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What Are the Different Types of In-Home Care?

Posted on by Eric Rubel

For people who are aging in place or need help with mobility or medical issues at home, in-home care from a qualified provider can enable them to live at home more safely and independently.

Professional caregivers can provide different types and levels of care on either a short-term or long-term basis, including:

  • Companionship and conversation
  • Transportation to appointments or errands
  • Assistance with safely managing tasks around the house
  • Help with daily activities such as dressing and bathing
  • Nursing and medical care

But how do you know what type of care you need, and what type of caregiver can provide it? Here are the types of in-home caregivers you might experience, from the lowest level of care to the highest.

Volunteer Care

There are many nonprofit support services for seniors who want to remain living independently in their own homes for as long as possible.

The Village to Village Network is a nationwide network of nonprofit, community-based organizations that provide necessary services to people wishing to age in place, including transportation, technology assistance, home repairs, running errands, community engagement activities, and referrals to qualified professionals.

Other programs include Meals on Wheels, Friendly Visitors, Friendly Shoppers, and many church and community sponsored volunteer programs.

To find out about support services or free or low-cost aging in place resources in your area, contact your state’s Aging Services Division or visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Aging Resources page.

Companion Services

Companion services are a way to provide companionship to people in their homes when family members can’t be present. Companion care is a broad term that can mean many different things. Some people who offer companion services may just keep your loved one company, others may be willing to do some light cleaning and housekeeping or provide transportation to errands or appointments. Companions don’t handle any medical tasks, and usually don’t perform extensive household tasks or help with personal care like bathing.

Companion care might be the right choice if someone just needs some company, or someone to provide reminders and “keep an eye on them.” Having someone else in the home can also provide conversation and mental stimulation, and give peace of mind to family members worried about not being present in case of a fall or medical emergency.

Personal Care

Non-medical personal care offers a level of care that is a step up from companionship, including helping with essential daily activities like light housekeeping, cooking, personal grooming, transportation, help running errands, assistance with using a computer and paying household bills, yard work, and more.

Personal care caregivers usually do not have medical training, and they may have a certain list of tasks they can perform, as well as some that they are not qualified or willing to take on.

Home Health Aid

In addition to providing companionship, home health aides can help patients with basic personal needs such as getting out of bed, walking, bathing, transferring, grooming, and dressing. Many home health aides will also perform household tasks including cooking and housework, and some may be able to take care of some basic medical tasks under the supervision of a nurse.

While no formal education is required to become a home health aide, many schools offer optional certificate and training courses. Home health aides who work for organizations that receive funds from Medicare or Medicaid must complete training, while those who work for private companies or agencies do not.

Nursing Care

For people who have ongoing medical issues and are in need of more professional medical care, in-home nursing care might be the best option. Home care nurses are trained to handle basic medical needs, such as tracking vitals, administering medications, and changing bandages.

There are several different types of nurse that may provide in-home care.

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): A certified nursing assistant is trained in some basic medical tasks and can listen to patients' health concerns, note any symptoms or changes their condition, monitor vital signs, and assist a more experienced nurse in some basic care duties. CNA training programs take 4-12 weeks and include classroom and hands-on training.
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): A licensed practical nurse has more in-depth medical training than a CNA—training to be an LPN takes about 12 months, and includes subjects such as medication dosage and administration, pathophysiology, and legal and ethical issues in nursing.
  • Registered nurse (RN): Registered nurses have a much higher level of education and training than CNAs or LPNs—a two-year nursing degree at minimum—and are more likely to be found in a hospital or specialized care setting than as an in-home care provider, though some RNs will visit patients at home as part of an overall medical care plan.

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