Cost and Quality of Home Health Care

What Contributes to Cost and How to Measure Quality

Caretaker with retired people in nursing home
Cost of Care and Quality. Morsa Images / Getty Images

According to a 2011 Aging in Place study by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the AARP Public Policy Institute, demand is higher for home care services than for more traditional, facility-based models of senior care. The study found that 90 percent of those older than 65 want to stay in their home as long as possible, and 80 percent believe they will always live where they are now.

The Cost of Care

The annual Genworth Cost of Care study collects and compares the costs of home care agencies, assisted living communities, and nursing home facilities. The cost of “homemaker services” (includes hands-off care such as cooking, cleaning, and running errands, which can help people continue to live independently in their homes) showed a five-year annual growth rate of 1.20% and the average hourly rate at $19. Home health aides, who provide “hands-on” personal care in the home had a 1.32% five-year annual growth rate. Contrast this with the 4.29% five-year annual growth rate for assisted living facilities.

The cost of care is affected by many things, including high competition and a proliferation of senior home care options as well as inflation.

Also consider that people may transition between types of care as the go from receiving care in the home to moving into assisted living facilities or in and out of skilled facilities, like nursing homes.

Inflation & the Economy

Inflation adds another complication to the cost of care. According to Bloomberg News, doctors, hospitals and drugmakers raise prices faster than inflation, driving U.S. health care costs higher. For example, in 2010 spending on health care was twice the general inflation rate.

A weak economy also affects the price of care. Because many potential clients consider price as the shop options, home care agencies must stay competitive to attract consumers or families will look at the advantages of providing care themselves to save money. The type of insurance people carry will also affect how they shop for long-term care, especially since home care is a private pay service. People with long-term care insurance policies will be less concerned with inflationary cost increases in home care services because they are covered by their insurance. 

Different costs come with the different types and duration of home care. Unlike nursing homes, many home care agencies typically charge by the hour at a rate that is based on the type of care (hands-on personal care vs. homemaking services or companion care) that is needed.

Nursing homes often cannot offer the same individualized and customized care to match the needs and wishes of each client.

Quality Above All

When it comes down to it, quality is always the deciding factor for people when it comes to determining how much a family will spend on care. Keep in mind that costs for long-term care vary not only state to state but from city to city--and the same can be said of the quality of each option.

It is not as simple to measure quality as it is to compare costs and prices, though. At Homewatch CareGivers we have developed tools that track a client’s well-being over the days, weeks, months, and even years that a caregiver tends to their needs. The goal is to show clients and their families the positive results of quality care through continuous care plan adjustments so that they know they are getting a good value.

In the end, it has to be an individual family’s decision about what works best for their situation.

Regardless of cost, you need to be comfortable and have peace of mind that you’ve made the right choice.

About Jennifer Tucker, Vice President of Homewatch International, Inc.

Jennifer Tucker earned her Master’s degree in Health Science from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health before going to work as a Wellness Coordinator for MidAtlantic Corporate Health. Since joining Homewatch CareGivers in 2002, she has filled many roles including Vice President of Support and now oversees Marketing and Business Development.

 Editors Note: Look for more useful articles from Jennifer on our site so you can make informed decisions on care for yourself or a loved one.

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