Home Care vs. Home Health Care: What’s the Difference?


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 loved one’s needs.

Types of Home Care Services

Understanding the differences between nonmedical home care versus home health care is important, since the type of care your loved one needs will guide your search for the appropriate provider and determine how you will pay for home care.

What is nonmedical home care?

Nonmedical in-home care is supportive care that doesn’t involve medical skills and is therefore provided by home care aides. This type of home-based care may also go by the following terms: personal care, companion care, homemaker services, custodial care, unskilled care, and non-clinical care.

Home care aides provide valuable social interaction, help with household chores, and assist with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing and bathing. 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 need, as personal care services require a higher level of assistance and training.

Nonmedical home care may benefit seniors who need day-to-day assistance at home. If your loved one needs daily assistance and companionship, but not medical support, nonmedical home care may be a good option.

Homemaker and companion care services for the elderly

Homemaker and companion caregivers provide social- and task-focused home care services for seniors, including:

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

Personal care services for the elderly

Personal care aides and home health aides (HHAs) can provide all the home care services of a companion caregiver in addition to hands-on physical assistance with personal care needs, such as:

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

What is home health care?

Home health care is medical care that’s sometimes referred to as clinical or skilled care. These services are typically provided by health care professionals. A prescription from a doctor may be required to obtain these services. Home health care provides access to licensed professionals, including:

  • Registered nurses (RNs)
  • Licensed practical nurses (LPNs)
  • Physical therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Speech-language pathologists

Services may also be provided by home health aides (HHAs) under the supervision of a registered nurse. Home health care is typically prescribed as a necessary part of a senior’s rehabilitation or treatment while they recover at home. Home health care may benefit seniors who require short-term skilled medical care but want to remain in the comfort of their own homes.

Home health care services for the elderly

Health care professionals provide skilled medical care for seniors at home, including:

  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Administration of medication (including IVs and injections)
  • Wound care
  • Assistance with recovery from illness, surgery, or injury
  • Physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy
  • Monitoring of medical equipment
  • Expertise in specific medical conditions

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 nonmedical homemaker and personal care services if the need for household assistance is identified in a senior’s care plan.

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Home care vs. home health care: Comparing costs and services

The cost of home care typically depends on the amount of time your loved one receives care each month. Since both nonmedical home care and home health care are typically billed hourly, families enjoy lots of flexibility when devising a care plan that meets their needs and budget.

The national median cost in 2021 was $26 per hour for home care and $27 per hour for home health care. Since home health care provides licensed medical support, it costs more than homemaker care, companion care, and personal care.

Below is a chart comparing home care services and home health care services, but keep in mind that there may be some overlap in what an agency can provide.

Home careHome health care
Administering medicationX
Wound careX
Specialized therapiesX
Medical monitoringX
ADL assistanceXX
Meal preparationX
Laundry & housekeepingX
Medication remindersX

Finding home care for your loved one

A senior’s needs change over time, often subtly. If you’re unsure whether your loved one could benefit from more support, look for these signs a senior may need help at home. Contact a Care Advisor for help finding local home care providers that fit your loved one’s needs and budget.

Genworth Cost of Care Survey (https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html)

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal, or financial advice or to create a professional relationship between AgingCare and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney, or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; AgingCare does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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