Skip to content

Home Health or Home Care for Your Aging Parents or Elderly Clients?

July 27, 2012

In the past week there has been quite a bit of news published about home care agencies being involved in fraudulent activities and abuse of the elderly. Yes, this actually happens, but there are steps you can take to find reputable and appropriate care for your aging parents.

Let me first define the differences between “Home Care Services” and “Home Health.” There are important distinctions between the two that apply to who will pay the bill, what kind of services are provided, qualifying criteria, and how to navigate through the process.

The state of Washington defines Home Care Services”  as non-medical services and assistance provided to ill, disabled, or vulnerable clients that enables them to remain in their residences. Home care services include, but are not limited to: personal care such as assistance with dressing, feeding and personal hygiene to facilitate self-care; homemaker assistance with household tasks, such as housekeeping, shopping, meal planning, meal preparation, and transportation; respite care assistance and support provided to the family; or other non-medical tasks, as defined in this section or delegated tasks of nursing under RCW 18.79.260 (3) (e) and rules adopted thereunder.

The above definition puts it in simple terms, and outlines the basics of “Home Care Services.” Please note that each state has their own wording to define services within that state, but basically the allowable tasks encompassing home care are the same. Payment for such services also may vary across each state, but usually these type of services are paid for by Medicaid (for those who qualify), private pay by the client or family, or community programs.

Get referrals from friends, hospital discharge planners, senior centers, medical providers, or community leaders. Most agencies that receive Medicaid payment for these services are required to do background checks and may do drug and alcohol testing on prospective employees. If you hire your best friend’s second cousin to provide personal care services or homemaking tasks you may have to perform the background check yourself. You may feel you are saving money by going with someone not associated with an agency, but remember, agencies will usually provide back-up personnel in case of illness and they take care of employment taxes and training.

Tasks provided under “Home Care Services” that are paid for by Medicaid and certain other programs are for the benefit of the client only. This means that areas will be cleaned that the client utilizes, but bedrooms of other family members are not included. Meals will be prepared for the client, but the provider is not a short order cook for the entire family. Feel free to verify all tasks and restrictions with the agency during the initial interview.

“Home Health Care Services” fall under care that is provided in the home to a patient who has had a recent acute medical episode or a significant change in health status within a certain time frame. The care must be ordered by a doctor with precise orders for the treatments or care to be provided. If Medicare is paying for the services there is no additional charge to the patient, but the patient must meet homebound status and it is understood that services are provided for a “short duration.”

The goal of “Home Health Care Services” is to return the patient to a medically stable condition or to attain a satisfactory level of rehabilitation. The patient must require frequent monitoring by a licensed nurse, therapist, dietician, or social worker to assess health status and progress. There are specific goals and objectives written into the plan of care so the patient, family, and caregivers are all aware of the anticipated outcomes.

Home Health Care agencies  who accept Medicare clients go through a stringent review process before becoming licensed and are subject to surveys every two years by an accrediting organization or state surveyors in order to maintain their status as a licensed  agency. All employees must pass background checks before being hired. Drug testing is often randomly performed and is required if there are complaints or suspicion about the use of illicit drugs.

Private insurance and private payment by families are also acceptable methods of payment for home health care services. You can track the record of a home health care agency by going to  Once again, referrals from hospital discharge planners, your medical provider, friends, and service agencies that serve the elderly are a way to find the best agency for your needs.

Do you have additional questions about the difference between “Home care Services” and Home Health Services?” Please leave questions, stories, or ideas in the comments section.



13 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2012 7:23 am

    You provide a much-needed service to adult children of aging parents. Back when I was my mother’s caregiver after her stroke, I had no resources and had to wade through these waters on my own. Because my mother needed 24-hour care (her stroke destroyed much of her cognitive and most of her physical capabilities) and she was living on Medicare dollars, her only living option was a long-term care facility. Barely two weeks after her stroke, I was told I needed to come up with a discharge plan two days before her impending release. The only LTCF with an available bed was a dump, but via internet research, I found a bed for her in a rehab facility (which impressed the social worker who hadn’t thought of it 🙂 ), which bought us a few more weeks to find a suitable living arrangement for my mom. How I wish there were websites like yours to help me navigate the unknown waters! Jane

    • July 30, 2012 6:09 pm

      Thanks for checking out my blog Jane. I’m sorry you had to navigate your mother’s care without resources, but I’m sure you have a huge knowledge base now from which to share your wisdom. If you’d ever like to share some of your stories in a guest post please let me know.
      Have a great evening.

      • July 31, 2012 4:09 am

        Thanks, Laura, I would like that. I’m not sure how to do that, but in the meantime, my email is in case you want to share particulars of what you may be looking for. I’ll also be updating my blog with more stories, so if you see anything that you find that fits into your blog, please feel free to share. Take care, Jane

  2. July 31, 2012 12:07 am

    i prefer home care services for my parents because these services are very beneficial for old aged people as with growing age they needs more love and care. Those children who can not be available to their parents all the times then they can take help of any home care agency so that the care service can be available 24 hours a day for their parents.

  3. August 2, 2012 9:25 am

    nice and clean design.

    • August 2, 2012 2:20 pm

      Thanks for commenting. I hope you’ll visit often and ask question or provide stories of your own experiences on the subject.

  4. August 3, 2012 12:37 pm

    thanks for this post. you are doing a great job…keep it up.

    • August 6, 2012 7:37 pm

      Thanks for the comment Clairta. Is there a particular topic you would like to see addressed on the blog?

  5. August 11, 2012 2:58 am

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.
    It will always be helpful to read articles from other authors and use a little something from their web sites.

    • August 11, 2012 12:20 pm

      Glad you liked the post. Checking out other sites is informative. Please remember to ask permission before using anything from web sites though–just common courtesy.
      I hope you’ll visit again.

  6. July 30, 2012 6:15 pm

    Thanks for promoting the post. I really feel it is important that as many people as possible learn about the resources avaialbe for elder care, caregiving, and how to start talking about the upcoming need.
    Have a great night!


  1. Home Health or Home Care for Your Aging Parents or Elderly Clients? «

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: