In less than two decades, the graying of America will be inescapable: Older adults are projected to outnumber kids for the first time in U.S. history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Families needing an extra set of hands have a few options to choose from.
Home health and home care are two distinct types of services to help aging relatives manage their health while providing them with a high quality lifestyle, Catherine Merkey, outreach coordinator for Masonic Village Home Health in Elizabethtown, Pa., said. She said many people get confused by the two services and part of her job is to help educate them.
Home health care often includes the administration of medication, medical testing, caring for a wound or injury, help with recovering from an illness and different types of therapy, including physical, occupational and speech-language. This type of care is typically necessary after someone has been hospitalized, is undergoing rehabilitation or is transitioning out of a nursing facility. There are no set hours for home health and the average length of service is usually about 60 days or until the patient is no longer homebound.
“With home health, a lot of times we have patients who are temporarily homebound – they may have had a knee or hip replacement,” Merkey said. “Our goal is to get the patient back on their feet and living independently. It’s not meant to be long-term care.”
Home care focuses on providing older adults with assistance in their daily activities occasionally or for an extended period of time. Depending on the individual’s needs, a home care aid might assist with meal prep, laundry, light housework, bathing, transportation and mobility. They may even simply provide companionship.
Another difference between home health and home care is price. Home health is covered by medical insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. “Some people have a long-term care insurance policy that will kick in,” Merkey said. “It really depends on the policy.” Home care is paid for out-of-pocket and may last for a longer period of time.
Masonic Village at Elizabethtown offers home health, home care and hospice services. Catherine, who is also a social worker, said her job is to advocate for the patients. “If you qualify for services, you’re entitled to use them,” she said. “They help to reduce ER visits and re-hospitalizations.”