According to the most recent AARP Home and Community Preferences Survey (2021), a large majority of older people plan to remain in their current home as they age: 77% of those age 50+ and 85% of those age 65 and older. But research also shows that 3 out of 5 people will need some level of long-term care services at some point as they age. This is where a home care provider may be able to help.
The basics of long-term care
“Long-term care” is a fairly broad term that is applied differently by different people or sources. Generally speaking, long-term care is a range of services and supports that allow a person to meet their unique daily care needs.
Most often, long-term care is for non-medical personal needs, such as assistance with getting dressed, driving to appointments, grocery shopping, or making meals. Such help is sometimes referred to as assisted living or personal care services. It can be offered either in a person’s private home or in a congregate setting such as an assisted living community. In most cases, providing help with personal care needs requires little training or expertise and can be done by an unpaid family caregiver or a paid caregiver.
But in some cases, long-term care also may be used to describe medically necessary care services. This type of assistance often requires a caregiver with a higher level of training and skill, such as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN). Medically necessary long-term care is sometimes delivered in a person’s home but oftentimes it requires a person be moved to a skilled nursing facility, also called a nursing home, where they can be cared for around the clock.
What is a home care provider?
In cases where a person does not require medically necessary care services, but rather needs help with non-medical tasks like household chores or personal care, a home care provider may be an option. Also referred to as a personal care aide or a home care aide, this type of paid caregiver can offer a wide range of services that enable a person to safely age in place in their home. —
A home care provider may help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, grooming, and dressing. Additionally, they can assist with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) like cleaning, shopping for groceries and cooking, transportation, and/or medication management.
This type of caregiver may be hired directly by the care recipient and/or their family, or they may be employed by an agency. It is not a job that requires any formal certifications, but in some cases, agency-employed home care providers may be supervised by a nurse or social worker.
Most often, a home care provider works in a person’s private home for a certain number of hours per day or per week, assisting with a person’s individual needs while also offering companionship. It can be a good solution for Baby Boomers living alone who require help with ADLs or IADLS, as well as for older couples who may need a little extra help but can still more or less safely live on their own.
It’s important to note the important distinction between a home care provider and a home health care provider. Also called home health aides, home health care providers perform certain health-related services in the home — things like wound care, injections, IV infusions, or monitoring of a health condition. With credentials like certified nursing assistant (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), or physical or occupational therapist (PT or OT), home health care providers have formal medical training and must have passed a proficiency test.
>> Related: Home Healthcare Provider vs. Home Care Provider
Paying for a home care provider
It’s important to understand the costs that can be associated with utilizing the assistance of a home care provider, because in most cases, it will be an out-of-pocket expense to the care recipient and/or their family.
Many people are surprised to learn that Medicare does not cover the expenses associated with using a home care provider. (Visit www.medicare.gov to learn what long-term care services are and are not covered by Medicare.) However, for those who financially qualify, Medicaid typically does cover these types of services as long as you use a Medicaid-certified provider. (Note: Medicaid is for those who are financially destitute without any means to pay for care.) Additionally, some long-term care insurance policies may cover a portion of the cost of using a home care provider.
As far as the out-of-pocket costs you may be looking at for a home care provider or home care aide, Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey gives us some helpful averages. In 2023, you can expect to pay, on average, around $27.58 per hour of homemaker-type services from a home care provider, which works out to around $5,259 per month for 44 hours of help each week.
For those who need the services of a home health care provider (aka, home health aide), that will run $28.64 per hour, on average, or $5,462 per month for 44 hours of help each week. Keep in mind these are just averages, and in some areas, these costs may be higher or lower. And of course, if a person needs more than 44 a week of assistance, the cost will run higher as well.
Considering other long-term care options
A home care provider can be a great option for people who want to remain in their home and independent for as long as possible. With most people wanting to “age in place” and with more Baby Boomers living alone, the care services and companionship offered by a home care provider can be a good solution to meet people’s non-medical long-term care needs.
But keep in mind: While the hourly price of a home care provider is fairly reasonable, that cost can add up, especially given the fact that for most people, it will be an out-of-pocket expense. If a person’s unique needs progress beyond homemaker-type services, they may need to add in the services of a home health care provider as well — which would be an additional expense.
If the person’s needs further progress, it may be that they need to consider if it is both safe to remain in their current home and financially feasible to pay for the assistance they require. They may eventually reach a point at which a retirement community that was specifically designated to meet older people’s care needs — such as an assisted living community — may be a better senior living option.
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