Home health aides

What Home Health Aides Do

Home health aides help people who are disabled, chronically ill, or cognitively impaired. They often help older adults who need assistance. In some states, home health aides may be able to give a client medication or check the client’s vital signs under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.

Duties

Home health aides typically do the following:

  • Help clients in their daily personal tasks, such as bathing or dressing
  • Provide basic health-related services according to a client’s needs, such as checking vital signs or administering prescribed medication at scheduled times
  • Do light housekeeping, such as laundry, washing dishes, and vacuuming in a client’s home
  • Organize a client’s schedule and plan appointments
  • Arrange transportation to doctors’ offices or for other kinds of outings
  • Shop for groceries and prepare meals to a client’s dietary specifications
  • Provide companionship

Home health aides, unlike personal care aides, typically work for certified home health or hospice agencies that receive government funding and therefore must comply with regulations. They work under the direct supervision of medical professionals, usually registered nurses. These aides keep records of services performed and of clients’ conditions and progress. They report changes in clients’ conditions to supervisors or case managers. Home health aides also work with therapists and other medical staff.

Depending on their clients’ needs, home health aides may provide some basic health-related services, such as checking a client’s pulse, temperature, and respiration rate. They may also help with simple prescribed exercises and with giving medications. Occasionally, they change bandages or dressings, give massages, care for skin, or help with braces and artificial limbs. With special training, experienced home health aides also may help with medical equipment such as ventilators, which help clients breathe.

How to Become a Home Health Aide

There is no formal education requirement for home health aides, but most aides have a high school diploma. Home health aides who work for certified home health or hospice agencies must get formal training and pass a standardized test.

Education

Although a high school diploma or equivalent is not generally required, most home health aides have one before entering the occupation. Some formal education programs may be available from community colleges or vocational schools.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Home health aides who work for agencies that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid must get a minimum level of training and pass a competency evaluation or receive state certification. Training includes learning about personal hygiene, reading and recording vital signs, infection control, and basic nutrition. Aides may take a competency exam to become certified without taking any training. These are the minimum requirements by law; additional requirements for certification vary by state.

In some states, the only requirement for employment is on-the-job training, which employers generally provide. Other states require formal training, which is available from community colleges, vocational schools, elder care programs, and home health care agencies. In addition, states may conduct background checks on prospective aides.

Home health aides can be certified by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). Although certification is not always required, employers prefer to hire certified aides. Certification requires 75 hours of training, observation and documentation of 17 skills demonstrating competency, and passing a written exam.

Training

Home health aides may be trained in housekeeping tasks, such as cooking for clients who have special dietary needs. They learn basic safety techniques, including how to respond in an emergency. In addition, there may be specific training needed for certification if state certification is required.

A competency evaluation may be required to ensure that the home health aide can perform some certain tasks. Clients have their own preferences, and aides may need time to become comfortable working with them.

Without additional training, advancement in this occupation is limited.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Home health aides must follow specific rules and protocols to help take care of clients.

Interpersonal skills. Home health aides must work closely with their clients. Sometimes, clients are in extreme pain or mental stress, and aides must be sensitive to their emotions. Aides must be cheerful, compassionate, and emotionally stable. They must enjoy helping people.

Physical stamina. Home health aides should be comfortable performing physical tasks. They might need to lift or turn clients who have a disability.

Time-management skills. Clients and their families rely on home health aides. Therefore, it is important that aides follow agreed-upon schedules and arrive at their clients’ homes when they are expected.

Job Outlook

Home Health Aides

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Home health aides

48%

Healthcare support occupations

28%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of home health aides is projected to grow 48 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As the baby-boom population ages and the elderly population grows, the demand for home health aides to provide assistance and companionship will continue to increase. The older population often has health problems and will need help with daily activities.

Elderly and disabled clients increasingly rely on home care as a less expensive alternative to nursing homes or hospitals. Clients who need help with everyday tasks and household chores, rather than medical care, can reduce their medical expenses by returning to their homes.

Another reason for home care is that most clients prefer to be cared for in their homes, where they are most comfortable. Studies have found that home treatment is often more effective than care in a nursing home or hospital.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for home health aides are excellent. This occupation is large and expected to grow very quickly, thus adding many jobs. In addition, the low pay and high emotional demands may cause many workers to leave this occupation, and they will have to be replaced.

Employment projections data for Home Health Aides, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Home health aides

31-1011 875,100 1,299,300 48 424,200
  Occupation Description Entry-Level Education 2012 Median Pay
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors. '

Postsecondary non-degree award $41,540
Medical assistants Medical assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.'

Postsecondary non-degree award $29,370
Occupational therapy assistants and aides Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working. Occupational therapy assistants are directly involved in providing therapy to patients, while occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities. Both assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists.'

Associate's degree $48,940
Physical therapist assistants and aides Physical therapist assistants and aides

Physical therapist assistants (sometimes called PTAs) and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain.'

Associate's degree $39,430
Radiation therapists Radiation therapists

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.'

Associate's degree $77,560
Registered nurses Registered nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.'

Associate's degree $65,470
Social and human service assistants Social and human service assistants

Social and human service assistants help people get through difficult times or get additional support. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.'

High school diploma or equivalent $28,850
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Ref: bls.gov
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