Lisa Conway, One Senior Place – Special to FLORIDA TODAY

Q: My mother-in-law is coming home from rehab. My friend told me to look into home health care or private duty in-home care. What is the difference?

A: Home health care and private duty care are both good options.

When I am working with someone whose loved one is returning home from a rehab facility or the hospital, the first thing I find out is the extent of care that will be required at home.

Home health care is typically skilled care that is provided by a home health care agency and is covered under your medical insurance.

It may consist of a nurse, a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist or any combination of skilled providers.

They will usually visit the home from one to three times per week and remain for about 45 minutes to an hour each time.

These health professionals set goals for care and assist the client in meeting those goals.

Once the goals are met, the services cease.

Anytime a client is transitioning from a hospital or rehab back to home I encourage them to ask for an order for home health care to assist with the transition.

Private duty care is for clients who require more intensive, hands-on care for extended periods of time.

A private duty care staffer may be a certified nursing assistant, home health care aid, registered nurse, social worker, care manager or any combination of those individuals.

Private duty care is typically not covered by the client’s medical insurance, although some long-term care insurance policies may cover costs.

Private duty services may include assistance with dressing, bathing, grooming, toileting, transferring, transportation, laundry, meal prep, light housekeeping and socialization. Private duty care is usually scheduled in blocks of four hours or more.

Often, home health care and private duty services are provided simultaneously.

When this occurs, it is best that both entities communicate regularly to ensure the client is making progress toward the goals that have been set.

Once the rehabilitation goals have been met and home health care services end, it is not uncommon for private duty services to continue.

In summary, a patient returning home may receive home health care services, private duty services, or both — depending on their need.

Home health services will most likely be covered under their medical insurance, whereas private duty will not.

However, a good long-term care policy may pick up some or all of the costs of private duty services.

Still not sure? Schedule a free 30-minute consultation at One Senior Place to discuss your situation.


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One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and a provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. To submit a question, send an email to or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at

Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services in Viera.