Home care is a supportive service that allows the care recipient to stay in their home of choice during short-term or long-term treatment. It’s an alternative to living in nursing homes and other senior care facilities.

There are several types of care services, which can be customized depending on the patient’s needs.

There is no place like home, which is why it can also be the best place for recovery. According to a survey by AARP, almost 87% of older adults prefer to thrive in their own homes for as long as possible.

If you or an elderly loved one is dealing with a chronic illness, recovering from a medical condition, or needs specialized services after a stay in the hospital or skilled nursing facility, home care might be the best option for you.

The following are important issues to understand if you are considering home care services for yourself or a loved one.

Why is Home Care Important?

The comfort of home amongst familiar surroundings is beneficial to the well-being of an individual who is recovering or needs additional professional support to remain at home. In a home setting, a care recipient can receive the kind of care that’s warm, personalized, and comfortable.

For people with dementia, home care may be used as a respite for the primary family caregiver.

Examples of Care at Home Services

As everyone’s needs differ, home care services can also vary. Some of the most common services provided by caregivers are:

  • Meal preparation
  • Personal care and grooming
  • Doing household chores
  • Companionship
  • Groceries and shopping
  • Medication assistance
  • Therapy and rehabilitation

Types of Home Care

There are three main types of care at home to serve the different needs of a care recipient. All have a unifying goal, which is to provide support to the person receiving care, so they can live as independently as possible.

Personal Care – Personal care services are limited to non-medical assistance, such as essential day-to-day activities, errands, and companionship.

Nursing Care – Nursing care at home is provided by a private nurse for an individual who is suffering from a chronic illness or disability. People who have complex medical conditions such as a colostomy bag, feeding tube, or wound care can also receive nursing care at home.

Home Health Care – Home Health Care (not to be confused with In-Home Care) is short-term medical assistance directed by a physician to help a patient recover from a health problem or injury.

What Is the Difference Between Home Care and Home Health Care?

Home care services are limited to non-medical needs for older adults who need assistance with activities of daily living (ADL’s). Home Health Care provides medical assistance and support for people with short-term health problems like an injury or illness. 

Medicare and other medical insurance policies cover some or all Home Health Care, but specific guidelines and doctor’s orders must be in place.

What are Activities of Daily Living? They include the following: bathing and grooming, dressing, eating, mobility and transfers, and toilet hygiene.

5 Things To Look For in a Home Care Agency

Choosing the right agency is crucial in finding the ideal caregiver for your loved one. Here are some important things to carefully explore during your search:

#1 Background and History

Do a background check to ensure that the care agency has a clean track record. Look for online reviews and search state licensing agencies online to ensure up-to-date business practices. An agency with a reputable name will have the proper credentials, experience, and manpower to provide great services.

#2 Staff Qualifications

Home care agencies screen their caregivers so you won’t need to. You can ask for nursing and caregiver qualifications to ensure that your loved one will be served by a professional who knows what they are doing. Inquire about the training offered to new employees, especially new caregivers.

#3 Services Offered

Some agencies may have limited services and won’t be able to provide for your needs. You may need less support initially, but that can increase over time.

Make sure to assess the specific services your loved one needs beforehand, so you’ll have an idea of what you need to look for.

#4 Availability

You or your loved one may need services and assistance beyond regular working hours. It is ideal to work with a care provider that is available 24/7, on weekends, and on holidays, so there will always be someone to contact in case of emergencies.

Ask about procedures for caregiver absences and what a backup plan looks like in case of a no-show.

#5 Cost

It is especially important to know your budget if you are seeking care services. Be informed of the cost implication and if the services will be covered by your insurance or Medicare. Are there any additional fees beyond the hourly rate?

Does the care service charge less for longer shifts? Lastly, make sure you understand the hourly constraints, most agencies will have a 3-4 hour minimum policy in place.

How Much Does Home Care Cost?

Care at-home costs vary greatly, depending on the state you live in and the agency you choose to hire. The hourly rate can range anywhere from $16 – $31 per hour. If you live in a state with a high cost of living, expect the cost to be on the higher end of this range. 

Most Home Care Agencies Have Hourly Minimums

Hourly minimums will depend on the home care agency’s staffing rules. Some agencies will have a minimum of 3-5 hours of daily service and a minimum number of shifts per week or month. There are others who don’t have minimums and can provide services as needed (although these are more difficult to find). 

Who Pays for Home Care?

There are several ways to pay for home care. It can be paid directly by the patient or their family, insurance, and the veteran’s administration. If financial assistance is needed, some services are covered by state programs (like Medicaid) and health insurance.

Medicare

Medicare coverage for home care is limited to short-term medical care assistance only. Those who need non-medical support or personal care only typically won’t be eligible for assistance through Medicare.

Medicaid

Medicaid can pay for care at home (including non-medical care) delivered by home care agencies or private caregivers. Eligibility requirements and coverage amount will depend on the state you live in. In some states, Medicaid will also pay family caregivers for their service.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Many long-term care insurance (LTCI) policies have coverage for home care services. LTCI helps cover care costs of older adults in various settings, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and at home. Policies may include waiting periods and daily rate caps, be sure to read your policy thoroughly.

Veterans Administration

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a comprehensive medical benefits package, which includes home care costs but eligibility requirements must be met. Check with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to learn more.

How Much Do Home Care Caregivers Make?

The average pay for an agency home caregiver is around $14.61 per hour, according to Indeed. This rate depends on experience, the level of care needed, the state you live in, and other elements.

Are Caregivers Who Work for Home Care Agencies Licensed?

Home care agencies can employ both licensed and unlicensed professional caregivers. Licensed medical professionals and registered nurses will be provided for home health care, while personal care duties rarely require licensed nurses.

Can Home Care Keep My Loved One at Home Longer?

When your elderly or sick loved one receives the kind of care and support they need, they are likely to stay at home longer. Having home care assistance will give them security, support, and companionship, allowing them to live a higher quality of life at home. 

Home care can also supplement primary family caregivers and prevent them from experiencing caregiver burnout.

What Is a Live-in Caregiver?

A live-in caregiver is a professional care worker who provides medical or personal care to an individual who needs assistance. They can provide in-home around-the-clock care for 4-5 days a week, depending on the level of care needed.

A live-in caregiver may be a better (and less expensive) option if there is space in your home to provide adequate accommodations.  

How Do I Find a Live-in Caregiver?

You can find a live-in caregiver by contacting a home care agency or a local health office. You can also hire a live-in caregiver directly through personal referrals or search for one through online caregiver registries.

Live-in caregivers can be hard to find! Where do you start? What questions do you ask? We offer tips, suggestions, and resources in our guide to hiring a Private Caregiver.

What Is a Caregiver Registry?

Caregiver registries carry a list of professional and independent caregivers for hire. You can browse and search for an independent caregiver that provides home care services near your area. One major benefit of a caregiver registry is they have screened and vetted the people they represent, saving you a large chunk of time.

Look for Home Care that is Right For You

The purpose of home care services is to aid people in their recovery from illness and injury, to provide support during the care of a loved one, or to help manage chronic conditions.

Home care can be provided by a variety of different types of professionals, depending on the needs of the individual and the type of service you choose.

When searching for a home care agency that is right for you, it is important to know what options are available. Not all home care agencies are alike, and finding the right one for you or your loved one can be difficult. These tips will help you find the right home care agency:

  • Research– talk to friends and family who have used a home care agency in the past. Many home care agencies have websites where you can review their services and contact information. If possible, try to meet with a representative from the agency in person.
  • Qualifications– ask about the competencies and past experience of the people who will be caring for you or a loved one. How long have they been working for the agency? What new and ongoing training do caregivers receive?
  • Services– while you may be looking for minimal assistance now, it’s a good idea to understand all of the services an agency provides. At what point would they no longer be able to care for your loved one?
  • Availability– if a caregiver is ill, or hours late for their shift, what kind of backup is available through the agency? Can they provide full-day or 24-hour shifts if needed?
  • Cost– many agencies require 3-4 hour minimums, what are the policies for the agency being interviewed? Are there any additional fees or deposits required? Is there a monthly contract?

Home Care Frequently Asked Questions

Who can benefit from home care?

Those who want a cost-effective solution to senior care services and prefer to receive care at home rather than in assisted care facilities or nursing homes will enjoy the benefits of home care. Home care is best suited for people who need assistance with activities of daily living, companionship, transportation, and/or meal preparation.

What is the meaning of home care?

Home care is a caregiving service that provides short-term or long-term assistance to sick, disabled, or elderly individuals who need personal or medical care.

Who pays for home care?

Private pay (self-funded), Medicaid, Medicare (limited to skilled care), and Veterans Affairs (VA) cover the costs of home care. Long-Term Care Insurance also covers the care costs of policyholders in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home care. 

Is companion care the same as home care?

Companion care is focused on emotional support and socialization. Companion caregivers can also help out with simple errands and light housekeeping, but mostly provide companionship to healthier seniors who can still live independently.

An expert in senior care, Amie has professional and personal experience in senior housing, caregiving, end-of-life care, and more from her 24 years of working with older adults.