What Is Home Health Care?

If you are like many people trying to navigate different care options for an aging parent, you may find yourself at least a bit puzzled about in-home care and in-home health care. Oftentimes, the two different types of assistance are lumped together. In fact, they are very different assistance regimens for people in need of different types of care. In this article, we take a close look at what is provided by home health care.

A Quick Look at In-Home Care

Before taking a look at the ins and outs of home health care, we take a moment to examine in-home care. As you will see in a moment, home health care is designed to assist a person like an aging parent with certain medical issues. In-home care, on the other hand, is intended to provide assistance with tasks of daily living, which can include:

  • Grooming
  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Transportation
  • Housekeeping
  • Meal preparation
  • Companionship
  • And similar activities

Definition of Home Health Care

Home health care is defined by Medicare as:

Home health care is a wide range of health care services that can be given in your home for an illness or injury. Home health care is usually less expensive, more convenient, and just as effective as care you get in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

Examples of Home Health Services

The nature of home health services provided to an individual at their residence depends on the specific medical and associated needs of a particular person. With that said, Medicare does track the most commonplace types of home health services provided to individuals across the United States. These include:

  • Wound care for pressure sores or a surgical wound
  • Patient and caregiver education
  • Intravenous or nutrition therapy
  • Injections
  • Monitoring serious illness and unstable health status

Essential Goals of Home Health Care Services

The overarching objective of home health care services is to allow a person to remain at home, receive appropriate medical care and treatment, and avoid going to a hospital, assisted living, or some other more institutional setting. The specific goals of home health care have been identified by the Medicare program and include:

  • Aid a patient to get better
  • Assist a patient to regain independence
  • Aid a person to become as self-sufficient as possible
  • Maintain a person’s current condition or level of function (at a minimum)
  • Slow decline of a patient’s health
  • Check what a patient is eating and drinking
  • Check patient blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and breathing
  • Check that a patient is taking a prescription and other drugs and any treatments correctly
  • Ask if the patient is experiencing pain
  • Check safety around the home
  • Teach the patient about his or her care so you can take care of his or her self as much as possible
  • Coordinate patient care. This means they must communicate regularly with the patient, the doctor, and anyone else who provides caretaking assistance

Mechanics of Home Health Care

A doctor’s order is needed to commence home health care. Once a primary care physician or other doctor refers a person to home health care services, a home health care agency will schedule an appointment and come to the patient’s home to discuss needs and related matters.

The home health agency team will also speak with your doctor. Indeed, a home health provider will keep your physician updated on your health and progress. 

The doctor will determine how often a home health care aide visits a patient in his or her home. The home health care team must visit a patient in the manner ordered by a doctor.

Who Pays for Home Health Care Services?

The manner in which the costs of home health care services are paid is determined on a case by case bases. Examples of how the costs of home health care services are paid include:

  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Other commercial medical insurance
  • Veteran’s benefits
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Private pay

In some instances, home health care services are paid through a variety of sources. For example, a long-term care insurance policy might pay for part of these services and the balance is paid for by the patient or his or her family. A home health care agency representative typically helps a patient and his or her family navigate benefits to ascertain the most efficient and cost-effective way in which to pay the costs of this type of at-home assistance.

Cost Comparison: In-Home Health Care Versus a Nursing Home

In many instances, the alternative to home health care is spending time in a nursing home. The costs variance between home health care and a nursing home is significant. Please bear in mind that these costs are a national average. They do differ from one state to another – indeed, from one community to another in a particular state.

On average, in-home skilled nursing costs approximately $130 per visit. Assuming that this type of attention and assistance is needed on a daily basis for a period of time, the cost would translate to approximately to $3,900 a month. 

Keep in mind that this is just a visit by a member of a home health care team. This individual would not undertake assistance with activities of daily living, as a general rule. Some people who are in need of home health care are able to do some things associated with day to day living. Others may need the supplemental assistance of a home care aide (nonmedical assistance) as well.

Depending on what part of the country a person resides, a home care aide would cost about $25 an hour (less in some states, more in others). Assuming a home care aide also visits for a few hours a day, that would add $2,250 to the monthly total. 

Having made a note about an additional home care aide expense, it is important to note that in the majority of cases, a family member provides assistance to a loved one with a health condition when it comes to tasks associated with daily living. In other words, a home care aide expense largely is avoided or is at least minimized down from the dollar amount noted here. 

Nursing home care during the same 30-day time period would cost (on average) as follows. Do keep in mind that this is a national median expense and the costs of nursing home care varies from one facility to another and from city to city. 

  • Semi-private room: $225 per day
  • Private room: $253 per day
  • Semi-private room: $6,750 per month
  • Private room: $7,590 per month

It’s worth stressing: These costs are right in the middle of the range and almost 50 percent of nursing homes will be more expense each day and every month that what is set forth here. 

In the overall scheme of things, in-home health care services combined with a home care aide assisting with tasks of daily living will be less expensive than a stay in a nursing home. Significantly, a person receiving care and assistance at home … gets to stay home. Being able to remain in one’s own residence can be a tremendous benefit – including when it comes to the recovery process or in maintaining optimal wellness when diagnosed with a chronic illness.

Assisted Living as an Option

Assisted living might be an option for a person who has a chronic illness or does require some regular medical assistance. An assisted living community does not provide these types of health care supportive services directly, however.

In some instances, a resident of an assisted living community can make arrangements with a home health care agency or a home care assistance aide to obtain regular and recurring assistance with a medical issue.

Generally speaking, residing in an assisted living community and obtaining this type of supplemental assistance will prove less expensive than residing in a nursing home as well. Moreover, a person in assisted living has more independence than what would be available in a nursing home setting.