Often, when patients and their family members are researching care options, they come across services like home health care and hospice. Both are popular healthcare resources that many people assume are the same things. However, they are quite different. Although both services can be provided in the home, they differ in some ways, such as their care goals, patient eligibility, and even who’s on the care team. So, if you’ve ever wondered “what is the difference between home health and hospice,” you’re at the right place. First, we will examine how they’re similar and then dig into the details regarding how they differ. 

The Similarities Between Home Health and Hospice

What’s beneficial about home health and hospice is that both services are customized to the patient’s needs. This form of patient-centered care ensures that the individual’s desired outcomes are the driving force behind one’s healthcare decisions.  

Another commonality these two services share is being more affordable than skilled nursing facilities and hospitals. Either can be done in the home and aim to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations. 

In addition, neither service extends 24/7 care. Instead, professionals from the care team will visit for a few hours each week to assist the patient with their various needs. Finally, both services require a doctor’s order and can be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance providers if the patient meets eligibility requirements. This includes assisting patients and family members in learning how to manage disease processes and symptom control.

The Differences Between Home Health and Hospice

Now that you know how the two services are similar, let’s jump into how they differ. This will help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one. 

The Goals of Home Health and Hospice

Home health care aims to help a patient recover from an injury or illness and regain their independence. Patients dealing with a chronic condition may be guided by their care team on how to best manage it so they can be as self-sufficient as possible.

Hospice care, however, is there to help individuals with terminal illnesses and their caregivers to manage their pain and symptoms. They also extend services, such as bereavement support, to a patient’s family members following their passing.

The Eligibility Requirements

Individuals looking to receive home health care services must meet specific requirements. According to Medicare, patients must meet the following criteria: 

  • Be certified homebound by a doctor 
  • Require intermittent care from skilled professionals
  • Have a plan of care that’s ordered and supervised by a physician or approved practitioner 

To receive hospice care, a hospice doctor and a regular doctor must certify that one has a life expectancy of 6 months or less. Medicare will not consider someone eligible if they are trying to receive services to cure their illness. 

Medicare Coverage for Home Health and Hospice

Although both services receive coverage under Medicare, there are some slight differences. For example, if you receive home health care, Original Medicare will not pay for your medications. You’d have to obtain Medicare Part D (drug coverage) to get assistance with that. In addition, Medicare Part B will only cover medical equipment and supplies at 80%, so you’d have to consider other options for the remaining 20%. Also, remember that Medicare will only pay for supplies associated with the services being performed.

A patient utilizing hospice services can expect Medicare to cover all medical equipment, supplies, and medications related to their hospice diagnosis. 

The Location of Care for Home Health and Hospice

If you or a loved one requires home health care, services can be received at your home, in an assisted living facility, or at a group home. However, you cannot utilize those same services within a hospital or skilled nursing facility. 

Hospice is different because one can receive services wherever one calls home. Therefore, you can be given services whether you’re at your private residence, hospital setting, nursing facility, or hospice center.

The Length of Care

Home health care intends to get you to a point where you need fewer or no services over time. Therefore, your visits will decrease as your health improves and you become more independent. Once your doctor states that your care is no longer medically necessary, home healthcare services will stop. 

Hospice is a bit different, as care typically increases over time as the patient’s condition progresses. Hospice care is expected to last approximately six months. However, if someone lives past six months, care can continue as long as the doctor certifies that the individual has a limited life expectancy. Also, bereavement services are extended to the family for up to 13 months. 

The Services Provided for Home Health and Hospice

Both home health and hospice services include skilled nursing care and personal care from a home health aide. However, there are some differences in the type of care offered. Home health, for example, may also include the following services: 

  • Occupational therapy 
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy 
  • Medication assistance
  • Wound care
  • Medical social work 

Hospice services are all about assisting with a patient’s and their family member’s emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. As a result, their services often include: 

  • Bereavement counseling
  • Spiritual counseling  
  • Meal preparation, household chores, errands, etc. 
  • Assistance with advance directives, insurance, and more 
  • Along with therapy if indicated, medication monitoring and assistance, symptom control, and accessing community resources

The Care Team for Home Health and Hospice

Individuals receiving home health care services can expect their care team to include nurses, therapists, home health aides, and medical social workers. 

Patients utilizing hospice services will also have the above professionals. However, they can also expect to interact with a chaplain, trained volunteers, and bereavement counselors. The hospice care team, especially nurses, is trained and well-versed in handling end-of-life care. Therefore, they would be more skilled at providing emotional support and symptom management for those with terminal illnesses. 

Let Smoky Mountain Home Health & Hospice Assist You

Now that you know how they differ, you can make an informed decision regarding the best service for you or your loved one. We’ve helped thousands of patients in East Tennessee navigate home health and hospice services, and we’d be glad to help you too! Call us at (423) 623-0233 or use the contact form on our website to connect with a team member today.