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Boulder Longmont, Lafayette and Louisville

what is home care

Care for older adults is a diverse field that most people don’t understand until they’ve experienced it. Many assume that the terms home care and home health care are interchangeable, and in some contexts they are used that way, but they refer to two totally different (and complementary) care models. A caregiver agency like Homewatch CareGivers of Boulder provides home care services, also called custodial care, personal care, companion care, or non-skilled care (but we don’t like that term because our caregivers are very skillful). Home care is non-medical support for a person’s day-to-day life (called ADL’s and IADL’s—activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living); this can include anything from housekeeping and meals, to assistance with bathing or incontinence, to companionship and social activities, or significant physical assistance for someone who is at end-of-life or working with hospice. Home health care is medical care—things like dressing changes and care for a surgical incision, physical and occupational therapy, or nutrition through a feeding tube. Home care and home health care can work together to help someone live their best possible life while aging or dealing with a medical crisis. Other differences include means of payment (non-medical care is usually private pay, although long-term-care insurance or veterans’ benefits can help, while skilled home health is usually paid for by Medicare or health insurance), and admissions requirements (skilled home health patients usually must be homebound and will only be approved for episodic care in a limited time frame, while non-medical care is more flexible and is not bound by these requirements).

When R., age 97, came home from the hospital after a fall, we worked together with one of our home health care partners to ensure that she had a good transition and stayed healthy. Her physical therapist through skilled home health, for example, began working with her on exercises to strengthen her legs and improve her balance. Our caregivers would remind her and get her prepared for her PT visits, were able to encourage her to frequently walk around the assisted living community, and do the prescribed exercises together so that the physical therapist’s efforts carried over long after she was no longer visiting.