Home Care Guide

Understanding the Basics

This home care guide answers a common question asked by family caregivers.

What is home care? Simply put, it is an umbrella term used to describe care services that allow older adults to receive personalized care and assistance in the comfort of their own homes. Services can be medical and non-medical, for those who need assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), who are chronically or terminally ill, disabled, or recovering from a hospital or nursing home stay.

It’s a type of care that provides the necessary support to maintain independence and quality of life without the need for hospitalization or a long-term care facility.

The Difference Between Home Care and Home Health Care

It’s important to understand the difference between home care and home health care, as they cater to different needs. While both provide services at home, home care is primarily non-medical assistance. It includes help, usually from home health aides, with daily activities like meal preparation, light housekeeping, personal hygiene, and companionship. Home care is ideal for older adults who can manage their health but need help with some tasks.

Home health services, on the other hand, are medical in nature. They are often prescribed by a health care provider and include services like nursing, physical therapy, and medical treatments. This form of care is suited for individuals with specific health conditions that require regular medical attention.

Why Choose Home Care?

For many families, home care is a preferred option as it allows their loved ones to stay in a familiar, comfortable environment. It’s a flexible solution tailored to the individual, providing just the right amount of support without intruding on independence. Whether it’s having home health aides for a few hours a week or more comprehensive daily assistance, home care can adapt to your loved one’s needs.

In the following sections of this home care guide, we’ll delve deeper into aspects of home care. We’ll look at its benefits, the types of services available, and how to choose and find the right care provider. Understanding what home care entails is the first step in making informed decisions for the well-being and happiness of your loved one.

Male home care caregiver serving a meal to an older man

Enhancing Quality of Life at Home

As a family caregiver, recognizing the benefits of home care can help you make informed decisions that enhance your loved one’s quality of life. Home care isn’t just about providing basic assistance. It’s about enriching the daily life of your loved one in a place they love and feel most comfortable—their home.

Personalized and Flexible Care

One of the key advantages of home care is its flexibility and personalization. The care provided can be tailored to the specific needs and preferences of your loved one. Whether it’s help with household chores, personal care, or engaging in hobbies and social activities, home care adapts to your loved one’s changing needs.

Maintaining Independence and Dignity

For many older adults, maintaining as much independence as possible is the goal. Home care supports independence by allowing them to continue living in their own home, following their own routines, and making their own choices. Preserving and supporting their autonomy also preserves their dignity and self-esteem, contributing to a more positive outlook on life.

Emotional and Social Benefits

Home care also provides emotional and social benefits. Regular social interaction, whether through conversation, shared activities, or outings, can significantly improve the mental and emotional well-being of older adults. Having a caregiver around can also alleviate fear, loneliness, and isolation.

Safety, Comfort, and Safe Transportation

Safety is a paramount concern for older individuals, especially those living alone. Home caregivers can ensure that the home environment is safe and secure, helping to prevent accidents and responding quickly in case of emergencies. Additionally, providing safe transportation for appointments, errands, or social outings is another valuable aspect of home care, ensuring your loved one can get around safely and comfortably.

Respite Support for Family Caregivers

Finally, home care offers much-needed respite for you, the family caregiver. Knowing your loved one is in capable and caring hands can give you peace of mind when you can’t be there.

In the next section, we’ll explore the range of services provided by home care and home health care. This will give you a clearer understanding of how these services can be tailored to meet the unique needs of your loved one.

Navigating Home Care Services for Your Loved One

As you delve into the care options for your loved one, it’s helpful to understand the range of services offered by both home care and home health care. Each plays a unique role in supporting the well-being of your loved one, and knowing what they offer can help you make the best choices

Home Care Services

When looking for day-to-day help to make life a little easier for your loved one, Homemaker Companion Care is a good choice. This type of care can be provided by home care agencies or private home care providers. Services are tailored to make everyday life smoother and more enjoyable for your loved one. Homemaker Companion Care agencies are prohibited by many states from providing any hands-on personal or nursing care or medication administration. Services typically include:

  • Personal Care: Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), like bathing, dressing, and grooming. It’s about respecting your loved one’s personal routine and helping them look and feel their best.
  • Companion Care: This offers friendship and emotional support. Whether it’s playing cards, watching a favorite TV show together, or just chatting about the day, this service keeps loneliness at bay.
  • Meal Preparation: Ensuring your loved one enjoys nutritious, home-cooked meals that cater to their dietary needs and preferences.
  • Housekeeping: Taking care of light cleaning, laundry, and keeping the living space tidy and comfortable.
  • Safe Transportation: Providing reliable and safe rides to appointments, shopping trips, or social visits, adding a layer of convenience and safety.

Home Health Care Services

When medical care is needed, home health agencies come in. These services are often prescribed by a doctor and are provided by healthcare professionals. They include:

  • Skilled Nursing Care: Administered by licensed nurses, this care covers medical needs like wound care, medication management, and health monitoring.
  • Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy: These therapies help in rehabilitation and improving the quality of life, especially after a hospital stay or a health setback.
  • Medical Social Work: Offering support in coping with emotional or social challenges related to health conditions or aging.

To receive services, a doctor must sign a treatment order for needed services. Then, a Plan of Care (POC) is created, giving the details of how care will be given. No POC is needed to receive homemaker companion services. As needs change, the POC will be updated by the home health provider and reviewed by the doctor.

*Important note: A patient has the right to be a part of the planning of care. At any time, you can request to receive a copy of the POC.

Nurse Registries

Nurse registries provide a platform for families to connect with independent healthcare professionals for personalized home care.

Key Services Offered by Nurse Registries:

  • Diverse Healthcare Professionals: Access to a range of caregivers, including RNs, LPNs, and CNAs, tailored to specific care needs.
  • Flexible Care Options: Services range from basic assistance to specialized nursing care, depending on the caregiver’s expertise.

A treatment plan is not typically required, but families should assess and determine the care needs.

Important Note: When using a nurse registry, it’s essential to verify the caregiver’s qualifications and understand the responsibilities regarding insurance and employment taxes.

Independent Health Care Professionals

Although not administered by AHCA, an individual healthcare professional may provide services in the home, within the scope of their state license or registration, and/or training. Health care professionals can include registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), respiratory and speech therapists, certified nursing assistants (CNAs), home health aides (HHAs), and homemaker

*Important note: If you employ an independent health care professional, ask for proof of liability insurance and who will be responsible for paying household employment, income withholding, and unemployment taxes. If they do not pay these taxes, you will be required to pay.

Making the Right Choice for Your Loved One

Each type of care has its place in supporting your loved one. While home care focuses on everyday living support, home health care addresses specific medical needs. Your choice will depend on what kind of help your loved one requires to live comfortably and safely in their home.

In the next section, we’ll discuss when it might be time to consider home care for your loved one, helping you recognize the signs and make timely decisions for their care and comfort.

When to consider home care: Lonely elderly woman looking out the window.

Recognizing the Right Time for Additional Support

Figuring out when it’s time to bring in home care can be a bit of a puzzle. As a family caregiver, you want what’s best for your loved one, but it’s not always easy to know when to take that step. Here are some signs that might indicate it’s time to consider home care:

Changes in Daily Living Abilities

Keep an eye out for changes in how your loved one manages their daily routines. Are they struggling with personal care, like bathing or dressing? Maybe they’re finding it hard to keep up with household chores or cooking. These are often the first signs that a little extra help could go a long way.

Health and Mobility Concerns

Noticeable changes in health and mobility can also be a cue. If your loved one is recovering from a recent hospital stay or has experienced a decline in mobility, home care can provide the necessary support to ensure their safety and well-being at home.

Increased Isolation or Loneliness

Social interaction is vital at any age. If your loved one is becoming more isolated, perhaps because they can’t get out as much as they used to, a home caregiver can bring companionship and a link to the outside world, brightening their day.

Concerns About Safety

If you’re often worried about your loved one’s safety—maybe they’ve had a fall or a close call with an illness—it’s a clear sign that having someone there, even for part of the day, could provide peace of mind for both of you. Use our free Home Safety Checklist to make your loved one’s living environment as safe as possible.

The Caregiver’s Capacity

Let’s not forget about you, the caregiver. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stretched thin, or simply recognizing that the care needs are becoming more than you can handle alone, it’s okay to seek help. Home care can provide that much-needed support, ensuring your loved one’s needs are met while giving you a chance to recharge.

Making the Decision with Confidence

Deciding to introduce home care isn’t always easy, but it’s a decision that can bring a lot of positives. It’s about enhancing your loved one’s quality of life, ensuring their safety, and giving you peace of mind. Remember, it’s not about taking away independence; it’s about providing the support to maintain it.

In the next section, we’ll explore the pros and cons of home care compared to other senior living and care options, helping you weigh your choices and decide what’s best for your loved one.

Finding the Best Fit for Your Loved One

When it comes to caring for an aging loved one, there are several paths you can take. Home care is just one of them, and sometimes it helps to compare it with other options out there. Let’s break down the pros and cons of home care versus other types of senior living arrangements, so you can feel more confident about your decision.

Home Care


  • Familiar Environment: There’s no place like home. Staying in familiar surroundings can be comforting and beneficial, especially for those with memory issues like dementia.
  • Personalized Attention: Home care offers one-on-one support tailored to your loved one’s needs, routines, and preferences.
  • Flexibility: You can adjust services as needs change, from a few hours a week to full-time help.
  • Independence and Comfort: Your loved one maintains a sense of independence, living in their own space with their own things around them.


  • Cost: Depending on the level of care needed, home care can be expensive, especially if round-the-clock care is required.
  • Isolation: Without regular social activities, some older adults might feel isolated or lonely.
  • Home Maintenance: The responsibility of maintaining a home continues, which can be challenging for both the older adult and the family caregiver.

Assisted Living and Nursing Homes


  • Built-in Socialization: These settings offer more opportunities for social interaction and activities, which can be great for older adults feeling isolated.
  • No Home Maintenance: Moving out of a home means saying goodbye to the chores and responsibilities of home maintenance.
  • Access to Care: In long term care facilities like nursing homes, medical care and assistance are readily available to patients.


  • Adjustment Period: Moving to a new environment can be tough, especially for those who have lived in their family home for many years.
  • Less Personalized Care: While care is available, it may not be as personalized or flexible as home care.
  • Costs: These facilities can also be expensive, and costs may increase as more care and services are needed.

Adult Day Care


  • Social Interaction: Offers a structured environment for socialization and activities, great for older adults who enjoy company and group activities.
  • Respite for Caregivers: Provides a break for family caregivers during the day, knowing their loved one is in a safe, engaging environment.
  • Cost-Effective: Generally more affordable than full-time in-home care or residential care facilities.
  • Health and Wellness Programs: Often includes health services, meals, and wellness programs tailored to older adults.


  • Limited Hours: Primarily operates during daytime hours, which may not suit families needing care during the evenings or weekends.
  • Transportation Needs: Families may need to arrange transportation to and from the center, which could be a consideration for some.

Making the Choice That Feels Right

Every family’s situation is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. It’s about balancing the needs, comfort, and happiness of your loved one with what’s practical and manageable for your family. Remember, it’s okay to take your time, ask questions, and seek advice. The right choice is the one that brings peace of mind and the best quality of life for your loved one.

In the next section of this home care guide, we’ll discuss the financial aspects of home care, including how to navigate payment options and insurance coverage, to help you plan and prepare for this important step.

Home Care Guide: someone working on a budget holding a claculator

Getting a Clear Picture of Home Care Expenses

Before diving into how to pay for home care, it’s important to have a good understanding of what it might cost. Let’s break down the factors that influence the cost of home care so you can plan more effectively for your loved one’s needs.

How is the Cost of Home Care Determined?

  • Type of Services Needed: The cost largely depends on the type of care your loved one requires. Basic companion care typically costs less than specialized medical or nursing care.
  • Hours of Care: Most home care agencies have a minimum number of hours per visit, often ranging from 2 to 4 hours. This means even if you need someone for just an hour, you might be billed for the agency’s minimum requirement.
  • Location: Just like the cost of living, the cost of home care can vary significantly depending on where you live.

Understanding the Cost of 24/7 Care

  • If your loved one needs round-the-clock care, the cost can add up quickly. 24/7 care usually involves multiple caregivers working in shifts, which can be more expensive than standard hourly care. Additionally, the overnight hours may carry a surcharge.

Comparing Costs with Other Senior Living Options

  • Assisted Living or Nursing Homes: In some cases, the cost of full-time home care can be comparable to, or even exceed, the cost of assisted living or nursing homes. These facilities offer a flat rate that includes room, board, and care, which might be more cost-effective for 24/7 care needs.
  • Part-Time vs. Full-Time Care: For those who need less intensive support, home care can be a more affordable option compared to full-time residential care.

Learn more: Average Cost of Long-Term Care and Senior Living Options

A General Idea of Costs

  • While costs vary, you might expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $30 per hour for basic home care services. Specialized care, like nursing or therapy, can be higher.
  • Full-time home care, especially 24/7 care, can run into thousands of dollars per month, similar to or sometimes more than residential care options.

Planning Ahead

Knowing these costs upfront can help you plan better. It’s about balancing your loved one’s care needs with what’s financially feasible for your family. Remember, the goal is to find the best care solution that offers comfort, dignity, and the right level of support for your loved one.

Next, we’ll explore the various options for financing home care, from private pay to insurance and other resources, to help you navigate the financial side of choosing home care.

Understanding the Costs and Making It Work

Let’s face it, figuring out how to pay for home care can be one of the trickier parts of the process. But don’t worry; we’re here to help you understand the financial side of things and explore the options available to you and your family.

Private Pay and Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Often, home care services are paid for out-of-pocket. This means you’ll be covering the costs directly. It’s straightforward but can add up, especially if your loved one needs extensive care. It’s important to plan and budget carefully, considering both current and future care needs.

Insurance Coverage: Does It Cover Home Care?

  • Health Insurance: Regular private insurance policies may cover some aspects of home health care but typically don’t cover non-medical home care services.
  • Medicare: If your loved one is eligible, Medicare can cover certain home health care services, usually for a limited period and under specific conditions. It’s worth checking into the specifics with your insurance provider to see what might be covered.
  • Medicaid: For those who qualify, Medicaid can be a resource for covering home care costs, but coverage varies by state and individual circumstances.
  • Long-Term Care Insurance: If your loved one has long-term care insurance, it may cover both home care and home health care services. Policies vary, so it’s essential to understand what’s included in their plan.

Reverse Mortgages: A Potential Solution

  • A reverse mortgage allows homeowners to convert part of their home equity into cash, which can then be used to pay for home care. This option is available to individuals aged 62 and older.
  • It’s important to thoroughly understand the terms and implications of a reverse mortgage, including how it affects the home’s equity and the eventual repayment of the loan.

Exploring Other Options

  • Veterans Benefits: If your loved one is a veteran, they may have access to benefits that can help cover the cost of home care.
  • Community Resources: Sometimes, local community organizations or programs can offer financial assistance or reduced-cost services for older adults.

Planning and Asking for Help

Navigating the financial aspects of home care can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. Consider consulting with a financial advisor or a social worker who specializes in elder care. They can provide valuable guidance and help you explore all possible options. A call to your local Area Agency on Aging is an excellent place to start. Find your local office.

Remember, investing in home care is not just a financial decision; it’s about investing in the well-being and happiness of your loved one. In the next section, we’ll guide you through choosing the right home care provider, ensuring you find a service that’s not only trustworthy and reliable but also a good fit for your family’s unique needs.

The Search for the Perfect Match

When it’s time to find a home care provider for your loved one, knowing where to start can make a world of difference. Let’s walk through some practical steps to help you connect with the right home care services, ensuring your loved one receives the best possible care.

Utilizing Online Resources and Local Directories

  • Online Platforms: There are many websites dedicated to elder care (like the one you are on now!) that can be excellent resources. They often list home care providers in your area to give you an idea of what is available.
  • Local Directories: Your local community centers, senior centers, or chambers of commerce might have directories of home care agencies. These can be valuable, especially for finding services nearby. Your local Area Agency on Aging can get you moving in the right direction.

Asking for Personal Recommendations

  • Word of Mouth: Sometimes, the best leads come from friends, family, or healthcare professionals. Ask around; someone you know might have a great recommendation based on their own experiences.
  • Healthcare Providers: Your loved one’s doctor or other healthcare professionals can also be a good source for recommendations, especially if they’re familiar with your loved one’s specific health needs.

Evaluating Home Care Providers

  • Initial Contact: When you first reach out to an agency, take note of how they handle your inquiry. Are they attentive, informative, and understanding of your needs?
  • Services Offered: Make sure the agency provides the specific services your loved one needs. If they require specialized care, like dementia care, confirm that the agency has experience and trained staff in that area.
  • Background Checks and Training: Ask about the agency’s process for hiring caregivers. It’s important to know that they perform thorough background checks and provide ongoing training for their staff.
  • References and Reviews: Don’t hesitate to ask for references from current or past clients. Hearing directly from others can give you valuable insights into the agency’s quality of care.
  • Use our Home Care Questions to Ask Worksheet as you evaluate potential homecare providers.
Free download: Home Care Questions to ask checklist

Meeting Potential Caregivers

  • If possible, involve your loved one in the process of selecting a caregiver. It’s important that they feel comfortable and at ease with the person who will be coming into their home.

Understanding Costs and Contracts

  • Clarify the costs and ask about the agency’s policies regarding scheduling. Also, ask about emergencies, and how they handle any issues that might arise. Understanding the contract fully before committing is crucial.

Making the Decision

  • Remember, finding the right home care provider is a process. It’s okay to take your time, meet with multiple agencies, and ask plenty of questions. The right fit is out there. It’s worth the effort to find a caregiver who will bring peace of mind and improve your loved one’s quality of life.

In the next section, we’ll wrap up our guide with some final thoughts and encouragement.

A Heartfelt Wrap-Up for Family Caregivers

As we come to the end of this guide, remember that choosing home care for your loved one is a profound expression of love and care. It’s about making sure they continue to enjoy life in their most cherished place while receiving the support they need.

You’re Not Alone in This

Navigating the world of home care can feel overwhelming at times, but you’re not alone. There are countless families going through similar experiences. And there’s a whole community of professionals dedicated to providing the best care for those who need it. Don’t hesitate to reach out, ask questions, and seek support when you need it.

The Journey is Worth It

Finding the right home care solution can make a significant difference in the life of your loved one. It’s not just meeting their physical needs, enriching their daily lives, preserving their dignity, and keeping them connected to the things they love.

A Final Note of Encouragement

As a family caregiver, you’re doing something incredible. It’s a role that comes with its challenges but also with immense rewards. Seeing your loved one comfortable, happy, and well-cared-for in their own home is a feeling that’s hard to match.

Remember, every step you take in this journey is a step towards a more comfortable, fulfilling life for your loved one. So take a deep breath, trust in your decisions, and know that you’re providing a gift of immeasurable value.

Thank you for taking the time to explore this guide. We hope it has provided you with valuable insights and guidance as you embark on or continue your journey in-home care. Here’s to finding the perfect balance of care, comfort, and happiness for your loved one and your family.

Liz Craven
Liz Craven

Liz Craven, co-publisher of Sage Aging ElderCare Guide alongside her husband Wes, brings a blend of personal experience and heartfelt dedication to her work. Their path in eldercare started with a family story — caring for Wes' grandmother, Mabel, who faced Alzheimer's. This personal chapter not only highlighted the complexities of eldercare but also ignited their passion to support others in similar situations. Later, Liz and Wes filled the caregiver role three more times for their parents. Through the Sage Aging ElderCare Guide, Liz offers a mix of empathetic insight and practical advice, making eldercare more approachable and less daunting for families. Her commitment shines through in every piece of advice, aiming to ease the journey for others as they navigate the world of eldercare.

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