home care

What Is the Difference Between Home Health and Home Care?

If you are just beginning to explore options for your elderly parent, you may be overwhelmed by an avalanche of terms and abbreviations that often sound similar. Like any niche topic, eldercare is rife with specified language, but two terms that you will want to differentiate from each other immediately are Home Health Care and Home Care

Home health care is usually referred to as simply home health, making it sound even more similar to home care. Both forms of care take place in the home; however, they are anything but interchangeable, as the first involves medical professionals and the second involves professional caregivers. 

Home Health 

Home health is a level of care prescribed by a doctor that can be set in place for patients of any age, not only seniors. It is usually temporary and can be necessary for a variety of circumstances, such as for:

  • A person who is recovering from surgery and who needs wound care.
  • A person who has recently been discharged from a hospital or rehabilitation and needs some form of therapy.
  • A person who needs injections or medications to be administered and monitored.
  • Someone who needs medical help coping with a chronic illness like COPD, diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease.
  • Anyone who needs skilled nursing care in order to become independent again.

Home health can be paid for by Medicare, but stringent conditions must be met:

  • Individuals must have Part A or Part B Medicare coverage.
  • A doctor must be providing the patient services under a plan of care that is regularly reviewed.
  • A doctor must certify that the individual needs at least one of these:
    • Intermittent skilled nursing care
    • Therapy (either physical, speech-language pathology, or continued occupational services)
  • Patients must be homebound, meaning that they cannot leave home without help, such as a cane, wheelchair, walker, crutches, special transportation, or the aid of another person. However, the government adds this proviso: “You may leave home for medical treatment or short, infrequent absences for non-medical reasons, like attending religious services. You can still get home health care if you attend adult daycare.” 

Many people in the United States use in-home care. In the US, the rate of women over the age of 65 using it is higher than the rate of men, according to the CDC. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that there were 10,591 Medicare-certified home health agencies throughout the United States in 2019 that provided services to 5,266,931 patients. 

Home Care

Home care allows seniors to stay in their homes by providing assistance and compassionate care. The number of hours of care can vary from as few as 1 or 2 per week to 24/7, depending on the needs of the patient.

Caregivers can assist with daily tasks such as:

  • Getting dressed and undressed.
  • Using the toilet.
  • Washing and grooming.
  • Moving from a bed to a wheelchair or getting out of a couch or recliner.
  • Light housework, such as laundry, tidying, or kitchen cleaning up.
  • Healthy meal preparation and serving. 
  • Driving your parent to medical appointments and other errands.
  • Providing companionship. This can include chatting, doing puzzles, playing games together, or reading out loud.
  • Paying bills and managing finances.
  • Medication reminders. Although personal care aides do not administer injections or intravenous medicines, they do give medication reminders, which can ease the worry of family members who are concerned about seniors coping with organizational failures that come with memory loss.
  • Keeping your parent active to the best of his or her ability.
  • Monitoring your parent for signs of memory loss or depression and other mental health issues. 

A few things you should know and keep in mind are:

  • Medicare does not pay for this care because the services are non-medical. Many families can pay for private care through savings or long-term insurance. Home care is more affordable than nursing home costs because room and board don’t have to be factored in. 
  • Home care does not need a doctor’s referral or prescription. It is simply assistance that you and your parent decide is necessary for your parent to remain living independently and with dignity. 
  • Because the number of aging adults is increasing (in fact, the NIH states that as of 2019, the number of adults over the age of 65 outnumbered those under the age of 5), home care is a growing industry. 
  • Many families like the idea of this service because it can be tailored to fit the needs of the individual. It can be integrated into the care already provided by family and friends or layered with home health care if there are medical needs.

You may be considering home care for your elderly parent if he or she is having difficulties performing day-to-day activities but prefers not to move to an assisted living facility. Having caregivers assist with certain tasks can allow your parent to stay in the home that he or she loves and feels comfortable in while maintaining independence.

Both home health and home care provide support to help keep aging seniors in their own homes, where they feel comfortable and at ease. Home health is skilled medical care prescribed by a doctor, and home care is skilled non-medical care with no eligibility requirements. To learn more about how in-home care can help your elderly parent navigate independent living, contact Shepherd’s Staff In-home Care online or phone 301-304-9147. 

We will be happy to conduct an initial needs consultation in your parent’s home to get to know you and your parent and to discuss options. There is no charge for this consultation. Together we can decide what best suits your loved one. 

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