Home Health Agencies for Seniors: Cost, Benefits, and More

Key Takeaways

  • Home health care agencies (HHAs) aid older adults and their families with a number of in-home services.
  • HHAs may be privately owned, publicly funded, or non-profit organizations.
  • Services through HHAs vary but may include support with ADLs, medical care support, senior day care services, and referrals to other necessary services.
  • Medicaid, Medicare, health insurance, and some VA benefits may cover the cost of a home health care agency.

Home health care agencies are organizations that allow seniors to connect with the in-home services they need during periods of rehabilitation and healing.

These agencies come in a few different forms and provide a variety of services and levels of care to seniors in varying states of health and capability.

What Are Home Health Agencies?

Home health agencies (HHAs) are organizations that provide in-home care services to elderly people, including skilled nursing care and assisted living care.

These organizations are regulated by state and federal governments and are also monitored by healthcare providers, such as physicians and registered nurses, to ensure standards of care are upheld and maintained.

Home Health Care Agencies FAQs

It will depend on the level of care that each home health agency offers, but many of them offer skilled nursing care, assisted living care, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

Basic services included with most levels of care include medication management, wound care, bathing and toileting assistance, and hygienic care.

Public agencies are operated by the government, either at a state or local level, whereas private agencies are non-governmental agencies and can even be operated by a single private caregiver.

Because of these differences, public agencies are often paid for by Medicaid or Medicare, while private agencies typically only accept self-pay or cash.

Since most home health care agencies require a referral from a physician, any medical provider that your loved one sees regularly can be a great place to start.

You can also reach out to us here if you need further assistance finding a home health care agency serving your area.

How Home Health Agencies Work

In order to begin with home health care services, a person must first have a referral from their physician.

Once a senior has been referred by their physician, a staff member from a home health care agency will visit them in their home, or sometimes while they are still in the hospital getting ready to be discharged.

The home health care staff member will ask questions to get a sense of the elder’s needs, then decide on a treatment plan after a discussion with the elder’s physician.

Who Needs Home Health Agencies?

Home health agencies can provide benefits to seniors in a variety of different situations, from those who need daily medical care to others who need physical therapy once a week.

People who need home health agencies may include:

  • Seniors who cannot leave their homes due to illness, injury, or disability but who still need regular care
  • Seniors who are more comfortable receiving care in their own home or around their loved ones
  • Seniors who are looking for a more affordable option than long-term residential care
  • Seniors who do not need high levels of medical care but still need help with activities of living
  • Seniors who were recently discharged from a hospital stay and who are in need of physical or occupational therapy as they transition back to life at their home

Because so many levels of care are offered through home health care agencies, they can prove helpful to seniors in virtually any situation or state of health.

Types of Home Health Care Agencies

There are three different types of home health care agencies — public, non-profit, and proprietary.

Public Home Health Agencies

Public home health agencies are those which are operated by state or local governments, and they usually take Medicaid and Medicare as forms of payment.

These types of home health agencies are often associated with or partnered with public or county hospitals.

Non-Profit Home Health Agencies

Non-profit home health agencies are private agencies which are tax exempt under §501 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954.

These types of home health agencies are often funded by donations or local private or philanthropic organizations.

These types of agencies may also offer more affordable services, or ones that are offered with discounts or financial assistance options to those with no insurance.

Proprietary Home Health Agencies

Proprietary home health agencies are those which operate for-profit and which may only accept self-payment or cash, though some may accept private insurance as well.

This type of home health agency is often found in private hospitals that operate for-profit.

Because these home health agencies are the most expensive, they often offer treatment plans that are highly individualized and additional treatments that public agencies may not offer.

Types of Home Health Care Services

Home health care services come in a variety of levels of care depending on what each senior needs.

Support for Activities of Daily Living

Many seniors are still relatively healthy in terms of medical conditions but do need extra support doing basic things in their everyday lives.

These types of home health aides provide the types of personal care services that you would find in an assisted living home.

Activities of daily living include:

  • Bathing and hygiene practices
  • Dressing
  • Using the toilet
  • Transferring in and out of beds or chairs
  • Feeding

Skilled Home Care

Skilled home care can involve some medical care as well as therapeutic services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy.

Elders in need of skilled care are often recovering after a hospital stay for a surgery, injury, or major illness, so skilled nursing services are often offered on a short-term basis.

Day Care Services

Some seniors who require higher levels of care throughout each day may benefit from senior day care services, during which their caregiver spends most of the daytime hours with them.

This type of care can be ideal for seniors who need constant supervision and support but who live with a family member who can take care of them in the evenings and on weekends.

Medical and Healthcare Support

Many seniors who need of home health care services are in need of medical and healthcare support due to chronic illness or a recent surgery or injury.

Types of medical support that are offered are wound care, physical evaluations, nutritional support, medication management, and obtaining blood and urine samples for lab testing.

Some health care agencies can even offer specialized support for elders with dementia or other memory problems like Alzheimer’s disease.

Caregivers for seniors are also trained to troubleshoot common problems with certain types of medical equipment, such as home oxygen machines.

Socialization and Companionship

In addition to medical or assistive services that home health care agencies can provide, caregivers can also provide socialization and companionship to their patients.

It is not uncommon for seniors to feel lonely, especially if they are disabled or injured and homebound, and this socialization can be very important.

Top Benefits of Home Health Care for the Elderly

Home health care can provide a lot of benefits to elderly people, especially those who are recovering after a major health event and a hospital stay.

They can also provide benefits to the loved ones of seniors, giving them peace of mind knowing that their loved one will be checked on and attended to frequently.

Top benefits of home health care for the elderly include:

  • Seniors can remain comfortable in their own home and a familiar environment
  • Seniors can remain around family members or loved ones
  • More affordable than 24/7 care in a hospital or nursing home
  • Seniors can receive the exact level of care that they need
  • Can provide companionship in addition to medical and living services
  • Therapists can teach skills on the senior’s own items and appliances

Home Health Care vs. Other Types of Senior Care

The main difference between home health care and other types of senior care is that the senior receives care within their own home.

The same levels of care are offered in home health care and residential forms of senior care, so it is really a matter of what is affordable and preferable to the senior.

Some seniors may not have the option to use inpatient services because they cannot physically leave their homes or would be extremely challenging to do so.

Others may simply be more comfortable receiving care in a familiar setting, especially if they live with loved ones or family members.

For example, assisted living and nursing homes offer a high level of care for seniors that is comparable in scope to home health care. However, with those types of care, the senior would have to reside at the facility full-time.

Cost of Home Health Care Aides

Home health care aides can range significantly in cost, as a physical therapist visiting a couple times a week is offering vastly different services compared to a caregiver who lives onsite with the senior and provides 24/7 care.

Factors that affect the cost of home health care include:

  • Type of insurance coverage that the senior has
  • Types of payment accepted at the facility the senior chooses
  • The level of care needed by the senior
  • Whether the senior chooses a public or private home health agency

Home health care aides can be paid for in a number of ways including personal savings, Medicaid and Medicare, long-term care insurance, and veteran’s benefits.

What to Look for in a Home Health Care Agency

If your loved one is using home health care after a hospital stay, the hospital may have specific home health care agencies that it works with and will set you up with upon discharge.

In other instances, your loved one may have a choice of agencies to work with, and should look for certain marks of quality.

State Licensing

Home health agencies should be licensed by the Department of Health for each state. However, not all states require home health agencies to be licensed if they are only offering non-medical services.

Some states also require agencies to get home health care license bonds, which are a type of surety bond and special insurance that protects both the company and their clients from any fraudulent acts by one of their caregivers or other employees.

These surety bonds work to guarantee that home health care agencies will operate according to certain rules and regulations, but are only required in a few states.

Licensing, along with other certifications and accreditations, such as through the Joint Commission, are a sign that a home health care agency is of high quality.

Home Health Care Aide Certification

Home health aides can achieve certification through courses offered at community college or private vocational institutions, or through the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC).

It is important to note that not all areas require home health care aides to receive special certification.

Even in areas where certifications are not required, any reputable health care agency will screen their health care workers extensively, including criminal background checks.

National Accreditation

Accreditation from national organizations like The Joint Commission or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) can also be signs of a quality home health agency.

In order to be accredited, home health agencies must follow certain regulations and go under a strict evaluation.

High Ratings and Positive Testimonials

When looking at home health care agencies make sure to check out ratings and rankings across various social media platforms and search engines, such as Google or Facebook.

You can also check with family and friends to see if they have any recommendations for home health care agencies they have used in the past.

Tips for Choosing a Home Health Agency

Choosing the right home health agency can be important, although you may not always be given a choice if your loved one’s hospital is partnered with certain agencies.

Tips for choosing a home health agency include:

  • Look for an agency that offers the level of care that you or your loved one requires.
  • Ask around for recommendations from friends or family members.
  • Check on the licensing for the agency and the certifications for individual home care aides.
  • Make sure to stay within your budget if your services are not covered entirely by your insurance.
  • Read reviews and testimonials for any of the home health agencies that you are interested in.

Questions to Ask Home Health Care Agencies

When you meet with an agent from a home health care agency, they will have a lot of questions for you regarding your loved one and the desired direction of their care.

In turn, you will likely have a lot of questions of your own, and it is important to ask certain questions to all potential agencies you are considering.

Questions to ask home health care agencies include:

  • What levels of care and services do you provide?
  • Are you licensed and insured?
  • What types of payments and insurance do you accept?
  • What types of certifications do your caregivers have?
  • What basic services do your caregivers perform?
  • How long do services last?
  • How do you handle it when patient needs change during a service contract?

Find Home Health Agencies Near You

Home health care can be the right choice for many seniors who still want to enjoy the comforts of home while receiving the care they need.

Browse through our directory of senior care facilities and agencies at any time if you are looking for a home health care agency for yourself or your loved one.

Written by: Aging with Care Editorial Staff

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