long-term care insurance policies.

The Crucial Steps Before Leaving the Medical Facility

As a caregiver, an ideal time to find out as much as you can about your options is before a loved one or family member is discharged from a hospital or treatment center.

“Never leave the hospital without discussing—and understanding—the care plan with the discharge planner or nurse,” explains Carol.

“Ask if your loved one needs a home health agency to follow up at home. Do not leave if you do not understand how to care for your [loved one]. Write down your questions and discuss them with the discharge planner. Always ask, ‘What should I do in case of an emergency?’ Also ask: ‘What do I need to understand about my loved one’s condition and how to properly care for her?’

Additionally, if the discharge planner orders home health care, ask whether or not Medicare will pay for the service.

Returning Home: A Candid Reassessment of Our Loved One’s Needs

When it comes to doing our best as a caregiver, helping loved ones age in place often requires an ongoing reassessment of their health status. The importance of this kind of evaluation is heightened when someone leaves a medical center; at this point in time, we may see their health status temporarily or permanently altered.

Carol suggests two critical questions you and other caregivers can candidly ask to assess the ability of a loved one to self-manage their health:

“Are the seniors or older adults equipped to live at home? Does the older adult have the wherewithal to live at home?”

If we are in-tune with our loved ones to know they are capable of remaining in their home, ask yourself: does the home truly fit their needs? What could be changed or modified to give them more confidence or greater safety?

Carol Marak is a leading advocate for older adults and family caregivers and is a popular contributor in the senior living and health care market. Carol advocates both older adults and caregivers by covering topics covering chronic issues, senior care and housing. Visit AssistedLivingFacilities.org or HomeHealthcareAgencies.com to find out more.