For people who have a genuine compassion in helping others and who are interested in the healthcare sector, working as a home health aide would be an excellent career option. Although this type of job is also referred to as a Certified Nursing Assistant, Residential Assistant, Home Caregiver, or Patient Care Technician, job responsibilities, salary and future opportunities are the same. In this article, we provided an overview of job responsibilities as a home health aide, along with other pertinent career information.
It truly does take the right type of attitude to work in this health care profession, but there are jobs available. Home health aide careers as a whole are estimated to see a growth of close to 50% within the next 10 years. Even during economic tough times, this career proves to be one that can offer sustainable employment for those who are interested in working in this field.
In simple terms, a home health aide provides patients with basic care that includes anything to do with health services and personal care. This type of career is not only beneficial to patients but also family members and friends by providing them with support. There are actually a variety of people that would need care provided by a home health aide, some of the more common to include people in the following categories:
- Long-term or Terminal Illness
- Physically Disabled
- Children and Adults with Types of Mental Illness or Disability
The exact type of services offered by a home health aide is based on an area of specialty with the aide working under the supervision of a physical therapist, registered nurse, or some other licensed health professional, or perhaps a home health agency or a social worker. Regardless, the patient would receive proper care in the comfort and privacy of the home although some aides service residential facilities too.
Services of a Home Health Aide
As mentioned, duties of a home health aide would vary depending on the exact area of specialty, as well as the patient’s needs but in general, specific job responsibilities cover things such as those listed below.
- Take vital signs (temperature, respiration, pulse)
- Assist with exercises as a part of therapy
- Change surgical dressing
- Administer prescribed medication
- Offer emotional and psychological support
- Move patient as needed (in and out of bed, wheelchair, bathtub, vehicle, chair)
- Read to or carry on conversations with the patient
- Purchase necessary ingredients and prepare meals according to approved diet
- Help with daily hygiene needs (bathing, nail clipping, brushing teeth)
- Provide assistance with dressing and daily grooming needs
- Change bed sheets as needed
Usually, a home health aide would drive the patient to and from doctor’s appointments or the hospital for testing and screening. Sometimes, this professional does laundry, goes grocery shopping, runs errands, cleans house, and so on. While most aides work full-time, there are some that follow a part-time schedule although working odd hours at night, on the weekends, and even on holidays is expected. In fact, some patients such as those that are terminally ill or under hospice care require 24-hour assistance.
Due to the nature of the job, the right candidate would possess specific character traits and skills to include:
- Good communication
- Physical Strength
Risks of Home Health Aides
Unlike other healthcare professionals that can ask for assistance in moving a patient from one location to another, a home health aide often performs physically demanding job functions alone. Therefore, this person should learn proper methods and possess appropriate strength to move a patient without causing harm or embarrassment. Along with risk for back injuries due to heavy lifting, other risks should be understood.
Depending on the patient, a home health aide might be exposed to serious and highly contagious diseases to include hepatitis and AIDS, it would be imperative for this person to learn the proper way of handling bodily fluids to avoid contamination. While changing dirty sheets is not a pleasant aspect of the job, proper training teaches the home health aide to handle a variety of situations safely but also with integrity to maintain the patient’s dignity.
Educational and Licensing Needs
To work as a home health aide, only a high school diploma is required although having a nursing certification or some college would be helpful. Because this individual works under a more experienced and higher ranking healthcare professional, this career is an excellent learning ground for people interested in becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse, Registered Nurse, physical therapist, and so on.
Today, many employers now offer various seminars, lectures, workshops, and other educational and training opportunities for home health aides. If a home health aide were to work for the government, specific guidelines would need to be followed. For this situation the aide would also be required to take and pass a competency test prior to being hired.
While not mandated, someone serious about this type of career might want to consider securing a voluntary certification offered by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, otherwise referred to as NAHC. Of course, this person could enroll in community college to take applicable classes such as:
- Patient Mobility
- Introduction to Nutrition
- HIV/AIDS Awareness Training
- Patient Personal Care
- Learning to Take, Understand, and Record Vital Signs
- Patient Communication
- Respiratory Therapy and Equipment Training
- Geriatric Skills
- Occupational and Physical Therapy Aide Training
- Basic Laboratory Equipment
Although home health aide careers are in high demand, current salary ranges from $25,000 to $27,000 a year depending on level of education and training, experience level, geographic location, type of facility working in, exact employer, etc. While income is not overly high considering the type and level of care provided, this individual would have the opportunity to gain knowledge while working for a nurse or therapist but also enjoy a very rewarding job.
According to the latest statistics, home health aide careers are expected to grow by as much as 50% through 2018. Even within the overall healthcare sector, which is growing much faster than any other occupation, this is considered substantial. With baby boomers now aging, the need for home care will continue to rise. This coupled with the outrageous cost for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, most families cannot afford any other option. Home health aide careers are experiencing a strong growth period, and it is a safe career to gain access to for those seeking employment.