Home Health CareWhat home health care agency do I need? Medical or Non-medical?

Did you know that there are different kinds of home health care? On this page we talk about the differences between medical agencies and non-medical, personal care agencies.

What kind of agency do I need?

Medical vs. non-medical care.

Medical Care Service Agencies
A medical agency provides Registered Nurses who are skilled in direct care such as giving shots or tube feeding, changing dressings, and many other medical services. They could also provide physical, occupational and speech therapy. In some cases, the professionals from the medical agency will train the patient -or family caregivers- how to take care of themselves.

Home Health Care Agencies
Agencies that provide medical service like those described in the paragraph above are called Home Health Care Agencies in most states. Its not the same in EVERY state, however. There are variations, such as Home Medical Agency or Home Nursing Agency.

Visting Nurse Associations (VNA's)
There are Visiting Nurse Associations throughout the United States. They are nonprofit, and strive to provide cost-effective and compassionate home healthcare to the elderly and individuals with disabilities.

Referral / Registry Agencies
These perform somewhat like an employment agency. They don't actually employ the people who help in your home, but instead, they refer nurses, aides, and other professionals to the patient. The patient becomes the direct employer of the people the Referral Agency recommends, and pays a fee for the referral. Referral Agencies, or Nurse Registry Agencies, can often recommend either medical and non-medical workers. For more info, see this link: Nurse Referral Agencies / Nursing Placement Agencies

A non-medical agency provides workers who help a frail or disabled person with the things they can't do on their own in their home. These everyday needs are called Activities of Daily Living, or ADL's, for short. These ADL's include bathing, toilet needs, taking prescription medications, and getting dressed. It varies, but some additional services could be cooking, shopping, writing notes, helping with transportation, and light cleaning or maintenance of living areas. The non-medical agency provides someone who helps the home-bound person with these ADL's.

A non-medical agency does not include medical help such as nurse care. These agencies -or the people who provide this type of help are often called Personal Care Agencies, or Personal Care Assistants. The terminology, however, might use other names to describe this type of agency. In Illinois, they might be called Home Services; and in Michigan, private duty agencies. Some people use the term paid companion or call these homemaker services.

The Medicare program uses the term Nursing Care Services to describe medical home health help; and Home Health Aide Services to describe non-medical help. If the homebound person is enrolled in Medicare, you need to learn about how Medicare helps with home health care.

Many Home Health Agencies offer both medical and "non-medical" or personal assistance services. You could hire them for either service. Or, they could use a team approach , including nurses, therapists, home health aides, and medical social service counselors depending on what care the patient needs.

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