Comparing Medical vs. Non-Medical Home Care

May 9, 2024

When you are watching your aging loved one struggle while living at home alone, or with a partner, it can be difficult. You might find yourself calling to check in more often, stopping by with meals or to refill pill boxes, or searching for ways to get some extra support in the home. Fortunately, home care services can often be the perfect solution, bringing additional assistance into the home that are designed to support the senior as they age in place successfully.


When you begin to explore home care services in your area, it can help to know what type of agency might best fit your loved one’s needs. Here’s what you need to know about the two types of home care agencies: medical and nonmedical.


Medical Home Care

Medical home care, sometimes called home healthcare, includes medical services brought into the home. These services are provided by certified or licensed healthcare professionals, such as RNs, Certified Nursing Assistants, and therapists.


Medical home care services can include:

  • IV therapy
  • Giving injections
  • Wound care
  • Physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy
  • Case management
  • Complex medical condition education and management


Medical home care services must be prescribed by a physician, and are often covered by Medicare and other insurance plans. These services can be excellent support for a senior who is returning home after a hospital stay, skilled nursing facility stay, or when recovering from a surgery or procedure.


Nonmedical Home Care

Nonmedical home care includes services that are not medical in nature, and that do not have to be administered by a licensed or certified professional. It is crucial to note, though, that caregivers who come to the home are still trained by the agency and are able to provide assistance with tasks, observe and record changes, and report concerns to agency supervisors. Nonmedical home care agencies often still employ nurses to help with creating personalized care plans, caregiver training, and to follow up with medical concerns.


Nonmedical home care services are focused around supporting the senior with activities of daily living, as well as to provide companionship and assistance with tasks around the house. Examples of nonmedical home care services can include:

  • Transportation
  • Meal planning, preparation, and grocery shopping
  • Personal care (assistance with activities of daily living like showering, grooming, dressing)
  • Companionship


Nonmedical home care services do not need to be prescribed by a physician. In most cases, family members call an agency to receive a consultation, giving the agency some details about what the senior might be struggling with at home. Then, the agency makes a suggestion for how many hours per week might be ideal, as well as for specific services that could support the senior. 


Services are billed and most family members pay out-of-pocket, as services are not covered by Medicare. Eligible seniors might also be able to offset the costs for nonmedical home care services through a Medicaid waiver or through Veterans Aid & Attendance benefits.


Making Your Best Choice

You might find an agency in your area that provides both medical and nonmedical home care services, meaning they can support your loved one during different seasons without you needing to find a new agency. However, if you can’t find an agency you like that has both types of services, determine which type – medical or nonmedical – your loved one needs. 


Remember, if your loved one is planning a hospital or skilled nursing discharge, chances are they will qualify for medical home care services for at least a few weeks while they settle back into their routine at home. After that, you might choose to switch to nonmedical support because your loved one still needs that additional assistance at home with tasks like laundry, safe showering, or even meal preparation.


You can also choose a home care agency based on their pricing. Some agencies require a minimum of hours over a week or a month. If your loved one doesn’t need that many hours, you might struggle with meeting (and paying) for that minimum amount. In this case, you might want to look for an agency that is not as strict and offers a more flexible scheduling option.


Finally, you want to choose a home care agency that has experience and is well-respected in the community. Ask your loved one’s physician, as well as neighbors and friends, for recommendations of agencies they have loved. You can also interview a few agencies and even ask to interview caregivers to see if you can find one that would compliment your loved one’s needs and personality. 


In the Meantime

Home care services are an excellent solution for seniors looking to age in place at home for as long as possible. But don’t forget to include other types of support in addition, such as getting a medical alert system in place and adjusting the home for their needs. Your loved one will benefit from this approach that includes home care, a safer home, and a plan for emergencies.

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