Although they sound similar, home care and home health care aren’t the same. For example, Medicare provides coverage for many home-based skilled care nursing and therapy services but not for non-medical senior home care. As a concerned party, knowing the differences between the two is essential when your aging loved one is relying on you. Using this guide as a reference will help ensure that they receive the right care from the right provider at the right time.

What is Senior Home Care?

Non-medical home care services help aging-in-place seniors with activities of daily living (ADLs) they can no longer do on their own. Often delivered by professional aides, the level of in-home care varies depending on the health of the care recipient and whether they are also getting assistance from friends and family members.

And although home care aides are trained to understand most aspects of senior care, they are usually not licensed to perform medical services.

Examples of senior home care include:

  • Companionship
  • Light housekeeping
  • Transportation
  • Food shopping, meal preparation, and meal deliveries
  • Bathing, dressing, and grooming
  • Toileting and incontinence care
  • Bill paying or financial management assistance
  • Medication reminders

Who Might Benefit from Home Care?

In general, otherwise, active older adults who might benefit from home care services include those who:

  • Need transportation to and from activities and medical appointments
  • Need help with cleaning, cooking, and other household duties
  • Feel lonely and isolated in situations where companionship might be beneficial
  • Need assistance with personal care

What is Home Health Care?

Conversely, home health care is clinical, medical supervision provided by a licensed healthcare professional like a nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, or social worker. Home healthcare services are usually delivered through home health agencies or, in rarer instances, by hospice service providers.

Home health care is often referred to as “skilled” care and may include these services:

  • Wound care and dressing changes
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Administration of prescription medications or shots
  • Medical testing
  • Monitoring of the recipient’s health status

How is Home Health Care Ordered?

A doctor usually orders home health care as part of an overall recovery care program following a hospital stay, surgery, or serious injury.

Older adults who might benefit from home health care include those who:

  • Are discharged from the hospital, a skilled nursing facility, or rehabilitation center
  • Need monitoring after a recent medication change
  • Are in fragile health which prevents them from safely traveling to and from appointments
  • Are experiencing an overall decline in function and who might benefit from therapy to regain their independence

Who Pays for Senior In-Home Care?

Home health care falls under the “medical services” umbrella, while home care does not, so insurance providers tend to cover each type differently. Here are some general insurance guidelines to help you during the planning process:

Medicare and private insurance

These plans cover skilled care home health services when prescribed by a doctor. Home health care benefits are available to any senior who qualifies for Medicare insurance.


Medicaid insurance covers both types of in-home care for income-qualified seniors, although benefit amounts vary by state.

Long-term care (LTC) insurance

If you have an LTC insurance policy, it may provide at least some coverage for home care services.

What is a Holistic Home Care Approach?

Some families find that combining both types of in-home services is the best way to maintain their aging loved one’s dignity and quality of life, for example, after a lengthy hospital stay. Under this “holistic” caregiving team approach, healthcare professionals provide essential medical care, while home care aides assist with ADLs— combining their efforts to ensure that the senior’s physical, mental, and emotional needs get met.

An Essential Part of Your Caregiving Team

Building an effective caregiving team for aging loved ones can be challenging if you’ve never done it before. At Help at Home Senior Care we’ve provided personalized in-home care to families in Chevy Chase, Rockville, and the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area for over 20 years. Our mission is delivering the most comprehensive and compassionate senior home care possible, using a unique, hands-on approach with every client and family we serve.

Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, our in-home services include personal care, transitional care, respite care, geriatric care, end-of-life care, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, holiday companion care, and more. To learn more about our top-quality home care services or schedule an initial assessment for a senior in our service area today, please visit