If you are looking into home based health care for an elderly loved one, you have probably come across the terms “home health care” and “in-home care” (or home care).  They are sometimes even used interchangeably, which only adds to the confusion because they both provide incredibly different services of care. 

Knowing the difference will help you understand which type of home based care is right for your loved one, what kinds of financial resources (i.e. Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance) they will be eligible for and who you will want to contact for more information.  

What is Home Health Care?

Home health care describes medical care that is administered in a person’s home by licensed professionals, such as doctors, nursing professionals, physical therapists and occupational therapists.  These workers are sent from hospitals, public health departments or home health agencies.

This type of care may also include some assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), such as bathing, cooking or light housekeeping, but it is important to keep in mind that first and foremost, home health care is medical in nature.  In order to qualify for these resources, a patient must meet specific criteria.

Who Will Benefit Most From In-Home Care Services?

  • Elderly patients who had a recent fall or illness and who may need help relearning how to walk, talk and strengthen certain muscles or perform basic ADLs.
  • Seniors who may need temporary nursing care such as intravenous therapy, help administering new medications, pain control and wound dressing.
  • Those whose health is far too fragile for them to travel to and from doctor visits.

What is In-Home Care?

In-home care, or home care, refers to non-medical care provided to seniors by “unskilled” personal care attendants (attendants).  Rather than nursing or therapy services, these elderly people need help functioning on a day-to-day basis in order to live safely at home.  

In-home care includes assistance with both Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), such as bathing, eating and using the restroom, and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), such as meal prep, grocery shopping, housekeeping and managing finances.

Who Will Benefit Most From In-Home Care Services?

  • Those who have limited mobility and need help with certain ADLs and IADLs.
  • Elderly people who are no longer able to drive or travel distances and need assistance with grocery shopping, going to the pharmacy or getting to doctor’s appointments.
  • Seniors who would find great benefit from companionship and/or help with light housework or other chores.

What Are the Main Differences?

While both types of resources are forms of home based health care, the main difference is that home health care provides medical care while in-home care provides non-medical help managing activities of daily life.  Some seniors need one or the other, while others benefit from a combination of both.

How to Pay for Home Health Care vs. In-Home Care

The other main difference lies in what types of coverage each is eligible for.  Home health care is generally covered by private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, as it is considered medical care that has been ordered by a physician.  It is unusual for a person to pay out-of-pocket for home health care, so you will want to contact your loved one’s physician if you feel like home health care might be necessary.

In-home care coverage, on the other hand, varies by state, but is quite often covered through regular Medicaid or Medicaid Waiver programs.  There are other coverage options available, such as long-term care insurance and veterans benefits, however many people pay a portion out-of-pocket.

A few Medicaid qualifiers for in-home care that are now recognized as essential to living at home are:

  • Personal Care – this includes all ADLs, such as bathing, eating and mobility.
  • Housekeeping – also known as “Homemaker Service,” this includes all chores that are basic to maintaining a household, such as cleaning, grocery shopping, meal prep and laundry.
  • Family/Caregiver Support – this recognizes the commitments of family and other caregivers who assist an elderly person and provides them with both training and temporary respite from their caregiving.

Other Key Differences between Home Health Care and In-Home Care

  • Length of Care: in-home care continues for as long as your loved one would like, and as long as you are able to fund the services.  Home health care services need to be prescribed, and patients must meet specific requirements to be eligible, so this type of care is often short-term.
  • Care Providers: the attendants for in-home care can be both professionals from home care organizations or family members acting as caregivers.  Home health attendants include medical professionals, such as nurses, therapists and doctors.
  • Frequency: in-home care is typically given on a daily basis, and sometimes around the clock, while home health care depends on each individual patient’s needs.  Often home health care services are provided for just a few hours a week.

Learn More

We know that your primary concern is the health, safety and happiness of your aging loved ones, and educating yourself is the best way to begin this journey.  

For more information on in-home care, contact us for a free phone consultation.  Since 1996, Family Choice Healthcare has been providing aging and disabled clients with expert, customized non-medical home care.  One of our experienced team members will be happy to assist you with any questions that you may have.

To find more information and resources on home health care: