Home Health Care - The Basics

Home Health Care - The Basics

There may come a time when you need a little extra help taking care of mom or dad at home.

Sometimes, it's a matter of taking a break or getting a little extra help with physical tasks such as bathing, dressing, or transferring from chair to bed or vice verse. Regardless of what type of elder services you might need, it's important to take several things into consideration before choosing on a specific home health care agency for your needs.

Deciding on Services

What kind of services do you need, and how often do you need them? Do you need part-time or full-time help? Do you need a few half days a week, or daily care, or just a few days a month? In most cases, home health care involves two different types of services: skilled or custodial. Skilled care is basically that type of care that involves supervision by a nurse or therapist. Home health aides certified to help provide services such as bathing, cooking, dressing, or shopping often provides custodial care.

home health care

Depending on need, the cost of home health aides may range between seven dollars and $25 an hour. Sometimes, Medicare will cover some of the cost of home health care aides, which generally cover light housekeeping, minor medical care, and personal care. The cost for home health care nurses that provide nursing care may range between $20 and $90 an hour. In most cases, such care is not covered by Medicare services, but may be covered by Medicaid services as long as certain conditions are met.

Elder Care Expenses 

Financial Talk with Mom and Dad


Therapy care, such as those provided by occupational, speech or physical therapists that help individuals with movement, tasks or communication may also range between $20 and $90 an hour.

Medicare Medicaid Page

In addition to other criteria, in order for any care to be covered in any part by Medicare services, the agency must be certified. Medicare services are only temporary and occasional, such as less than 28 hours a week. Other stipulations require that an elderly parent be home bound, and mostly get out of the home for medical appointments or to attend religious services or other brief needs. Coverage is often limited to 21 days.

Questions to Ask

Some of the most common questions any individual can ask once considering home health agency care include but are not limited to:

  • What services does the agency provide? For example, who is on staff at the home health agency? Nurses, aides, physicians, dietitians, social workers?
  • Does the agency received Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement?
  • Is the agency Medicare certified? (If the agency is not Medicare certified, it will not be able to accept reimbursements from Medicare or Medicaid services)
  • What is the basic cost for services? Are there certain hours per week that are allowed? For example, can you customize services? If your mother needs help with bathing and dressing, which might only take an hour, will you be charged a minimum, such as a four hour block of time?
  • How does the agency determine the needs of my aging parent? Will he or she be evaluated by a nurse or doctor on staff?
  • How is home health care coordinated? Who oversees the workers? Will I have any input? Will I be able to reach a supervisor if I am unhappy with the level of services provided?


Home Health agencies should be certified by Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) but should also belong to and be accredited by various home health care agencies such as the National League for Nursing, The National Association for Home Care and Hospice, the Visiting Nurse Associations of America and so forth.

In addition to the above questions, children of elderly parents should feel free to question staff sent to the home to take care of a parent. For example, ask the individual what types of qualifications he or she may have, as well a certification.

Ask the individual what experience he or she has working with the elderly, and familiarity with aspects of your parents care. Be specific regarding the types of chores and services the person that sent by the home health care agency is supposed to perform, is willing to perform, or refuses to perform.

The Bottom Line

When considering any type of home health care, make sure you're dealing with a reputable agency and that all staff does visit, help or treat your elderly parent or is certified to do so. Don't be hesitant to engage in background checks or to verify accreditation of the home health agency. Your peace of mind and your elderly parent's health may very well depend on your determination to get all your questions answered to your satisfaction.

Elder Care Services

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