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Know the Difference: Home Care vs. Home Health Care

You know your aging loved one needs help, but maybe you’re unsure of the type. Terms like “professional caregiver” and “in-home nursing” are relatively new. You’re not alone. Many people have little knowledge of in-home care until they or a loved one needs it. One area that can often cause confusion is the difference between in-home care and in-home nursing, sometimes referred to as in-home health care.

Home Health Care, or In-Home Nursing

Skilled medical workers provide In-home health care. These may be Registered Nurses (RNsI, Licensed Practical Nurses (LPSn) or, in rare cases of extreme need, doctors (MDs). The patient will usually have chronic, recurring medical needs, which requires treatment including monitoring or assessment, wound care or administering intravenous medicines. Some conditions that may require in-home nursing include:

  • Heart conditions
  • Strokes
  • Diabetes
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Joint or muscular injuries
  • Post-surgical conditions

It might be easiest to think of in-home nursing as an alternative to a hospital stay. Often patients may be well enough, in general, to return to their home after a hospital procedure but may still require some form of medical care such as having vital signs measured daily, blood drawn regularly or a weekly change of dressings. In-home nursing can be an alternative that allows them to return home from hospitals more quickly since these vital medical interventions can be carried out in the comfort of their own home.

If a doctor prescribes in-home nursing, it may be covered in part by health insurance. Medicare and Medicaid are both likely to cover at least part of the cost of in-home nursing which is medically necessary, on a part-time or intermittent basis.

Medicare usually will not cover permanent in-home nursing, and won’t pay for a full-time nurse to stay at your home.

Paying privately for in-home medical care can be an expensive undertaking. Having an LPN visit can cost between $15-40 per hour, which will vary depending on where your loved one lives, and an RN can cost even more.

In-Home Care (Home Care)

If your loved one needs help in the home and doesn’t have a chronic medical condition that must be treated, then in-home care (home care) may be the better option for you. A professional caregiver can visit your loved one as little or as often as your loved one needs, for as long as necessary. Even if your loved one requires some medical assistance, it may be that hiring a caregiver to take care of his or her other needs is the best option.

Professional caregivers can help seniors with everything they need in their day-to-day life to be safe and comfortable, excluding healthcare. That may include help with housework, personal care or even just companionship. Isolation can lead to depression and other issues, so it’s important not to underestimate the value of companionship. Socialization can have many benefits , including emotional benefits, slowing memory loss and stimulating brain health.

A professional caregiver can help your senior with housework tasks that may have become too difficult, like cooking, light cleaning, doing laundry or shopping.

Personal care includes things like help bathing, dressing or using the bathroom. If your senior needs support to physically get in and out of bed or move around the house, a professional caregiver can help with that too.

Having a professional caregiver around can also help you, the person who is suddenly tasked with caring for someone. Caring for a loved one who is demanding and can be a full-time duty. Caregivers allow you to take time away from your responsibilities to relax, run errands or deal with your own life, as other responsibilities will likely not disappear as caring responsibilities grow. Respite care is usually offered for as little or as many hours as you and your senior require. For more information see this guide to everything you need to know about respite care.

There are a few avenues to investigate when exploring financing for professional home care. It is unlikely that Medicare will cover long-term in-home care, but it is possible Medicaid may cover it. Although there is some variation by state, Medicaid is the largest funder of professional care in the US, spending over $80 billion on home and community care in 2014 alone. If your loved one is a veteran, home care may be covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. For more detailed information on financing in-home care, see this guide to financing senior homecare.

Whether your loved one’s needs are better suited to home health care or in-home care, there are many advantages of having professional help with your loved one’s care. While family and friends will always have your senior’s best interests at heart, professional caregivers and nurses have the experience and training that can make a real difference in the quality of your loved one’s life.

For more information on home care services, click here.

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