Home Health Aides
Training and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Certificate or Higher|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||839,930|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||6.1%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||83,750|
What's Needed: Home health aides typically have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Additional training, such as certificates, associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees in health-related fields are welcome but not necessary. Working through an agency usually requires training under a nurse's or doctor's supervision.
What you study:
Health, science and psychology courses at any educational level are an asset. For those planning to attend nursing school, the following coursework is recommended:
- Human anatomy and physiology
A short intro of what home health aides do in their daily work. Produced for the US Dept of Labor.
A Day in the Life
Your day begins with a workout; as a home health aide, you must keep yourself strong and mobile to help those who have limited mobility. Depending on where you live and whether you work for a state agency, you'll want to eat a nutritious breakfast, too. In some states, sharing the patients' meals is prohibited, and you may not get a chance to eat until later in the day or between visits.
Your first visit of the day isn't with a patient but with his daughter. Her elderly father is recuperating from a fall, and mornings alone are difficult for him. Although he's physically limited, he doesn't need significant care beyond assistance and companionship. After meeting him and his daughter, you're pleased to accept the position. Your roles will include preparing breakfast, offering assistance in moving around the house, taking short walks and seeing that he takes his medications. Your work in this home fits well with your scheduled hours in other households.
After waving goodbye to your newest charge, you're off to your next home visit. Your next patient's needs are somewhat more challenging; she has significantly limited mobility and moderate Alzheimer's disease. Some days are clearer than others for her, but today seems like a good one as she greets you by name. You and she chat as you put away the groceries you've brought and prepare lunch. She enjoys having her hair washed and brushed, so you've planned that for after lunch and a nap.
Depending on where you live, you might prepare your client's medications, or you may remind her to take them. Some states regulate whether home health aides can give medications without a nurse present. If you work for a state agency, you'll be apprised of these rules as part of your orientation.
Most of your day is spent in one home, but that may change in a month or two. Your current schedule changes as people recuperate or move to assisted-living facilities. For now, though, you're with your charge until evening. If you work for an agency, you may stop by the office after your shift to deliver notes or charts. If you work in a team with another aide, you'll discuss your patient's care. Continuity is vital for home care, and coordinating with other aides and nurses ensures it.
Certifications and Licensing
Certified home health aides must complete a training course and pass an examination. Many choose to become certified for care concentrations by learning how to design and prepare specialized diets or care for adolescents with special needs. While certification is not necessary in all states, most agencies that work with Medicaid and Medicare to provide care require it.
Full-time versus part-time:
Working as a home health aide is typically low-key. Unless an emergency occurs, the pace of an average day is leisurely. Aides often have time to read or watch television; it's often a pleasantly social occupation. For those who enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of working in a household instead of an office, home health care is an excellent option.
Aides must be available for their charges, so it isn't a job that permits late arrivals or long lunches. Aides who work through an agency generally work full-time, but some agencies arrange part-time work for those who are still in school. For private caregivers, daily and weekly hours are more flexible.
- Bureau of Labor and Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook -- For an overview of what home health aides do and a glimpse at the future of the profession, the Occupational Outlook Handbook is a good place to start. Topics addressed on the site include a profession description, a look at the work environment and links to similar careers.
- National Association for Home Care and Hospice – As the largest professional organization for home health care aides, the NAHC provides caregivers with ongoing educational opportunities, news of health care legislation and links to state associations. This website is an excellent first stop for prospective home health aides and for those currently working in the field.
- Private Duty Homecare Association – This site is affiliated with the NAHC and provides an in-depth view of private home care services that are outside the scope of Medicare. An increasing number of home health aides now work for private agencies, and this site is a good source of information about this option. NAHC members may join this organization with no additional fees. Visit the site's Education section to attend professional workshops and conferences.
- American Health Care Association – The focus of this site is long-term care, and that includes home health care. The extensive site's news and research sections are particularly interesting to home health aides and home nurses. Check the AHCA calendar of events to find conferences and webinars geared to helping home health workers deliver excellent care.