Home health care has now become a popular option for the aging population as it is being touted as a cost-effective solution to increasing medical costs and hospital admissions. As a result, home health aides are now more in demand than ever. According to projections, there won’t be a shortage of jobs for home health aides in the near future so employment in this area is ideal for people looking to have a career in the healthcare industry but don’t have the money nor the time to invest in lengthy school education.
What is a home health aide?
A home health aide assists with tasks, such as bathing and dressing, keeping homes clean and safe, arranging leisure activities and organizing transportation for patients so they can be engaged in their communities. Some states allow home health aides to administer medication or check the patient’s vital signs with the supervision of a healthcare professional.
Most home health aides (HHAs) take care of a single patient at a time but others could visit up to five patients a day. The patients don’t always reside in private homes. Some of them live in retirement communities, group homes, transitional housing, or assisted living facilities. Case length may vary from a few weeks to several years.
What are the qualifications to become a home health aide?
Becoming a home health aide is not difficult. If you’ve taken care of a sick or an elderly family member competently, chances are that you’ll be a good candidate to become an aide.
Education, training, and certification
At present, there is no standardized educational requirement for home health aides. The requirements that the aides need to meet depend on the state where they live.
42 CFR 484.30 is a Federal legislation that requires Medicare-certified home health agencies to employ home health aides who are trained and evaluated through training programs by their state. According to federal regulations, these training programs should consist of at least 75 training hours, which includes at least 16 hours of supervised practical or clinical training and 12 hours of continuing education every 12-month period.
As of 2014, 34 states and the District of Columbia do not require more than the minimum federal standard of 75 hours. Sixteen states exceed the federal minimum for the number of training hours, but only six of those meet the standard of 120 hours suggested by the Institute of Medicine or the IOM. Fourteen states require more than the minimum 16 hours of clinical training, with the required clinical hours reaching 80 hours.
Eleven states, including Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland, and Washington require home health aides to be Certified Nursing Aides and have completed the CAN training and competency evaluation. In California, Kansas, Montana, and Wyoming, Certified Nurse Aides may be dual-certified as Home Health Aides with additional training.
There are states that don’t require even a high school diploma or its equivalent while in other states, home health aides are only required to take preparation classes, which are usually offered at community colleges or vocational or technical schools before they begin working.
Home health aide certificate programs often take a year or less to complete. These programs teach basic patient care skills, which includes life support and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). After completing the course, the graduates can assist nurses and other health care professionals, and they are ready to earn a certification if required by their state.
In general, home health aides are trained by other aides, healthcare professionals, or the patient’s family members. Because of the complexity of every case and because each patient has unique needs, aides may have to train for a few hours or a few days.
Government-certified home care agencies and similar employers often provide training classes and obligate home health aides to pass a test before beginning their first assignment.
Requirements to be a good home health aide
Due to the nature of the job, it is ideal for home health aides to be physically fit and in good health since the job requires them to assist their wards in activities in and out of the home.
There are also other qualities that will allow aides to perform their jobs well but these traits are difficult to measure because of their intangible nature. Here are examples of those characteristics:
Being passionate is important in any profession but more so in the healthcare industry. Having passion for the job and genuine concern for the patients allow home health aides to go beyond their expected duties and do everything that needs to be done for the overall well-being of their patients.
Good interpersonal skills
Home health aides need to maintain good relationships with their patients, family members, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. Because they deal with different types of people in their profession, it’s important for aides to have good interpersonal skills to facilitate the flow of communication to and from the various parties. Having this skill also means being able to handle delicate situations accordingly and tactfully.
Patients and their family members need home health aides that they can depend on, especially since most of the patients are unable to take care of themselves. Knowing that they can depend on their aide will give patients and their family peace of mind that no amount of money can buy. Being dependable could be as simple as staying beyond the appointed hours if the other aides or family members have not arrived yet.
Patients come in different forms. Some of them are only physically challenged but others also struggle with mental issues that most people, even family members, would find difficult to handle. It’s not easy to take care of someone who has the tendency to be violent but even mundane chores, such as housekeeping can become a drag if you do them often enough. This is why patience is an important trait in home health aides.
What are the responsibilities of a home health aide?
The responsibilities of a home health aide vary depending on the needs of the patient, but their typical duties include the following:
- Provide basic health care services, such as checking the patient’s vital signs or administering prescribed medicines at appointed times.
- Help patients in the performance of personal tasks, such as bathing or getting dressed.
- Shop for groceries and prepare meals according to the patient’s dietary requirements.
- Assist with eating.
- Perform light housekeeping.
- Organize the patient’s schedule and plan appointments.
- Arrange transport to doctor’s offices or other kinds of appointments.
- Observe and record the patient’s condition, appearance, or behavior and report any changes to the supervising medical professional or case manager.
- Work with therapists and other medical staff as required by the patient’s condition.
- Help with simple exercises as prescribed by a professional healthcare provider.
- Enforce common precautions against infections.
- Change simple bandages or dressing, help with prosthetic and orthodontic devices, or give massages, if necessary.
- Provide companionship.
Other responsibilities could be required of the home health aide depending on the state where he or she works in.
Work as a home health aide can be physically and emotionally demanding. Compared to the national average, home health aides have a higher rate of illnesses and injuries. Aides should be especially wary of back injuries since they often assist patients in and out of bed, or help them stand or move.
Mental and emotional conditioning is also necessary because home health aides often work with patients who have mental health issues who may exhibit difficult or violent behaviors. Aides can also face threats and risk contracting communicable diseases, which could be avoided by following proper procedures.
How much does a home health aide make?
As of 2015, home health aides typically earn $8.10 – $14.34 per hour. While the salary of aides is lower than those of others in the healthcare industry, many home health aides consider their job as a stepping stone in the career ladder. Through additional education and training, home health aides can become medical assistants or nurses. Skilled and experienced aides could also teach and supervise new home care assistants and even students.
Employment of home health aides is considered to be a growing industry. In fact, it is projected to grow 48 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than average compared to other occupations.
This positive growth could be attributed to the following reasons:
- The demand for aides who could provide assistance and companionship will continue to increase as the elderly population grows.
- Home care is a less expensive alternative to nursing homes, hospitals, and other similar institutions.
- Most patients prefer to be cared for in their own homes where they usually feel safer and more comfortable.
- Studies have shown that home care is usually more effective than care received in a nursing home or hospital.
Home health aides do more than perform chores for patients who are unable to execute the tasks by themselves. They also thoroughly administer care from helping their patients walk to monitoring their vital signs. In many cases, these aides become almost like family members to their patients because of the amount of time they spend with them and the care they provide.