Although they’re oftentimes used interchangeably home care and home health care are not the same thing. The term home care describes services that address activities of daily living (ADLs), like personal hygiene, meals and transportation. On the other hand, home health care is more extensive, covered by Medicare, and usually ordered by a doctor after a nursing home or hospital stay. If you’re an aging in place senior, or are currently taking care of one, knowing the difference between home care and home health care is important.

Senior Home Care

Depending upon the state you live in home care services are usually provided by certified nursing assistants (CNAs) or nurses’ aides. Although home care aides are well-trained on chronic illnesses and disabilities, they cannot typically perform medical-related services and most work under the direct supervision of a licensed nurse.

Senior home care services may include:

  • Bathing, dressing and grooming
  • Toileting and incontinence care
  • Basic nutrition assistance
  • Companionship
  • Transportation
  • Medication reminders
  • Light housework
  • Food shopping and meal preparation

When Might Home Care Be Needed?

Otherwise independent elderly adults who are starting to slow down due to poor mobility, a chronic illness or disability might benefit from home care services when they:

  • Can’t provide their own transportation
  • Need help with personal care
  • Are feeling lonely or socially isolated
  • Can no longer safely perform activities like cooking, cleaning or bathing
  • Have dementia or other memory loss issues

Home Health Care

Home health care is clinical, medical supervision that’s provided by a licensed healthcare professional like a nurse, social worker, physical therapist or occupational therapist. Those “skilled care” services are usually ordered by a doctor and then delivered through home health
or hospice care agencies.

Common types of home health care services include:

  • Administering prescription medications, nutrition therapy or injections
  • Wound care and dressing changes
  • Patient education
  • Monitoring a patient’s health status
  • Medical testing
  • Physical, occupational or speech therapy

When Might Home Health Care Be Ordered?

A physician might order home health care as part of an overall health and wellness care strategy following a surgery, hospital stay, serious illness or injury.

A patient who still lives at home could receive home health care if they:

  • Were recently discharged from a hospital,