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Long-term care vs short-term care: A guide for professional caregivers

Jun 17, 2022 · 5 minutes to read

Home health workers provide essential services to thousands of Americans every year. While seniors often come to mind first when people think about in-home care, people in all stages of life may need this assistance.

A caregiver talking to happy senior Picture of smiling nurse assisting senior elderly person.

When weighing your career options in the home health care field, you might find it helpful to compare short-term care and long-term care roles. There is overlap in the duties you are likely to perform in each, but differences that can suit some personalities better than others.

Let’s explore short-term care and long-term care roles for professional caregivers and other home health providers.

What is short-term care?

As the name suggests, short-term care is temporary medical care provided to a patient after a surgery, injury, or illness. Home health care providers often perform their services in a patient’s home. This allows the patient to recover where they are most comfortable.

Short-term care is goal-oriented. Caregivers may assist patients with different types of physical therapy to help them relieve pain and restore movement. You may also assist with a patient’s occupational therapy, which helps equip them with the skills they need to care for themselves.

Home health aides and professional caregivers may assist patients with their personal care and hygiene during this time. They may also work with nurses and other medical professionals to help manage medical conditions, such as changing wound dressings or monitoring vital signs.

Providing short-term care lets you work with many different patients. You may only have one patient at a time, but you will likely only stay with them for a matter of weeks or months.

Is short-term care for the elderly an option?

Yes! While many people assume that short-term care is primarily for younger patients, older ones may only need help for a limited amount of time too. You might provide short-term care for the elderly following a surgery that requires rehab, such as a hip replacement. It may also be used by older patients while they recover from an injury or major illness.

What is long-term care?

Long-term care is medical aid and caregiving assistance provided to a patient with no end date. A patient with ongoing health needs, a disability, or a degenerative condition may need the services of a home health aide or caregiver for the rest of their life.

While short-term care focuses on an end goal, the aims of long-term care are often focused on comfort and safety. Long-term caregivers can help provide a patient and their family with important peace of mind, knowing that a professional is there to give necessary medical assistance and respond to emergencies.

Caregivers and home health aides are often very involved in a patient’s day-to-day needs when providing long-term care. While you may assist with medical care or delivering medications, you will also help with a patient’s personal care, hygiene, and mobility. You might also do some light housework, help prepare meals, run errands, and accompany them to doctor’s appointments.

Long-term care roles mean that you may see fewer patients throughout your career. Depending on their age and condition, you could be helping the same person for many years. This can be a great opportunity to really get to know a patient and their family.

Do younger people ever need long-term care?

Yes! Long-term care is often assumed to be a service only for the elderly. However, younger patients with chronic illnesses or a disability may also need long-term care services. While your patients are more likely to be older, you could work with patients of all ages as a long-term care provider.

Who provides short-term and long-term care?

There are many professions within the home health care industry, and each may provide either short-term or long-term care to patients. Who provides which type of care really depends on a patient’s medical and personal needs more than the amount of time your assistance is required.

Common caregiver types in the home health care field include:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) – Licensed nurses help manage a patient’s medical care, including following a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor and administering medications. CNAs may treat patients in their homes, but their visits are generally limited to medical care and may only last a couple of hours at most.
  • Home Health Aide (HHA) – A HHA provides patients with medical care and can administer basic medications. They may also assist with everyday assistance, including hygiene and personal care. HHAs may work with a patient for part of the day or provide them with round-the-clock care.
  • Caregiver or Personal Care Aide (PCA) – A caregiver or PCA is not a trained medical professional. They focus on providing patients with personal care, such as hygiene, personal care, preparing meals, running errands, and transportation. They may have one patient at a time that they live with or help several patients throughout the day.

Recommended reading: Types of caregiver certifications

Protecting Your Business

Regardless of whether you decide to provide long-term or short-term care to patients, you will probably want to protect your small business. Caregiver insurance is designed to meet the unique needs of home health care providers. It can provide important protections so you can focus on providing patients with excellent care instead of worrying about on-the-job accidents emptying your bank account.

Learn more about caregiver insurance and home health aide insurance with BizInsure.

*As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording. The information contained on this web page is general only and should not be relied upon as advice.

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