What is In-Home Care?

In-home care services can provide companionship, supervision and assistance with personal care in the comfort and convenience of a person’s own home–making it possible for older adults to live at home rather than move into a senior living community. As baby boomers advance in years, come to retirement age and start collecting social security, before they know it their adult children find themselves caring for elderly parents. When routine phone calls or even alert systems are not enough, but the elderly don’t want to spend their retirement living outside the home they are familiar and comfortable with, their loved ones can still assure their health and well-being.

Care in the home may include some combination of skilled health care services, such as nursing interventions, and non-medical or assisted living services, but there is a distinction to be made: the term “home health care” is understood to mean licensed nursing care, while in-home care or home care refers to non-medical care, personal care, custodial care or domiciliary care. These differences are important because they help determine the appropriate level of care provided, which in turn will determine the actual cost of care and also the funding sources available to pay for care.

In-home care from a professional agency is appropriate whenever an individual prefers to stay at home, but needs ongoing care that cannot easily or effectively be provided solely by family and friends. As their physical and cognitive abilities diminish, a growing number of elderly are electing to keep living independent, non-institutionalized lives by receiving care at home. Most senior citizens want to age independently while not burdening their families. Professional in-home care makes that possible. Families, meanwhile, are provided with peace of mind and assurance that their loved ones are well-cared for and comfortable in their own home.

What Is Non-Medical Home Care?

In-home, non-medical care services include supervision and help with personal care (see Activities of Daily Living, or ADLs, below), as well as help in the home with tasks such as meal preparation, medication reminders, laundry, light housekeeping, errands, shopping, transportation, and companionship. While there are differences in the terms describing aspects of in-home care or home health care, in reality, most older adults needing one type of care, will eventually need both as they continue to age.

What is the Difference Between Skilled Home Health Care and Non-Medical Home Care?

Skilled Home Health Agency vs Non-Medical Home Care

The most familiar provider of medical home care services is the skilled home health agency. The main purpose of this type of agency is to provide skilled, professional care for medical treatment or rehabilitation services to homebound patients. Home health care professionals must strictly adhere to a physician-approved plan of care.

Services provided generally include:

  • Medical and/or Psychological services
  • Wound care
  • Pain and medication management
  • Disease management
  • Nursing care services
  • Oxygen services
  • Medical supplies and equipment
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Other basic home health aide care

The same agency may deliver different kinds of home care services through registered nurses, therapists, social workers, home care aides, medical equipment and supply dealers, and volunteers. Some agencies limit their services to nursing and one or two other specialties. If care is needed from more than one specialist, the home health agency will set up a team to provide care that covers the patient’s needs. Because home health agencies hire and supervise their personnel, they assume liability for their services.

Skilled home healthcare services generally are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The home health agency is state-licensed and usually Medicare and Medicaid (Med-Cal in California) certified and may also accept other third party health insurances. Medicare certification means that the agency has met specific federal guidelines and criteria.

Many are also accredited by independe