What Is the Difference Between A Caregiver and A Home Health Aide
Unrecognizable grandmother and her granddaughter holding hands.

What Is the Difference Between A Caregiver and A Home Health Aide

The concepts of “in-home caregiver” and “in-home health aides” sound similar, but they are distinctly different services. Understand what is the difference between A Caregiver and A Home Health Aide will make sure that families are making appropriate choices while providing balanced and fitting health care delivery options for seniors and those requiring in-home medical assistance. 

Caregivers offer non-clinical help, such as meal prep and companionship, while a home health aide provides professional medical assistance. Another difference is that home health aides are generally covered by Medicare or private medical insurance while home care isn’t.

Home health care is clinical, medical supervision provided by a licensed professional. Placements of these aides are often done by an agency that will screen and vet those who work for them. Aides are often the day to day face of care in the home. Registered and licensed practical nurses, occupational therapists, and physical therapists will also provide home health care services, often through home health agencies or hospice agencies. This type of care is usually prescribed by a doctor as part of a senior health care regimen. This care involves several activities, including physical and occupational therapy, administration of prescription medications, treatments or shots, conducting appropriate medical tests and evaluations, medical-based monitoring of health status and external wound care and management. 

Many people can benefit from the assistance of a home health aide. Seniors who were recently discharged from rehabilitation, a hospital stay or a skilled nursing facility can benefit from medical-based training and knowledge.  Elderly people who need monitoring after recent medication changes that may require swift and appropriate action. Various individuals whose fragile health and challenges for transportation prevent them from safely traveling to and from doctors’ offices can use home health aides. Seniors who experience an overall decline in function can benefit from occupational or physical therapy to regain independence. 

Caregivers provide compassionate care and assistance for seniors who need help with daily activities. While they can be placed through an independent agency, other caregivers are independent contractors that work from assignment to assignment. Levels of care vary with each situation and can range from weekly meal prep to incontinence help. These individuals are trained to understand the nuances of senior care but are generally not licensed to provide medical services. Senior home care services include providing companionship which can include reading aloud, chatting, and in-home activities;  transportation to outside appointments, assistance and monitoring activities of daily living (ADLs) like dressing, bathing, and grooming; meal planning, preparation, and serving; household cleaning and organizing; and help with various other household management tasks. 

Caregivers are important resources for seniors who need help with the Activities of Daily Living. These are a list of basic activities necessary for seniors independent living at home. They are based upon tasks and achievements which are performed by individuals on a daily basis.  While there are many variations on the definition of the ADLs, most organizations recognize there are five basic categories:

Personal hygiene – To what degree is the patient able to administer their own bathing, showering, grooming, nail care, and oral care? 

Dressing – Is the patient able to make appropriate clothing decisions? Are they able to complete the acts of physically dressing and undressing?

Eating – Does the patient have the ability to feed oneself?  ADL’s generally do not apply to the ability to prepare food and manage the meal process.

Maintaining continence – Is the patient able to mentally and physically use a restroom. This includes the ability to get on and off the toilet and appropriate cleaning oneself.

Transferring/Mobility – Can the patient successfully stand from a sitting position? Do they have the ability to get in and out of bed? Do they also have the ability to walk independently from one location to another, for varying distances? 

A level of independence is generally determined on whether or not someone can perform these activities on their own or they need help from a family caregiver.

Caregivers are valuable to assist elderly people who are still active but may require transportation to and from activities and medical appointments. Caregivers can also help with cooking, cleaning, and other household responsibilities to make sure that the household functions correctly. A caregiver is also another individual that can monitor seniors while providing companionship or help so they don’t feel isolated at home. 

Combining in-home care services is often the most beneficial approach for their loved ones. Health professionals are able to provide medical services, while care aids assist them with their everyday activities. This holistic approach ensures that seniors’ emotional and medical needs are both met.

The biggest question when paying for home health and home care is who covers what? Home health services generally fall under the umbrella of medical services, while home care involves daily personal assistance. Insurance tends to cover these types of care differently.

Medicare and private insurance plans cover home health when prescribed by a physician. It is important to have a good dialogue with your loved one’s doctor about home health if you think it would be beneficial. This service is available to any senior who qualifies for Medicare. It covers both types of care for income-qualified seniors though coverage amounts vary by state.

Private Pay is the common option for home care but is only necessary for home health services that have not been ordered by a physician. Long-Term Care Insurance covers in-home care, but only if it’s included in your loved one’s plan. Check with their insurance agent for specifics. If you are young enough and have no pre-existing conditions that would hinder the placement of coverage; investigating this as an option is worth the time. By investing the interest on savings and investments to pay for a qualified long term care plan, this prevents spending down of the assets and investments in order to pay for the care itself.