Home Health vs. Home Care

Home health care

Written by Amedisys

People often think home health and home care are the same thing. Many agencies use the terms interchangeably, depending on the state you’re in. The terms sound similar and both types of care are delivered in the home. But there are important differences between home care and home health care. Knowing the differences can help you decide which type of care is right for your needs and budget.

When comparing home health vs. home care, it’s useful to know the definitions of each as a starting point.

Home Health Care Definition

The home health care definition is medical services provided at home to treat a chronic health condition or help you recover from illness, injury or surgery. Some people start home health care after a health decline or getting diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Many people transition to home health care after a stay in a hospital, rehab center or skilled nursing facility. The primary goals are to help people recover and stay as independent as possible.

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Here are some important facts about the home health definition:

  • Home health care services address intermittent, or periodic, needs and may include:
    • Nursing
    • Physical therapy
    • Speech therapy
    • Occupational therapy
    • Medical social work
    • Wound care
    • Patient and caregiver education
    • Help with daily tasks like bathing and dressing from a home health aide
  • When ordered by a doctor, Medicare, Medicaid and some private insurance plans cover the cost of home health services for eligible patients.

Definition of Home Care

The definition of home care is help with daily activities to allow people to stay safe at home. It is often used by older adults with chronic illness, those with disabilities and people recovering from surgery. Home care is also sometimes called personal care, companion care, custodial care or homemaker services.

Here are some important facts about the home care definition:

  • Home care services may include:
    • Bathing, toileting, dressing and grooming
    • House cleaning and other chores
    • Transportation
    • Meal preparation
    • Companionship
    • Medication reminders
  • Many patients pay for home care out of pocket. In some cases, Medicaid or long-term insurance will cover the costs of home care.

Home Care vs Home Health

Similarities Between Home Care and Home Health Care

To understand the difference between home care and home health care, it helps to know the similarities. Both offer:

  • Care in the comfort and safety of your home
  • Help for older adults to feel better and stay as independent as possible
  • Assistance with daily tasks like bathing, dressing and grooming
  • Less expensive care than hospital or facility care

Differences Between Home Care and Home Health Care

Some of the key differences between home health vs. home care are:

Type of Care

  • Home health care provides “clinical” or “skilled” care by licensed nurses and therapists.
  • Home care provides “non-clinical” or “non-skilled” care by professional caregivers.


  • Home health care services are more medical in nature. Home health aides are available to help with things like bathing, grooming and dressing until you are safely able to do them again or have a caregiver who can safely assist you. But the focus of care is skilled nursing and therapy.
  • Home care helps with everyday tasks like bathing, dressing, grooming, cooking, cleaning and transportation. It does not include medical care like nursing or therapy.


  • Home health care requires a doctor’s order. Patients have to meet certain eligibility criteria. For example, they must have limited ability to leave their home and require assistance to do so.
  • Since people usually pay for home care out of pocket, there are no eligibility requirements.

Length of Care

  • Home health care continues as long as your doctor certifies, and you continue to meet eligibility requirements.
  • Home care continues as long as you want, based on your budget and needs.


  • Home health care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans for eligible patients.
  • Home care is typically paid directly by the patient or long-term care insurance. Medicaid may also cover home care.

Care Team

  • The home health team is made up of skilled professionals such as nurses and therapists.
  • Family members and professional caregivers provide home care services.


  • Home health care visits are typically a few hours per week, depending on the patient’s needs and doctor’s orders.
  • Home care can help patients 24/7, depending on the patient’s budget and needs.


  • Patients can receive home health care in their place of residence, including assisted living facilities and group homes.
  • Home care is typically provided at home.

When you’re comparing home health care vs. home care, you should know that you can receive both at the same time. Home health provides clinical care to help the patient recover, and home care helps with day-to-day caregiving and tasks. Some agencies provide both home health care and home care.

Although there are many differences between home care and home health care, both types of care can help older adults stay safe and independent in their homes. If you’re struggling with daily tasks or recovering from an illness, injury or surgery, ask your health care provider if home health or home care is an option for you. To learn more, call a care center near you.

Take our Home Health Quiz.

Take our Home Health Quiz.