Decisions about senior care and senior living are often made as a result of an injury or illness, and a decision regarding home care or assisted living services must be made quickly. Being knowledgeable about your options and planning ahead will allow you to make the best decision for all involved in a timely manner.

Nonmedical Home Health Agencies differ from companion services because they provide an additional level of assistance in the home. In addition to the homemaker/companion services, such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, errand services and recreational activities, a nonmedical home health agency may also offer hands-on personal care services. Personal care services typically include assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, mobility and going to the bathroom. Long-term care insurance may cover services from a nonmedical home health agency, but Medicare and Medicaid often do not. An agency such as this is still considered nonmedical because it is not providing the skilled care a licensed home health agency provides.

A Licensed Home Health Agency provides skilled care in the home that may include services such as IV therapy, wound care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy or respiratory therapy. Most home health agencies also have home health aides to provide personal care services, such as bathing, grooming and dressing assistance. Private insurance coverage or Medicare/Medicaid programs may reimburse licensed home health agency services.

When looking for a home health agency to provide your loved one with assistance in the home, you should consider the following:

  • If you or your loved one are in need of personal care services, make sure the agency provides actual hands-on care and not just “assistance” with bathing or transferring. Many times the nonmedical agencies can provide the “assistance” services at a less expensive level of care, therefore, you shouldn’t need to pay for personal care services unless it’s actually hands-on assistance.
  • If you have a long-term care insurance policy, have the agency check with the insurance company directly to ensure the cares are covered under your policy. The agency should be happy to do this for you.
  • Always ask the agency about minimums – hours per visit and visits per week.
  • Ask about the agency’s backup system in the event your scheduled caregiver has an emergency. You’ll want to make sure that agency has back-up or on-call staff in this situation.

Getting additional assistance in the home early on can drastically reduce your risk of a more serious illness or medical condition later on. It may be difficult at first to ask for the additional assistance but you’ve worked hard in life and it may be time you had someone assist or someone “catering” to your daily needs.