How is Home Health Care Different from Companion Care or Personal Care?

Nurse helping with balance

The terms home health care and home care sound alike. When you or a family member need support at home, it’s important to understand the difference.


That one word—health—signifies that home health care is medical in nature. Care typically begins with a doctor’s prescription for at-home support provided by licensed medical professionals.

The visiting health care team may include registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, therapist, medical social worker or home health aides. They are trained to help people regain their strength, maintain their independence and prevent unplanned emergency care or rehospitalizations.

Skilled home health care

Home health care is sometimes called skilled home health or medical home health. It is at-home support for people discharged from a hospital or skilled nursing facility who cannot safely travel to a doctor’s office or clinic. It can also be prescribed for rehabilitation after a fall, other injury or for serious chronic health conditions.

Care includes:

  • Monitoring health status
  • Wound care
  • Medical assessments
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Administering prescription medicines, including IVs
  • Fall prevention and mobility assessments


Most Home Health services are covered by insurance

When prescribed by a doctor, home health visits are generally covered by Medicare, veterans benefits and some long-term care or private insurance policies. Medicare pays up to 20 percent of the cost for durable medical equipment approved in a care plan. It does not pay for 24-hour care at home.

Non-Medical Home Care, Personal and Companion Care

Home care is non-medical in nature. It is support for people who need help maintaining their independence and daily routines at home. Patients do not need a doctor's referral for home care.

Non-medical care staff do not provide wound care or dispense prescription medications. They can offer medication reminders and keep families informed about general wellness.


Most non-medical home care is private pay. Some long-term care policies, Medicaid or Medicare Advantage (part D) plans include home care benefits. Wartime veterans, 65 years and older, may be covered by the Aid and Attendance benefit from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Companion Care vs Personal Care

Many states require personal care staff to have training and continuing education. Agency companion care staff are not required to have training for state-licensing.

Companion care does not provide physical assistance. Caregivers might perform light housekeeping, meal preparation, shopping or transportation. An important task is enabling seniors to maintain social connections and activities that preserve their quality of life.

Personal care includes the duties of companion care plus in-depth, hands-on support. Caregivers help with the activities of daily living, including assistance with bathing, feeding, dressing, grooming and incontinence care.

When selecting a home care agency, be specific about the services you require, scheduling and how they handle caregiver who must miss a shift. Ask about how they deal with personal and medical emergencies. Good communication and social skills are a must for good home care. If possible, interview caregivers and introduce them to your loved ones.

Home health care by Compassus or Ascension at Home together with Compassus is skilled home health care. Our care is unique because we offer seamless support, including palliative care, speech therapy, hospice and pain management. We also assist you with setting up and maintaining at-home medical equipment and supplies.