“Home care” and “home health care” are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are very different in what they offer. Learn what senior care services each provides to determine the best fit for your needs.

Types of In-Home Care Services

The first step in hiring in-home care services is identifying the differences in a caregiver’s duties and responsibilities between non-medical home care and home health care options. It is important to understand this distinction, since the type of care will both guide your search for the appropriate caregiver as well as determine how you will be able to pay for home care.

What is Non-Medical Home Care?

Non-medical in-home care is supportive care that does not involve medical skill and is therefore provided by senior care aides. Non-medical home care can also be identified by the following terms: personal care, companion care, homemaker services, custodial care, unskilled, and non-clinical. Professional care aides provide valuable social interaction, help with household chores, and support and assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). Some states make a very clear distinction between personal care and companion care when licensing in-home care agencies. Personal care involves hands-on care like bathing and toileting assistance whereas companion care focuses on social needs and daily household tasks. When interviewing and selecting a home care agency, ensure you are specific about the services you require as personal care services require a higher level of assistance and training.

Companion Care & Homemaker Services for the Elderly

  • Companionship and socialization
  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Laundry
  • Light housework
  • Shopping and errands
  • Eating
  • Transportation
  • Mobility assistance
  • Medication reminders

Personal Care Services for the Elderly

Personal care aides can provide all the services of a companion caregiver in addition to hands-on physical assistance, such as:

  • Bathing or showering
  • Toileting
  • Oral hygiene
  • Feeding
  • Dressing
  • Incontinence care

What Is Home Health Care?

Home health care is medical in nature and may also be described as clinical or skilled care. A prescription from a doctor may be required to obtain these services that are provided by healthcare professionals, such as registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and physical, occupational, and speech-language therapists. Services may also be provided by home health aides (HHAs) who are acting under the supervision of a registered nurse. Home health care is often short-term and is prescribed as a necessary part of a senior’s rehabilitation or treatment while they recover at home.

Home Health Care Services for the Elderly

  • Administration of medication (including IVs and injections)
  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Wound care
  • Assistance with recovery from illness or injury
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech-language therapy
  • Monitoring of medical equipment
  • Expertise in specific medical conditions (like Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias)

Note that there may be some overlap in the provision of in-home care services. For example, a home health care company may also provide non-medical homemaker and personal care services if you identify a need for household assistance in your care plan.

A senior’s abilities will vary over time and older adults will differ in the type of care they are comfortable receiving help with. If you suspect that your parent needs an increased level of support, look for these signs a senior may need help at home and contact a care provider to discuss how best to get assistance with those needs.

Think in-home care might not be the right type of care for your situation? See an overview of all care options.


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