Introduction to Home Care

What is Home Care?

Home care is a type of care that is performed in the care receiver’s home. As such, home care allows individuals to safely age in place. Home care is also referred to as “in-home care”, “domiciliary care”, and “social care.” These services are often sought out by concerned loved ones who wish to ensure both safety and comfort for family members during a time of need. There are many choices to consider, and you’ll have questions along the way. We put together this introduction to home care to help you understand the basics and make thoughtful, educated decisions.

Home Health Care vs Traditional Home Care

There are two basic types of home care to consider: home health care and traditional home care. Home health care is medical care provided by a skilled nurse, while traditional home care refers to non-medical care. Within the public discourse of the United States, we typically use “home care”, “in-home care”, and “home health care” interchangeably, which can lead to a great deal of confusion. In this guide and throughout the website, we will use “home care” and “in-home care” as general terms and “home health care” and “traditional home care” to distinguish between medical and non-medical care.

Home Health Care

Individuals who require home health care need some level of medical attention to ensure their health and well being. In general, seniors who require home health care need assistance in recovering from injury or illness. This form of care must be prescribed by a physician, and a Home Health Agency representative will work in conjunction with social workers and medical professionals to establish an individualized plan of care for each client.

Home health care professionals are usually licensed by the state and include nurses, therapists (physical, occupational, and speech), and home health aides. Skilled nurses assist home health care patients with taking necessary medications and diagnostic testing, while therapeutic staff assist with physical or occupational therapy for rehabilitative purposes.

Traditional Home Care

The other type of care is traditional home care. With this type of care, an individual receives assistance in completing activities of daily living (ADLs). These might include dressing, showering, cooking, eating or general mobility. In addition, a home care worker can assist with picking up medications, reminding a client to take medications or transporting the client to appointments. While a home care worker is not a medically licensed professional, reputable agencies only place highly trained staff who understand the importance of assisting a client while allowing that client to maintain the highest level of independence possible.

Another point of confusion: there can be overlap in the services provided in traditional home care and those provided by a home health care service. Some home health care providers will provide services that are typically associated with traditional home care. The opposite is not true.

Who Will Need Home Care?

A variety of individuals benefit from home care services. For instance, a geriatric client in the earliest stages of Dementia might continue to safely age in place when assistance is provided. A disabled individual wishing to remain at home would also see great benefits from services, allowing him to maintain a high level of independence and avoid placement. Home care services also assist individuals wishing to shorten a hospital stay by providing day to day assistance and therapeutic services in the comfort of home. In addition, home care services benefit the family unit by offering an extra set of eyes and ears and respite services when caregivers need time away to tend to their own needs, enjoy a vacation or continue to work away from the loved one needing care.

Family Care vs Professional Care

When considering traditional home care, many families opt to provide services independently. While there is value in having a loved one providing support, asking that loved one to take on challenging care tasks can cause stress, resentment and even physical harm. A geriatric woman attempting to lift her husband for a bath can easily become injured, as can a frail man attempting to assist his wife with dressing or toileting. These tasks also demand a great deal of time from family members, making it difficult for them to tend to their own needs or take a break from the twenty-four hour job that providing care to a frail individual often entails.

Another option comes in the form of hiring an agency to assist with caregiver responsibilities. By bringing in a professional, a family can be certain their loved one’s needs are being met in the safest way possible. This allows the family to focus on supporting their loved one, rather than spending time tending to cooking, cleaning, bathing and dressing chores. Many families find great benefit in performing some traditional home care services while hiring a professional to perform others.

In addition, nursing staff available through home health care agencies can assist an individual with medical tasks that a family member might not be able to perform safely. If you or your loved one requires any form of medical care, we strongly recommend at least speaking to your health care provider and home health care professionals before attempting to provide this care within the family.

When is the Right Time to Plan for Home Care?

Individuals considering home care, whether for themselves or a loved one, should do so as early as possible. After the onset of Dementia, providing the right level of care can help an individual to stay home for a longer period of time without compromising safety. If a hospitalization is necessary, home care plans should be made before discharge, involving medical staff and ensuring the correct level of continued care. Anytime an individual can be involved in his own home care planning there is an advantage too, as this promotes a higher level of independence, benefiting the individual mentally and physically.

The key to caring for an individual is to understand when care is necessary, seek help early and select the right type of care for an individual’s needs. Those needing further information should contact a reputable home care agency with questions and concerns. As a starting point, we’ve included a link to the US Department of Health and Human Service’s Eldercare Locator – it’s a great place to start your search.

More Resources

LongTermCare.gov – Where Can You Receive Care?

Eldercare Locator

National Association for Home Care & Hospice