Home Care Vs. Care Homes: What’s the Difference

It is quite common to confuse senior home care with a nursing home, but they actually represent quite different methods of caring for seniors.

According to LongTermCare.gov, the average costs for long-term care in the United States (in 2010) were $6,235 per month for a semi-private room in a nursing home, working out to about $205 per day. A fully-private room equates to just under $7,000 per month, or $229 per day. These costs are for traditional nursing home care, where the senior lives in a facility along with other individuals, and is provided all basic care services onsite. This type of location is also called a care home.

Home care, on the other hand, refers to the occupational, medical, and supportive services that are given to those who choose to “age in place,” or stay in the home they’ve grown accustomed to. Let’s compare both options to further clarify the unique benefits of each choice.


On average, it costs about $7,000 per month, or $229 per day for a typical care home facility. This number might be higher if you or your loved one resides in a higher cost area, like New York, California, or Hawaii. Home care is generally billed at an hourly rate with approximately $20-25 per hour being the going rate.

This means that unless your senior needs more than 8-10 hours of dedicated care per day, the home care option will likely be less expensive. And, if care is only needed a few hours per day – say, for dressing, cleaning, and preparing meals, the home care option may be substantially lower than a nursing home. Assuming 4 hours per day of assistance is needed at a rate of $20 per hour, the total annual savings of opting for home care over a care home works out to over $54,000! Even those needing eight dedicated hours of support will spend $25,000 less than typical nursing home charges.

Extra Services

A traditional nursing care home is designed to allow seniors to age in comfort and safety, with a dose of variety built in to prevent boredom or inactivity. Amenities at some facilities may offer swimming pools, clubs or organizations, or other extracurriculars. These extra activities might be included if the facility is an all-inclusive type, or they might be billed above and beyond the basic cost structure.

Home care is a little looser; the home care company will work with the senior to create an agenda that keeps the client busy and happy. This may involve driving to activities around town, or even coordinating mixers with other senior-aged individuals. It is convenient to have the services onsite, but this also limits the senior to participating in the pre-planned activities at the care home.

Senior Satisfaction

While not all patients are alike, there is a common theme among those who choose home care versus a dedicated care home – freedom and flexibility. Though we tend to slow down with age and our systems aren’t always going to be what they once were, our individual personalities don’t change much over the course of a lifetime, and many seniors feel that aging in their homes is the course of action that will keep them happiest and as engaged as possible with their network of friends and family. In-home care allows the senior to preserve familiarity with their surroundings, to make changes when they want to, and to invite who they want into their own homes. For this reason alone, home care is a terrific choice.

When you look at both options, one thing becomes incredibly clear – the lower costs, increased sense of freedom, and flexible care arrangements position home care as one of the smartest choices you can make for the senior in your life.

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