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

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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
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. Canada's national health care system, often referred to as "Medicare", is a program composed of 13 interlocking provincial and territorial health insurance plans, and provides certain common features and basic standards of coverage for seniors.Canadian Medicare provides universal coverage for medically necessary health care services, but depending on what province a patient lives in, the coverage can vary. Supplemental coverage is often needed for care services and equipment beyond certain basics.
  3. Costs. Even if the senior has insurance, there could still be some out of pocket expense for whatever care is provided. 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.

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. October 16, 2013 at 10:59 pm | Posted by Angela

    This was good to know! I didn't really know the difference when I was looking for home health care in St. Catharines for my grandma. We decided a combination of both would be good, as she needs a lot of help around the house. Thank you for this article!


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