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Home Care vs Home Health Care: What's the Difference?

Shereen Thomas
April 17, 2024
7 min
Home Care vs Home Health Care: What's the Difference?

As similar as home care and home health care sounds, they're actually two very distinctly different things. Home care covers non-medical services such as assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) i.e. bathing, dressing, eating, etc. Whereas home health care is prescribed by a doctor and carried out by medical professionals. 

If you've been using these terms interchangeably we hope this article will help you understand the difference and allow you to identify the correct term going forward. 

What is Home Care?

Home care or in-home care refers to non-medical services for seniors who require assistance with daily activities in the comfort of their own home.  The level of care and frequency can vary based on the specific needs of the senior.

Types of services home care includes are:

  • Personal care: Personal care services provide assistance with activities such as bathing, grooming, dressing, and medication reminders, helping individuals maintain personal hygiene and health while promoting their independence and dignity.
  • Help with activities of daily living (ADLs): ADL assistance encompasses a range of essential daily tasks, including eating, toileting, mobility, and transferring.
  • Companionship: Social interaction and emotional support for individuals who may feel isolated or lonely, offering companionship, conversation, and friendship to enhance their overall well-being.
  • Homemaker services: Household chores such as cleaning, laundry, and meal preparation, allowing them to focus on their health and enjoyment of life.
  • Transportation: Transportation services for individuals who may have difficulty driving or accessing public transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, social outings, and other important destinations.

What is Home Health Care?

Home health care is ordered by a doctor as part of a senior's care plan, where licensed medical professionals deliver services in the patient's residence.

Home health care services include:

  • Skilled nursing care, wound care, medical testing, and medication administration provided by a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN).
  • Skilled therapy by a speech, physical, or occupational therapist.

Home health care may also extend to supporting individuals in stroke or hip replacement recovery within their homes.

Thus, home health care is beneficial for individuals with complex medical needs or those recuperating from injury or illness, particularly seniors who require:

  • Monitoring following changes in medication
  • Rehabilitative therapies to restore independence after experiencing a decline in overall function
  • Support after discharge from rehabilitation, hospital, or skilled nursing facilities
  • Assistance with traveling to and from medical appointments due to health-related mobility challenges. 

Home Care vs Home Health Care Comparison Table

Below is a comparison table showcasing the services offered by both home care and home health care. Please note that non-medical and medical home-based services can be combined to offer seniors comprehensive support.

Home-based serviceHome careHome health
Bathing/dressing assistanceYesNo
Bathroom supportYesSometimes
Health monitoringNoYes
Injections and IV therapiesNoYes
Meal prep or deliveryYesNo
Medical testsNoYes
Medication administrationNoYes
Medication remindersYesYes
Pain managementNoYes
Rehabilitative therapiesNoYes
Skilled nursingNoYes
Wound careNoYes

Who Pays for Home Care?

Veterans Programs (VA)

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers financial assistance programs aimed at supporting Veterans and their families with home care services, helping them maintain independence. These programs cater to Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and are crucial for many Veterans.

Two notable programs include the Aid & Attendance benefit and services provided through the VA Community Care Network. The Aid and Attendance benefit offers financial aid to Veterans requiring assistance with everyday tasks, helping cover the costs of home care services. The VA Community Care Network collaborates with various healthcare providers to offer services such as Homemaker, Home Health Aide (HHA), and Respite care to Veterans.


Medicaid, a federal program, extends health coverage to low-income individuals, including seniors, making it a potential option for covering in-home care costs. However, coverage for such services varies across states.

Eligibility for Medicaid's in-home care coverage typically involves meeting specific criteria, like being under a physician's care and having a qualifying medical condition. Additionally, individuals may need to demonstrate difficulty leaving home without assistance.

For a more in-depth look at the different home care payers take a look at this article: Funding Home Care Services: Who Covers the Costs?

To Wrap Things Up

While home care and home health care may sound similar, they serve distinct purposes. Understanding this difference is crucial for accurately identifying the appropriate care needed. Whether it's assistance with daily tasks or medical treatment at home, knowing the difference empowers individuals and families to make informed decisions about their care options.

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