What Is a Home Health Aide?

Home health aides provide care to elderly and disabled patients, performing basic tasks like monitoring vital signs and administering medications. These professionals usually just need a high school diploma, and job growth is expected to be very strong in the coming years. Read on to learn more about home health aide job duties and career prospects. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Home Health Aide Do?

Home health aides assist in the care of mentally or physically handicapped clients, either in the patient's home or at a residential care facility, such as an assisted living community or nursing home. Their patients typically are elderly; however, these professionals sometimes are hired to assist individuals who are incapacitated for reasons not affiliated with age. Home health aides also may be employed temporarily to help recently discharged hospital patients return to living at home. These professionals differ from home care aides, who assist handicapped individuals with custodial services.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Key Skills Interpersonal communication, physical stamina, time management, attention to detail
Work Environment Most work in clients' homes; higher than average rate of injury and illness due to physically demanding work, aggressive clients, exposure to communicable diseases
On-the-Job Training Aides receive training in housekeeping, cooking to specific dietary requirements and safety techniques
Similar Occupations Personal care aides, registered nurses, practical and vocational nurses, medical assistants, nursing assistants, physical therapy assistants

Common Duties

Many home health aides are employed by home health agencies, working as part of a team hired to assist in a disabled client's care. Those employed by an agency are assigned specific tasks and must keep records of all services performed and the condition of the patient. They are supervised by a case manager, generally a registered nurse, social worker or physical therapist.

In addition to assisting patients with bathing, dressing and personal grooming, typical tasks of a home health aide include:

  • Administering medication
  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Assisting with basic, prescribed exercises
  • Helping patients in and out of bed
  • Changing non-sterile dressings
  • Performing housekeeping
  • Making meals
  • Planning appointments and arranging transportation to them

Education and Training

A high school diploma is the most common educational requirement for home health aides, although it may not always be needed. Knowledge of basic safety and housekeeping is needed for this career. Home health aides also need to be able to manage their time well, perform the physical tasks of the job, follow rules and provide companionship to patients. Some postsecondary schools offer educational programs for these professionals, but many home health aides learn on the job.

Certification may be required for those working for specific employers and may include passing an exam after completing training. The National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) offers an optional certification for home health aides.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

Due to the growth of the aging population, home health aide employment growth is expected to be much faster than average over the 2012-2022 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov). The projected growth of 48% will result in an increase of 424,200 new jobs added to the economy over the period.

Home health aides earned $22,400 on average in May 2014, according to the BLS. The bottom 10% of wage earners made $17,040 or less, while the top 10% of earners made $29,560 or more.

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