Non-Medical Care and Financial Assistance for Seniors

Page Reviewed / Updated - May 2016

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, such as eating, maintaining personal hygiene, and basic mobility. 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, companion care and non-medical home care.  Some financial assistance programs use the phrase assistance with the activities of daily living instead.

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 which 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?

In 2016, the cost for non-medical care varied considerably across the United States.  The nationwide average was $20 / hour.  However, the Southern states were generally less expensive, in the $17 / hour range while the Northeast and West Coast experienced hourly rates above the national average, usually between $21 - $23 / hour.

Is There Financial Assistance for Non-Medical Care?

Yes, there are several sources of financial assistance to help with non-medical care. 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 Medicaid HCBS Waivers, from local Area Agencies on Aging and non-profit organizations. Please use our Financial Assistance Program Locator Tool to find programs and options for which you or your loved is eligible.

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.