Home Health Aide

Home Health Aide Job Description
Job description for home health aidesJob highlights

On average, home health aides make around $10 per hour
You will need certification for most home health aide positions
Job opportunities will grow by 50 percent over the next ten years
Home health aides care for physically, mentally or emotionally ill or injured people who wish to receive care in the comforts of their own home. Under the supervision of medical staff, home health aides administer oral medications, check pulse, respiration and blood pressure rates, keep rooms neat, and help patients move, dress and bathe. You should also be prepared to give massages and alcohol rubs on sore muscles, change dressings to cover wounds and sores, and assist with braces and artificial limbs. Patients may be recently discharged from the hospital and only need short-term care, or require extensive care that friends and family are unable to provide.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the overall mean wage for home health aides is $22,870, up from $22,400 the prior year. The median salary is $21,920, or $10.54 per hour. Wages vary based on geography and working environment; certified HHAs account for much of the higher reported wages, as a consequence of varying geographic and workplace requirements. The lowest 10% of HHAs earn $17,480 annually, while the highest 10% earn $29,950.

According to the US News & World Report on the Best Health Care Jobs of 2015, home health aide rank #23 as one of the fastest growing positions on their list. As the population ages, so does the need for the level of assistance that can be provided by HHAs. Many seniors prefer to remain in their own homes as long as possible; having the assistance of home health aides supports this option. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be massive growth of 38% within this industry between the years 2014 and 2024, which means demand for approximately 348,000 new home health aides. Certified HHAs have more options for employment consideration than those not taking the certification training.

What are the working conditions?

Hours vary depending on patients' needs, especially those who need around-the-clock care. Most home health aides work a regular 40-hour work week, but some work weekends, nights and holidays. This job requires strength, both physically and emotionally. Work days consist of long hours on your feet and possible heavy lifting, as well as the emotional stress of working with the sick and elderly. Aides should take every measure to prevent the transmission of minor infections and major diseases, such as hepatitis.

Workplace Details
As you consider the career path of a home health aide, you must reflect on what type of environment you would find comfortable when providing patient care. Working as a home health aide does not always require a person to work in a private home of a patient. Your clients may reside in independent living apartments, retirement communities, assisted living facilities, or even group homes and transitional housing. Most HHAs focus on providing direct personal care with one patient at a time, but may visit several patients on the same day. HHAs are typically supervised by a patient’s health care provider, such as a registered nurse providing care and oversight to that specific client. The patient’s family members may also provide the supervision in cases when the HHA is caring directly for a patient privately without the interaction of a certified home health agency.

This profession may have appeared on an episode of "Dirty Jobs " because aides are usually required to empty bed pans and change soiled bed sheets. Patients may also be unpleasant, disoriented or irritable at times. However, even with the demanding nature of this job, it is extremely rewarding--many aides gain great satisfaction in knowing they have truly helped those in need.

Home health aides may go to the same patient's home for months or even years, but most aides work with several different patients, sometimes on the same day. They generally work alone with periodic visits from their supervisor, so you need to be OK with working alone with the patient. Aides are given detailed instructions on how to care for each individual and are expected to follow them accordingly. They are responsible for getting to patients' homes on their own and may spend much of their day travelling, so you might want to trade your pick-up for a hybrid if you're getting into this line of work.

What skills do I need and how can I get promoted?

In many cases, you don't need a college degree or a high school diploma hanging on your wall for a job as a nursing, psychiatric or home health aide. However, hospitals may require you to have training and experience. Nursing care facilities often require workers without experience to complete at least 75 hours of training and pass an exam within four months of getting hired.

Applicants should be patient, tactful, friendly, emotionally stable and genuinely want to help those who need it. They should be willing to perform all required tasks, no matter how unpleasant, and have good communication skills. Home health aides should be honest and dependable, since they are being trusted to work in a patient's private home. If you're looking to move up in the medical field, you will generally need additional medical training and education. Luckily for all you high school and college students out there, you don't have to cut class to earn a paycheck--the evening and weekend hours give you the opportunity to work during the school year.

Show me the money!

Health benefits, paid vacation, sick-leave and pension plans are available to many hospital and some nursing care employees. Often times, home health care workers are not paid for their travel expenses or the time they spend driving in-between jobs, so you might want to put "gas card" on your holiday wish list this year. Most employers hire on-call workers only and provide no benefits to their employees.

Wages vary depending on location and job description. Check out our wage calculator for more specific information on pay for this job in your neck of the woods.

Nine questions to consider:
Would you be comfortable going into patients’ homes alone?
Do you plan to work in a geographical area of high crime?
Do you like to be independent? (Are you capable of performing required tasks without direct supervision?)
Are you comfortable speaking to a client’s family members if needed?
How would you react if you were asked to provide client care in a cluttered, unsanitary home?
Do you like a slower pace of patient care, or do you prefer a fast-paced, exciting environment?
Are you able to lift a patient without injuring yourself?
Do you have any pet allergies? (Clients often have pets.)
Would you feel comfortable providing personal care to a person of the opposite sex?

Keys to Success as a Home Health Aide
Necessary Skills and Qualities
Physical fitness

Performing the duties of a home health aide can be physically demanding at times. In order to perform this job, a person must be able to lift at least 50 lbs. and must primarily be in good health.

Interpersonal skills

Because aides focus on direct patient care, patience is a necessity, as are dependability, effective communication, and good time management.

Health and safety awareness

According to the US Department of Labor (DOL), HHAs sustain on-the-job injuries and illnesses at a higher-than-average rate compared with people in other occupations, so taking preventative safety measures to ensure you rarely get sick is important.

Pass background and health checks

Most employers require an applicant to pass a criminal background check that includes checking for elder or child abuse and neglect. The applicant must also complete testing for tuberculosis (TB) and test negative before working with patients. In addition, many employers require drug testing prior to completion of the hire process.