Navigating Home Care and Home Health

The time has come where you have recognized the need for additional care for yourself or your loved one(s).  If you’ve begun to research the topic, you may find yourself confused or overwhelmed by the options.  One thing you are certain of is that you’re not quite ready for assisted living, and you’d prefer to stay in the comfort of your own home.  This significantly helps to narrow down the choices and redirects your search to home-based assistance.  If you’ve already made it this far, then chances are you’ve come across the terms “home care” and “home health”.  While they’re often mistakenly used interchangeably, there are significant differences that should be addressed and understood.  We will highlight the distinguishing factors that are unique to each type of care, as well as the similarities and common goals between the two.  These key points will help you determine which is best for your needs and your budget.


Home Health

Home health is defined as medical care that is received in the home setting.  It is commonly ordered following a major illness, surgery, or injury, in order to help the patient fully recover in the comfort of their own home.  Home health is frequently the next step after a hospital visit, nursing facility, or rehabilitation center, as an effort to help the patient transition back into independent living; however, it can be ordered completely independent of these types of care facilities.

The services received through home health are provided by skilled nurses and therapists.  Such services can include, but are not limited to, administering intravenous medications, wound care, pain management, medication administering, diabetes monitoring, pain management, medical tests and evaluations, and more.  Additionally, the patient may receive a variety of therapies including occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy.

In order to receive any of these services within your home, you must receive orders from your physician and meet eligibility requirements.  Home health is generally covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance.  A care plan is put together based on the patient’s needs; it is then carried out and monitored by a medical team including doctors, nurses, and therapists.  The frequency of visits, as well as the length of care, is reflective of the patient’s needs and the care plan, as laid out by the doctor’s orders.  These visits usually occur a few times a week, for about an hour at a time, as long as the patient is meeting requirements.


Home Care

Home care services are used when someone is in need of extra care or assistance focused on day-to-day tasks.  This is non-medical care that helps to keep an individual safe in the comfort of their own home.  Like home health, it can be beneficial when someone needs a bit of extra assistance to get back on their feet following a major event, such as an illness, injury, or surgery.

While medical needs are not provided through home care, a plethora of other services can be provided to improve the quality of life for you or your loved one.  Transportation, housekeeping, meal prep/cooking, assistance with dressing and bathing, medication reminders, and companionship are just a few of the services you can expect to receive through home care.

Unlike home health, there are no eligibility requirements or doctor’s orders needed to receive home care, however, it is generally the individual’s responsibility to fund these services.  The length and frequency of care is strictly determined by the individual’s budget.  In some cases, long term care insurance, as well as VA insurance, may reimburse for these services.  Some individuals may opt for a couple hours a day to assist with specific tasks and chores, while others will hire around the clock care, up to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.



While the nature of care provided by each type of service varies greatly, they both share some of the same goals.  Ultimately, each service strives to keep the individual safe within the comfort of their own home.  In doing so, they bring the care to the individual’s home, in an effort to keep them out of the hospital, long term care facility, or a nursing home.  Both services provide patients with tailored care, specific to their own needs.  Whether you’re working with skilled medical professionals or professional caregivers, both can assist with tasks such as bathing, grooming, dressing, and other personal needs.  Lastly, keeping the patients feeling their best and staying as independent as long as possible are the main focuses for both home health and home care.