Home Care

Due to the regular effects of aging, many older adults eventually need some form of assistance in their daily lives. While residential care such as assisted living is a good option for many, it isn’t the right fit for everyone. Some seniors have a strong desire to remain in their homes, or they may have a different level of need than their spouse or partner and want to continue to live together in the same residence. In other cases, such as when short-term care is needed following surgery or when a senior needs assistance with just a few of their daily tasks but is otherwise independent, around-the-clock residential care is unnecessary.

Home care is a great option for seniors who find themselves in any of the above situations. In-home care allows seniors to access the assistance they need from the comfort of their own home, and on a flexible schedule. The flexibility and personalized nature of in-home care may be why it is one of the fastest-growing healthcare industries in the U.S., according to research agency IBISWorld.

The factors that make home care so appealing for many can also make it difficult to decide if it’s the right fit, since the range of services that home care encompasses is so vast and can differ drastically depending on each individual’s need. In this guide, we’ll explain the services that are commonly offered by in-home caregivers, the different types of home care, the average cost of care, and how to determine which type of home care is best for you. 

What Is In-Home Care?

In-home care is an umbrella term for a wide array of services that an aide provides to a client in their home. The goal of in-home care is to ensure that the senior receives all of the care they need to live a safe and healthy life while retaining independence and without having to unnecessarily relocate to a residential care community. Home care can be delivered on either a short-term or long-term basis depending on the senior’s needs. 

Depending on the needs of the specific senior, home care services may include companionship, assistance with the activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing and toileting, transportation, and more. Home health care, which requires aides to have more advanced training and/or certification than standard home care aides, involves at-home medical care for those with more advanced needs. 

Who is a Good Fit for Home Care Services?

Because home care covers such a broad variety of services, there is not just one condition or care need that makes someone a good fit for in-home care. Home care aides can be hired to assist a client with any of their needs, whether that be walking up the stairs of their home, getting transportation to doctors’ appointments, or grocery shopping and cooking meals. 

While home care is flexible and can be tailored to an individual’s needs, you may be a good candidate for in-home care if you’re in need of any of the following types of assistance:

  • Assistance with Daily Tasks: You need assistance with one or several of your activities of daily living but can otherwise live independently. 
  • Housekeeping: You find it difficult to maintain the cleanliness of your home on your own. 
  • Mobility Assistance: You struggle with mobility and/or recently had a fall or another dangerous accident in the home. 
  • Meal Preparation: You are no longer able to or interested in preparing your own meals, and have lost weight and/or muscle mass as a result. 
  • Medication Management: You have a complicated medication regimen and need assistance sticking to your schedule. 
  • Short-Term Care: You’re recovering from an illness or surgery and need assistance with your daily tasks, hygiene, or maintaining your home while you recover. 
  • Transportation: You no longer drive or recently had an accident or other incident while driving. 
  • Companionship: You live alone and struggle with feeling isolated. 

What Are the Different Types of Home Care?

When looking into home care, it’s important to know which type of care you need. Most home care services can be divided into three types of services: companion care, personal care, and home health care. We’ve broken down the types of home care and given some examples of the services involved below. 

Companion Care

Companion care aides, sometimes referred to as elder assistants, can provide much-needed social interaction for seniors who live alone or otherwise suffer from isolation. This type of home care is considered “light assistance.” Companion care aides may read with their clients, go on walks with them, watch the senior’s favorite television shows and movies with them, and more. 

This type of care is especially beneficial for seniors who spend most of their time alone and may otherwise lack social interaction and friendships. It can also be a good option for those in the early stages of dementia, whose loved ones may not want them to be left alone. Companion care services can help family caregivers manage their many responsibilities and balance caregiving with their work and social life. 

Personal Care

Personal care assistants help their clients with any of their activities of daily living, as well as other tasks such as housekeeping, grocery shopping, and transportation. The range of services that a personal care assistant can provide is vast. Essentially, this type of home care involves all types of assistance other than medical care. Personal care assistance may sometimes be referred to as homemaker services, non-medical in-home care, or assistive care. 

In-home personal care can be a good solution for those beginning to struggle with mobility or other ADLs, those who no longer drive, those who find it a challenge to keep up with home maintenance, or a senior who has personal care needs that their spouse or partner does not. If delivered on an around-the-clock basis, personal care assistance is comparable to the level of care that one would receive in an assisted living community. However, it can be a particularly useful option for those who do not need around-the-clock care and rather need occasional or partial assistance.

Home Health Care 

Home health care offers the highest level of home care services. Unlike companion care aides and personal care assistants, home health care aides must undergo specialized training and certification, or otherwise hold a nursing or medical degree. 

This is because home health care aides can assist clients with their medical needs, including management of chronic conditions and therapy services. Some other common home health care services include wound care, administration of medical tests, maintenance of oxygen or feeding tubes, and general health monitoring. Because home health aides provide a higher level of care than standard home aides, this type of care does tend to be more expensive. 

Home health care can enable seniors to remain in their own homes when they otherwise would need to relocate to a skilled nursing community, either for a short-term recovery or a long-term stay. It’s also often an appealing option for those with regular medical needs such as dialysis and physical therapy and gives seniors the option to receive these services in their home rather than having to travel to a doctors’ office or clinic on a daily or weekly basis. 

What Types of Services Does Home Care Provide?

As covered above, though home care and home health care sound very similar, the available services are quite different. Certified home health care aides can provide medical care and other more advanced services that a home care aide would not be permitted to perform. 

The table below demonstrates what services are and are not available with standard home care and home health care. Keep in mind that home health care aides can typically deliver all standard home care services in tandem with health care, even those marked with an “X” in the table below, but personal care assistance is not the primary purpose of home health care. Those only in need of non-medical care should seek assistance from a personal care or companion care assistant rather than a certified home health care aide.

Home Care Services vs. Home Health Care Services 

Service Home Care Home Health Care
Assistance with ADLs
Meal preparation and grocery shopping
Medication management and reminders
Medication administration, including injectionsX
Rehabilitation and therapy services (physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy)X
Companion careX
Health monitoringX
Chronic disease managementX
Wound care and first aid servicesX
Medical testingX
Cognitive stimulation activities
General supervisionX

What Is the Average Cost of In-Home Care?

How much you pay for in-home care will depend on how frequently you need the services. Rather than charging a monthly fee like residential senior communities, home care providers typically charge for services on an hourly basis. This is ideal for those who only need occasional care or who only need several hours of assistance a week, but it can make around-the-clock in-home care very expensive, especially when compared to other options like assisted living. 

If you’re in need of in-home care and worry that the costs are unmanageable, look into financial assistance options. Along with private and long-term care insurance, public benefits including Medicare and Medicaid waiver programs may be available to you to help finance in-home care. 

Average Home Care Costs

The average cost of home care services in the United States is $4,290 per month, according to the Genworth Financial Cost of Care Survey. This is based on the client receiving 44 hours of care per week, making the hourly rate approximately $24. This figure is based on the national median, so the actual cost in your area may be either much higher or lower. 

For example, in Alabama, the average monthly cost of home care is $3,394 for 44 hours of care per week. However, in Maine, the cost sits above the national average at $5,117 per month. Costs can also vary between different towns and cities within the same state, as demonstrated in New York, where the cost of personal care services can vary by as much as over $650 a month depending on the town. 

Average Home Health Care Costs

As home health care aides require more extensive training and certifications than home care aides, the cost for these services is slightly higher. The average monthly cost for home health care in the United States is $4,385 for 44 hours of care per week, or approximately $25 an hour. 

For those who need health care services on a short-term basis, such as when recovering from an illness, or for only a few hours a week, it typically makes financial sense to seek in-home health care rather than relocating to a skilled nursing community. At 44 hours a week of care, home health care still costs approximately $3,100 less per month than a semi-private room in a skilled nursing facility.  However, if the care needs become much more frequent or chronic, some seniors and their families may decide that a skilled nursing home with around-the-clock health care built into the monthly cost may be the better option. 

Is Home Care The Right Choice For Me?

As discussed above, home care encompasses a broad range of services, making it a good choice for seniors with a variety of needs and health conditions. The flexible nature of the services and scheduling, as opposed to residential care, means that you can even access home care services on an as-needed basis or for a limited number of hours per week to help with specific tasks. If your needs increase, you’ll have the option to start receiving services more frequently or transition from personal or companion care to home health care. 

Once you determine if home care services can meet your needs, you’ll need to choose a provider. While many home care aides and agencies offer similar levels of care, the available services may differ depending on the specific provider or agency. If you have a specific in-home care need and a home care provider does not offer those services, check other agencies and providers in your area. With over 12,000 home care agencies in the United States, you have plenty of options. If you’re seeking care that enables you to remain independent while also meeting your health, safety, and/or medical needs, home care can be an excellent choice.

Related Home Care Articles