Home Health vs. Home Care
The terms home care and home health are often confused.
In fact, they are two different services. Understanding what each provides, how they are paid for, and when to use them can help you coordinate a care plan that works and is affordable.
Home health is medical care and is ordered by a doctor. The cost is usually covered by health insurance. Home-health procedures are performed by medical professionals and include services such as wound care, physical therapy, disease management training and the like. Home-health professionals are in the patient’s home only long enough to carry out treatment.
Home health is typically prescribed after a hospital stay. You can then take that prescription to any licensed agency on your insurance. (If you have an aging parent, you might consider choos-ing an agency before a hospitalization happens.)
When choosing a provider, be sure they:
- Are licensed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. A list of licensed providers by county can be found at www.ncdhhs.gov/dhsr/reports.htm
- Accept your insurance
- Are able to begin providing services within 48 hours
- Have a missed appointment average no higher than three over the period of treatment
- Are on call 24-hours a day.
- Have a policy for you to reject a particular provider if you don’t like them
- Give you references from a current patient, a patient’s family member, and a business that refers to them.
A comparison of local home-health agencies, a checklist for interviewing and more tips for finding the right agency, can be found at www.medicare.gov/homehealthcompare.
Home care, on the other hand, needs no prescription. It can be contracted for 24-hours a day and go on for as long as the client wishes. It consists of services such as meal preparation, personal care, light housekeeping, running errands and companionship. Recently, some home-care agencies have expanded to offer geriatric care management. This service oversees and coordinates all the outside services in a client’s home—from hiring a lawn service to coordinating home-health visits.
Though often crucial to a patient’s recovery and ability to stay in their home, home care unfortunately is not covered by health insurance or Medicare. It may be covered by a long-term care policy if you or your loved one happens to have one.
When looking for a home-care agency, follow the same guidelines as for home health with the additions that the home-care agency should:
- Provide services within 24 hours
- Be bonded and insured for up to $1 million
- Have background checks on all employees
Their agency licenses can be checked at www.ncdhhs.gov/dhsr/reports.htm
Because the cost of home care is out of pocket, some people consider saving money by hiring an individual themselves instead of using an agency. If you are considering that option, be sure to also consider and make a plan for:
- What happens when the individual caregiver is ill or unavailable
- Having to withhold taxes, social security and workman’s comp
- Having homeowner’s insurance that covers a caregiver being hurt on the job
- Hiring an individual caregiver with the flexibility to change with your needs
- Knowing who takes responsibility should the caregiver hurt your family member
As our loved ones age, chances are there will be times when they need home health and times when they need home care. By understanding what each service provides you can secure the right service for your situation. This can ease the stress and time demands on family that are caring for their loved one.