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Non-Medical Care and Financial Assistance for Seniors

Page Reviewed / Updated - January 03, 2020

Definition: Non-Medical Care

Non-medical care is best defined as care or assistance provided by individuals without formal medical training. 

It Is Important to grasp the distinction between non-medical and medical care, as doing so helps families to better understand and utilize their health insurance benefits and find financial assistance to care for a loved one. Providing non-medical care generally means assisting elderly or disabled persons in performing their activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). Examples include assistance with eating, bathing and maintaining personal hygiene, dressing, toileting, and basic mobility, preparing meals, transportation assistance, light housecleaning, laundry, and shopping for essentials. Non-medical care may also include companionship and supervision. Assistance with medication is an area that toes the line between medical and non-medical care. Medication reminders for taking pills is considered non-medical, but medication administration, by nebulizer or with hypodermic needles, for example, is considered medical care.

Some of the confusion surrounding non-medical care stems from the fact that multiple phrases are used interchangeably to describe it. Readers should be aware that non-medical care is nearly synonymous with personal care, attendant care, custodial care, domiciliary care, companion care, and non-medical home care. Some financial assistance programs use the phrase, “assistance with the activities of daily living”, instead.

Benefits of Non-Medical Care?

Non-medical care can play a critical role in assisting seniors in maintaining their independence, allowing them to continue to live in the comfort of their own homes. Sometimes this type of care is needed temporarily, such as during recovery from an illness or injury, and sometimes it is needed indefinitely due to the natural process of aging. In many cases, without in-home, non-medical assistance, the likelihood that seniors might need to move in with a family member or relocate to an assisted living residence is greater. For seniors who live with a relative who provides them with regular care assistance, non-medical care can be received in the form of respite care (in-home or out-of-home). Respite care allows  primary caregivers a break from their caregiving duties. Furthermore, non-medical care can provide peace of mind for family members, knowing that their loved ones have someone supervising them and helping with activities that are necessary to live independently.

Who Can Provide Non-Medical Care?

This type of care is usually provided by friends, spouses, and other family members. However, there is a whole industry of private caregivers and even public employees who provide care, typically on an hourly basis. A common misconception is that non-medical care can only be provided at home. This is not the case. Adult day care centers very often provide the elderly with non-medical care during daytime hours. Assisted living communities are live-in residences that offer 24-hour non-medical care. Non-medical care is even provided in skilled nursing homes, although the distinction between medical and non-medical care is often blurred at that level.

How Much Does Non-Medical Care Cost?

According to Genworth’s 2019 Cost of Care Survey, the cost for non-medical care varies considerably across the United States. While the nationwide average was $22.50 / hour, the hourly average across the states ranged from a low of $16.88 (in Louisiana) and a high of $30.00 (in Washington). However, the Southern states were generally less expensive, in the $17.00 - $21.00 / hour range while the Northeast and West Coast experienced hourly rates consistent with, and above, the national average, usually between $22.00 and $28.00 / hour.

Is There Financial Assistance for Non-Medical Care?

Yes, there are several sources of financial assistance to help with the cost of non-medical care. However, it is important to note that original Medicare, nor MediGap policies, will cover the cost of non-medical care. That said, some Medicare Advantage plans may help to cover the cost. 

Most states have programs for lower income seniors who require assistance to manage their activities of daily living. Individuals who might otherwise be placed in a nursing home are usually qualified for these "nursing home diversion programs".  Financial assistance may also be available through a state’s regular Medicaid program, Medicaid HCBS (Home and Community Based Services) Waivers, from local Area Agencies on Aging, and non-profit organizations. Furthermore, for veterans, there is the Veteran-Directed Care Program and the Aid & Attendance Pension. Please use our Financial Assistance Program Locator Tool to find programs and options for which you or your loved is eligible.

To learn more about Medicaid’s home care benefits, click here.

What Regulation Exists for Non-Medical Care?

Many states have regulations that require non-medical caregivers to have background checks and licenses, while many other states do not. Even in states that have regulation, caregivers often work privately and receive payment under the table.

Help Finding Non-Medical Care Providers

Our organization provides a free service to help families find non-medical care providers in their local geographic areas. To get assistance, please start here.