What Is Non-Medical Home Care? Costs, Pros + Cons

Updated

Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

When you or a family member needs help due to an accident, illness, or worsening of a medical problem, finding help can feel like navigating in the dark.

Unfortunately, there are no national standards of care to guide families. You may have assumptions about what certain professionals can do to assist you only to find out that your specific state has restrictions on non-medical care. 

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Non-medical care has a prominent place in helping patients, and families recover and regain independence. This care overlaps with medical home care in many situations, and we will discuss how and when this happens.

Deciding between in-home care and assisted living is a decision many families face as they work to keep their loved ones at home for as long as possible. 

What is Non-Medical Home Care?

Non-medical in-home care is care provided by someone who does not have formal medical training, licensure, or certification.

However, non-medical caregivers do have training in areas related to activities of daily living, working with dementia patients, and any tasks allowed by the state where they practice. When we get into the details about situations that call for non-medical care, you will see how critical this profession is.

What’s the difference between non-medical home care and medical in-home care?

The main difference between non-medical home care and medical in-home care is cost. Insurance usually covers medical in-home care. This kind of care needs to meet specific criteria, and the services will be time-limited. Typical medical in-home care includes nursing, physical therapy, occupational, speech, and respiratory therapy.

All of these disciplines involve years of study and licensure. For example, most physical therapy programs now require a Ph.D. Insurance will not cover non-medical tasks like transportation, cooking, and cleaning, but it will pay for an aide to help someone bathe and dress safely. 

Non-medical home care is privately paid unless you have coverage under a long-term care policy. The advantage of non-medical care is that it is flexible, and services are ongoing as long as you need and can pay for it.

Training requirements for non-medical care can differ across the country, with some states mandating many hours of training and others have few, if any, requirements. In cases where there is no state-mandated training, you must find out what training an agency requires. For individual private hiring, the same holds true.

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What Situations Typically Call for Non-Medical Home Care?

The triggers for non-medical home care vary. Some families start non-medical home care before a situation gets worse.

Others wait until the need becomes so great that safety or family caregiver burnout is such an issue that they need help. How to tell if your loved one needs in-home care will be an individual choice based on some of these situations. 

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Activities of daily living are all of the tasks we do each day that most of us don’t think about until we can’t do them safely.

If you have fallen or had another accident resulting in a broken bone, you suddenly realize that you need help. Activities of daily living include help with bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, cooking, and continence care. When someone is recovering from surgery or an illness, they may need assistance with walking and transferring.

Medication reminders

Some states allow home care workers to give medications to clients, but others only permit reminders. When someone forgets to take their medications or needs refills and cannot accomplish those tasks, non-medical home caregivers can help.

They can give verbal prompts and notify the family when medications have expired, or the client needs refills. A non-medical home care professional can help prevent medication errors.

Transportation

When you think about not having transportation, you realize how vital it is to almost everything you do.

If you can’t drive either temporarily or permanently, you need someone to shop for groceries and medications, take you to medical appointments and even visit friends and family. People with cognitive impairment often stop driving because they aren’t safe. Providing transportation relieves the family of this responsibility.

Socialization and activities

Social isolation and loneliness can creep up on you when you are confined to home due to physical problems. Loneliness is a risk factor for depression and other mental health problems.

Non-medical home care can assist with facilitating preferred activities and taking clients out for social engagements. Even the presence of someone in the home can help alleviate loneliness. 

Wandering and other safety concerns

If you have a loved one with dementia, they may wander out of the house, be unsafe around the stove, or need someone to manage their agitation and anxiety.

Families often contact non-medical home caregivers to assist with managing and monitoring their loved ones. Some home care caregivers stay overnight or provide 24-hour care. 

How Much Does Non-Medical Home Care Cost?

The cost of non-medical home care depends on where you live, who you hire and how many hours you need. The hourly price usually goes down the more hours you contract for.

According to Genworth, the hourly median cost of care in the US is $23.50 an hour. When hiring a caregiver directly, you may pay less than the median hourly cost because an agency is not involved.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Non-Medical Home Care?

Non-medical home care has advantages and disadvantages. There is no one size fits all solution to care in the home, but knowing your options and limitations will help you put together a safe, affordable plan for your loved one.

Pros

The pros of non-medical care can be distilled into basic elements of caregiving, such as flexibility, relief for caregivers, and companionship.

Flexibility

You have almost complete flexibility with non-medical home care. The hours, days, and even overnight schedule is up to you and your loved one. You can flex hours as care needs change.

Also, if there is caregiver incompatibility, you can request someone different. If there is a no-show or a caregiver is ill with an agency, they will replace the caregiver so that your loved one has the care they need.

Caregiver relief

For many families, caregiving can be stressful and time-consuming. Time away from work and other family members takes an emotional toll. Non-medical home care can relieve much of this burden, assuming tasks and taking on caregiving responsibilities.

Companionship

Medical home care under insurance doesn’t pay for companionship. With non-medical home care, companionship involving cognitive and physical activity can help your loved one stay healthy and socially active.

A non-medical home care caregiver can engage in conversation, play games, listen to music, and watch movies with your loved one. 

Cons

However, like with all things, there are indeed some downsides to non-medical care. The most important things related to care, whether non-medical or otherwise, tend to be tied up in financial and staffing concerns.

Cost

The cost of non-medical home care can add up over time. When your loved one requires help all through the day or overnight, the expense can be prohibitive unless you have long-term care insurance.

When non-medical care costs exceed the cost of assisted living, some families decide to transition to senior living.

Medical limitations

When your loved one no longer qualifies for medical home health care under their insurance plan but still needs medical care, that could be challenging. 

Your state may not allow simple medical tasks like blood sugar checks or managing catheter care unless performed by a licensed health provider. Under these circumstances, you may have to provide those tasks yourself or hire a private nurse.

Caregiver turnover

Just when you find a non-medical home care caregiver, they leave. Or, you may have to have several caregivers to cover the hours and days you need.

Caregiver turnover in the non-medical home care industry is very high.  Dealing with caregiver turnover is not only frustrating but interrupts the continuity of care.

How to Find Non-Medical Home Care

There are three main ways to find non-medical home care. You can choose to go through a licensed and bonded agency, look at one of the online caregiver companies or hire a caregiver on your own. Each choice has pros and cons, and you will want to consider the consequences, liability, and responsibility of going outside an agency.

Regardless of your choice, there are some ways to find good care. Depending on where you live, you might have a hundred options or more.

Ask health providers

Healthcare providers such as doctors and home health companies work side by side with non-medical home care companies or individuals. They will have knowledge and experience in whether a company or person is responsible and professional.

Investigate training and specialty areas

Many non-medical home care companies are national franchises but individually owned and operated. Training requirements can vary depending on state mandates.

When you find a company that you have an interest in, ask them about their training requirements. If your loved one has dementia, you want to feel confident in the caregiver’s ability to work with clients with cognitive impairment.

When hiring online, the same questions about training and experience apply. Caregivers will post their resumes but make sure you ask for references so you can verify any information. Background checks are a must in these situations since you don’t have a company that offers that as a condition of employment.

Talk to friends and family

Friends and family can be good sources of information about non-medical home care, but you should still verify any information they give you.

If the caregiver is privately hired, ask about background checks and do a personal interview to decide for yourself how you feel about the person.

Obtaining Non-Medical Home Care

As you and your family navigate care for a loved one, using non-medical home care is a crucial component of support. Make a wise choice using our tips and taking the time to understand the differences between non-medical and medical home care.

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