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Home Health Care vs. Non-medical In-Home Care: What Your Patients Should Know (US)

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To an untrained ear, the terms “home health care” and “non-medical in-home care” can sound awfully similar. Because it’s easy for clients and patients to mistake one for the other, you may need to help them understand the differences in terms of when each type of care may be needed, costs involved and resources available so they can make informed care decisions. Use the following points to help provide an easy breakdown for your senior patients and their families.

What is Home Health Care?
Home health care refers to care provided in the home by a licensed medical professional, such as a nurse or physical therapist. Generally, home health professionals are only authorized to perform the tasks prescribed by the senior’s physician.

When Home Health Care Is Needed
Here are just a few types of medical care that fall under the home health category:

  • Occupational Therapy
  • Wound Care
  • Mobility Training
  • Pain Management
  • IV Therapy/Injections

How Non-Medical In-Home Care Differs from Home Health Care
Non-medical in-home care focuses on helping seniors with the daily activities they need to engage in life and remain safe and healthy. Family members or professional caregivers who do not have a medical license generally can perform these tasks.

When Non-Medical In-Home Care Is Needed
Providing assistance with the following care tasks are just a few examples of non-medical in-home care services:

  • Bathing
  • Transferring
  • Toileting
  • Continence
  • Medication Management 
  • Companionship
  • Meal Preparation
  • Light Housekeeping
  • Transportation

A Combination of Care Services
Often seniors and their families find a team approach of using non-medical in-home care services to supplement home health care services provides the best solution. Also, seniors and their families should be aware that there might be some overlap between services provided by the two types of care. Both may involve assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as meal preparation for specialty diets. Before hiring an agency to provide services, seniors and their families should know exactly what types of care the agency’s professionals can provide.

Additional Cost and Care Considerations

  1. Needs. The type of care services a senior patient should obtain depends on his or her needs. There could be issues related to medication, activities of daily living (ADLs), medical equipment, dietary or activity restrictions or recommendations that should be considered. Families also must consider how much help they’re able to provide, especially if they don’t live close by or have other obligations. In addition to consulting with a senior loved one’s medical providers, here is a helpful checklist for families to assess the amount of care their senior loved one may need before a senior moves from hospital to home.
  2. Coverage. What may be covered by insurance and what a doctor and family think a patient needs may not be the same thing. The family should find out what’s covered by any supplemental or long-term care insurance the patient holds by contacting the insurance provider(s) directly. They can also find information about Medicare coverage at

    Seniors and their families should especially take note of what isn’t covered by Medicare. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare doesn’t cover 24-hour-a-day care, meal delivery, homemaker services like shopping and laundry if that’s all the patient needs, or personal care like bathing and dressing if that’s all the patient requires.

  3. Costs. Be aware of copayments. Even if the senior has insurance, there is likely some out of pocket expense for whatever care is provided. For instance, according to CMS’s Medicare and Home Health Care booklet, patients will have to make a 20 percent copayment for approved medical equipment.

Here are additional resources to share with your senior patients and their family members to help them make the best care decisions possible regarding home care.


Last revised: July 10, 2013

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. July 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Posted by Eileen Bostwick

    There are many organizations that provide non-medical in-home care. One of those that is not commonly known is the Senior Companion Program, a Senior Corps program under the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency. Senior Companion Programs are not found in all areas of the nation, but a number of programs exist. They train older adults (age 55 and up) and place them through a local agency with several clients. These volunteers are dedicated, compassionate, competent, well-trained individuals. The minimum commitment for a SC volunteer is 15 hours a week, but many serve 20 or more hours. There is no cost to have a Senior Companion and the SC volunteer receives a small, tax-free stipend presently $2.65 an hour as an enabler to serve as well as a transportation reimbursement and supplemental insurance. Senior Companions do not bathe or toilet clients, but they can provide transportation to medical appointments and errands like grocery shopping, going to the bank or to a hair cut. They do provide companionship for isolated, lonely older adults. They can prepare light meals and do light housework. They are not chore workers. For more information on the program go to: On the home page under the programs tab is information on the 3 Senior Corps programs. Click on SCP and you will learn how to see if the program is available in your area.


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