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Understandingly, the desire to remain in your home, close to family, friends and familiar surroundings, only increases as you age. Despite this, it’s often difficult for people to remain totally independent within their own environment once age-related illnesses come into play.

Millions of Americans spend part or all their day assisting and caring for family members or friends who require support to stay in their own homes. However, it’s often that free home care provided by loved ones isn’t enough and paid outside home care help is often needed to supplement what is already being given. This is because friends and family often have other responsibilities, such as caring for their own children or working outside the home. The cost of allowing elderly people to remain at home and “age in place” currently costs Americans over $40 billion annually.

Looking into home care options for a relative may seem overwhelming, but there’s no need to spend hours reading up on information that may only make you more confused. Below are some pieces of advice that will make deciding what and how much home care you need much easier.

Identifying the Type of Care That’s Required

If the type of home care you’re looking for is custodial or supportive, it is usually provided by paraprofessionals. These include home health aides, home care aides, and nursing assistants who provide a hands-on approach to care for people within their own homes. They also help people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. You could expect someone offering this type of home care to help with bathing, dressing, and mobility, as well as transportation, light housekeeping and other tasks along these lines.

Skilled home care is usually provided by health care professionals, like registered nurses, licensed practical nurses or therapists, under the close direction of the service user’s physician. This type of home care is most often used after a person has been hospitalized due to a fall or other medical condition and may be coordinated by discharge planners and social workers upon the person’s release.

Contacting an Agency

Home care services in every state are licensed and regulated by the authority provided to them. This means that there are often variations in the license requirements and regulations depending on the state you live in and therefore require services from.

However, if the agency providing home care is Medicare-certified, they must comply with federal regulations in addition to state ones. You are only required to choose a Medicare-certified agency if the care is to be covered under Medicare; otherwise, your options are more varied depending on what you want or need.

Paying for Care

While many older adults count on Medicare to provide their home care needs, the reality is that many people are left to cover at least some of their own costs. The exception to this is if someone has complex needs that meet specific Medicare criteria, though if this is a long-term need, people may still need to find the money to cover the home care services they require themselves.

You should be aware that, if you or a relative requires custodial care, this will not typically be covered by Medicare or private resources. As is often the case, you may be expected to pay for these home care services out of your own pocket.

However, if you are struggling to find the money required for these services, you may want to investigate the local Area Agency on Ageing, which is a good place to check for programs or services that an individual might qualify for.


If you’re looking for more information, you may want to investigate a free booklet from MetLife Mature Market Institute, called “Understanding Home Care Agency Options”. It is a part of the “Since You Care” series of guides, which has been created in cooperation of the National Alliance for Caregiving to include advice, resources, and checklists that cover everything you need to know about home care for yourself or a relative.