Differences Between In-Home Care Services

What are Home Health, Home Care, Palliative and Hospice Care?


When an older loved one or adult with a disability needs caring support at home, it can feel daunting to know which professional care services are best. Who can help with bathing and meals? Is a registered nurse needed for wound care? Can hospice care happen at home?


The Global Coalition on Aging and the Home Care Association of America state that almost 70% of Americans who turn age 65 will need assistance at some point to care for themselves. These senior care industry leaders also report that “already 40% of adults aged 65+ need assistance with daily living activities.” The fast-growing care needs of the country’s increasingly older population can leave care recipients and their families confused over in-home care options. The complexity of nonmedical and medical services available also may jeopardize a loved one from getting the timely and attentive care they need.


Home Care

In-home caregivers are the extra hand to provide personalized support to a loved one in their own familiar home surroundings. Home care can be part time, full time or live-in assistance ranging from light housekeeping and meal preparation to personal grooming and toileting. At-home caregivers can provide care services such as being a companion who helps write the grandchildren to driving the care client to medical appointments and to complete errands. Home care allows a loved one to stay safe and independent at home as long as possible. Most at-home caregiving services are covered through private pay, VA benefits, or long-term care plans.


Home Healthcare

Home healthcare is skilled nursing care that is prescribed and directed by a physician and supervised by a registered nurse. Home healthcare is suited for complex health issues that require a higher level of medical assistance, or when a loved one is recovering from an injury or recent illness. A professional skilled nursing team can accommodate a client’s numerous medical care situations such as monitoring vital signs, medication setup and management, dressing changes, and continence care.

Generally, home healthcare is delivered by Medicare-certified companies and may include physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. A registered nurse makes a care plan and supervises a home health aide who helps a client with activities of daily living such as bathing and dressing. The RN does supervisory visits in the home at least once every two weeks.

Medicare and other health service providers that pay for home healthcare determine the number and length of nurse visits to the home.


Palliative Care

Palliative care is specialized support for people living with a serious illness or transitioning toward death. Palliative care focuses on pain relief, comfort and reduced stress for an ill loved one and balanced overall health for the patient and family members. Palliative care serves not only the dying but also those with chronic diseases such as cancer, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s. A specially trained palliative care team includes doctors, nurses, professional caregivers and other specialists who work together to improve the quality of life for the care client.


Hospice Care

Hospice or end-of-life care is a type of palliative care, but the ailing person is no longer seeking curative treatment. The aim of hospice care is to extend comfort, peace and dignity to individuals in the dying process. Hospice programs also support a patient’s family with counseling and bereavement care. Hospice teams of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains and other caregivers provide care in patients’ homes or at a hospice center, hospital or in-patient care facility.

Hospice typically serves a terminally ill person with a life expectancy of six months or less. In some cases, a hospice patient’s health improves to the point where the individual no longer needs the specialized care. Also, if a person starts to feel better, he or she may want to negate hospice and start receiving curative medical treatment again. At any point, a hospice client can change their mind about their care.


Choosing The Right Level of Care

Because of the quickly expanding number of at-home services on the market today, those in need of care and their families may want to consider the following tips for choosing at-home care:

  • Select services only from a professional, licensed agency. Make sure you see actual proof of certification and licensing for the agency.

  • Be certain that the caregiver who works with your loved one is insured and bonded.

  • Get a detailed care plan or treatment plan upfront. Ask about goals of the suggested services.

  • Review the caregiver’s qualifications, experience and amount of supervision on the job.

  • Discuss all financial costs and evaluate options for saving money on home care, including long-term care insurance, a reverse mortgage, Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits, etc.





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