Home Health vs. Home Care: Which Is The Best Choice For Your Loved One in St. Louis?

elderly woman being helped

As our loved ones grow older, they begin to need more help getting through the activities of day to day life. Things like grocery shopping, preparing meals, and even grooming can become quite difficult for them. Sometimes, our loved ones need extra medical help at home, as well. 

But how do you choose between home health vs. home care? How do you know what type of service your loved one actually needs?

Witnessing our loved ones declining is difficult. We wish we could do everything for them

However, most of us work full-time jobs or live too far away to be able to take care of our loved ones ourselves. The majority of us don't have the licenses or expertise to administer medical advice or services to them either adequately. 

However, sending our loved one to a nursing or assisted living home isn't always an option. Whether it's financial issues, logistics, or the wishes of your loved one, you may need to set up some form of home care.

The question is, what is the difference between home health and home care?

Keep reading as we give you an in-depth look.

Home Health vs. Home Care

Home health vs. home care is often seen as the same thing. However, they are vastly different in important ways.

Home caregivers may or may not be required to have a license or certification. It depends entirely on their agency, professional background, and/or state regulations. They assist people in day to day activities of life with no medical affiliations or authority.

Home health care services are entirely medically based. The caregivers are licensed medical professionals such as nurses and physical therapists, depending on the person's needs. Home health care services may also provide personal care of a non-medical nature when requested.

elderman man being treated through home health services

Home Care Services

Home health vs. home care differs most where duties are concerned. Home care providers are never allowed to administer medical advice or services. Instead, they provide their clients with assistance in day to day activities, promoting quality of life.

Home care is generally a long-term service.

Companionship

One of the most important roles of a home care provider is offering companionship to their client. 

People who have trouble getting around and are more or less confined to their home often become lonely. Home caregivers not alone assist in day to day activities but are also a person to communicate with.

Companionship also includes playing board games or cards, going on walks, participating in crafts, and more. 

Grocery Shopping/Errands

People who are homebound can no longer do their own grocery shopping or run their own errands. This is where the difference between home health vs. home care is most different. Home care providers will get groceries, mail letters, pay bills, and everything in between for their clients.

Meal Preparation 

If a client is bound to a wheelchair or bed, cooking their own meals may not be an option. While home caregivers don't proclaim to be professional chefs, they will cook and bake for their client as requested.  

They will also ensure any special diet restrictions are adhered to. This includes vegetarian/vegan diets, gluten-free diets, and even special restrictions, such as pureed-only diets.

Eating

Some clients may have trouble feeding themselves. Whether it's due to a declining mental capacity or physical impairments, it's not uncommon for home care aids to help feed their clients.

Home caregivers are patient and gentle. Helping a client eat is an easier aspect of their job.

Transferring

Home care providers are generally well-trained in safely transferring clients. This includes transfers to and from wheelchairs, including toilet-use. 

It's an important aspect of caregiving, as transferring is one of the most dangerous activities a physically unstable person can do. Even shorter falls can be incredibly harmful and even deadly.

Having adequate assistance is key to avoiding unnecessary injuries and complications.

Transportation

Many time, home care providers will be required to help transport their client to different locations. This could be anything from the grocery store, bank, or post office to accompanying them to social events.

Depending on logistics, home care providers can use their own vehicles or help their client use public transport. Their job is to make sure they get them where they need to be safely and on time.

Medication Reminders

While home care aids aren't medically trained or authorized to prescribe medications, they can remind their client when it's time to take them.

One of their duties is to make sure their client is getting all of their medications on time and in the right amount. This is an area where home health vs. home care is somewhat indistinguishable to the uninformed person.

Toileting

Home care providers will likely be required to help their client use the toilet. This includes transferring them to the bathroom, helping them pull down their pants, and even providing peritoneal hygiene assistance.

Home care aids ensure their clients are treated with the utmost respect and maintain dignity while performing assistance in toileting procedures.

Bathing

Many clients won't be able to bathe on their own. In this case, the home caregiver will help them transfer to the bathroom, disrobe, and wash up. Once again, home caregivers are professionals and help clients maintain dignity during all personal activities.

Basic Hygiene

Home care providers also help their clients with basic hygiene. This includes grooming, teeth cleaning, applying deodorant, washing their face and hands, etc.

Cleaning

One of the ways in which home health vs. home care is drastically different lies within the cleaning roles of home caregivers.

Home caregivers are responsible for housekeeping duties upon request. Light cleaning is all that is generally required, although some go above and beyond.

Duties can include sweeping, mopping, doing dishes, cleaning, folding, and putting laundry away, etc. 

Assistance With Mobility Exercises

Finally, while home care aids are not certified physical therapists, they can assist their clients with mobility exercises. They can even make notes and correspond with the client's physical therapists to assist them with their progress.

elderly man being helped by home health program

Home Health Care Services

Home health vs. home care differs greatly in that home health care is often prescribed by a doctor. These services are medically grounded and must be carried out by licensed or certified professionals

Home health care is generally a short term service. It's often used to help a senior recover and transition back into a more independent way of living after being treated at a hospital. This includes injuries, surgeries, and illnesses.

Home health care is valuable to people who aren't able to make return hospital visits for follow-ups or recover adequately on their own.

Medication Administration

One of the main lines drawn between home health vs. home care is the administration of medication. Home caregivers aren't allowed to administer medications, only remind their clients to take them.

Home health care providers, on the other hand, can administer medications, including giving injections.

IV Care and Administration

Some medications must be given through intravenous care or IVs. Home health care professionals are certified in IV care, providing safe and adequate administration.

Parenteral Nutrition

In some cases, clients may require parenteral nutrition. In other words, they require intravenous supplementation of nutrients they're unable to absorb through eating or tube feeding.

Parenteral nutrition can provide anything from macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) to vitamins and minerals. 

elderly woman with strollerPhysical Therapy

Sometimes, home health care only extends as far as in-home physical therapy. For whatever reason patients are unable to travel to another location, physical therapists make home visits to help their clients recover.

Some people need extra help with mobility and functionality, while others require physical therapy after undergoing surgery or recovering from an injury. Regardless, home health care services include physical and occupational therapists.

Wound Care

Another way in which home health vs. home care is vastly different is in regards to wound care. Whether it's due to an injury or a surgery, competent wound care is vital for a patients recovery. It's also vital to their safety.

Improper care can quickly lead to wounds become infected, and sometimes, lead to sepsis. Sepsis can spread throughout the body an alarming rate and can be deadly.

Illness/Injury Recovery

After a serious illness, some clients may have a very difficult time recovering to their full strength. Home health care providers are there to help administer drugs, supplements, and physical therapy to help patients get back on their feet.

This also includes severe injuries such as broken bones, severe back pain, etc.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapists are also included on the list of home health care professionals. They help prevent speech, language, and swallowing issues that may arise after a person has a stroke, brain injury, or hearing loss.

They work with patients to make sure they can communicate competently and aren't in any danger of choking due to problems swallowing.

Observing Vital Signs

Home health care professionals are often tasked with keeping a close eye on a patient's vital signs. Vital signs include pulse/heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing rate. Home health care providers will sometimes check a patient's blood-oxygen level as well.

While it's a relatively simple task, home care providers are not allowed to administer vital sign exams.

Monitoring Medical Equipment

Along with observing vital signs, home health care services also include monitoring any medical equipment the client may have in their home.

This equipment includes hospital beds, oxygen tanks, showering aids, bedpans, heart rate monitors, etc.

Home health care professionals understand the equipment and know how to maintain the proper function of the machines. They can also recognize when a machine is malfunctioning and needs to be replaced or repaired.

Catheter Care

Finally, clients who have an incredibly difficult time moving and transferring to other rooms may need a catheter. Catheters consist of a small tube passed through the ureter and into the bladder to drain urine.  They are also used for incontinent clients.

Payment Options

Home health vs. home care varies greatly when it comes to cost and payment options. Here is a simple breakdown of home health vs. home care coverage.

Keep in mind that each client's needs are unique to them and may affect costs.

Home Care

Home care can only be prescribed by a doctor if it coincides with home health care. In this case, it can be covered by insurances such as Medicare, Medicaid, etc.

However, it's coverage by insurance only lasts as long as home health care is needed. If home care is continued, it's then paid for privately. 

With special waiver programs, home care services can be covered by Medicare and Medicaid, although it isn't by nature. Additionally, long-care insurance companies will cover home care, but it must be covered in the policy agreement.

Unfortunately, home care costs often rest on the client or their loved ones. 

Home Health Care

Because health home care is medically based and typically short-term, most insurance companies will cover it. This includes Veteran's Benefits, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Medicare usually covers about two hours a day of skilled services, while Medicaid will cover eight hours. 

elderly man being helped through home health

Do What's Right for Your Loved One

By now, it should be rather obvious which type of care your loved one needs. Remember, however, to receive home health care; it must be prescribed by a physician. 

Alternatively, if your loved one needs non-medical assistance with the activities of day to day life, home care is your best option. While it may be a financial burden, if no family members or friends can give their time and attention, home care may be your only option.

No matter what type of services your loved one requires, it's not about weighing the pros and cons of home health vs. home care. It's about ensuring they maintain the highest quality of life possible. This includes health, happiness, and dignity.

Home care and home health care professionals work hard and strive for those goals. Putting your trust in a reputable care provider may be the best thing you could ever do for your loved one.

If you're not sure where to start, start by filling out this form. We will give you a free home health assessment.

Need Some Help Navigating Through Senior Health?

Aging in place comes with its own benefits and challenges.

From tips on having “the talk” with Mom or Dad to choosing treatment plans for a loved one, this free ebook helps to make care decisions easier for everyone.

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