Home health aides help people who are disabled, chronically ill, or cognitively impaired. They often help older adults who need assistance. In some states, home health aides may be able to give a client medication or check the client’s vital signs under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.
Home health aides typically do the following:
- Help clients in their daily personal tasks, such as bathing or dressing
- Provide basic health-related services according to a client’s needs, such as checking vital signs or administering prescribed medication at scheduled times
- Do light housekeeping, such as laundry, washing dishes, and vacuuming in a client’s home
- Organize a client’s schedule and plan appointments
- Arrange transportation to doctors’ offices or for other kinds of outings
- Shop for groceries and prepare meals to a client’s dietary specifications
- Provide companionship
Home health aides, unlike personal care aides, typically work for certified home health or hospice agencies that receive government funding and therefore must comply with regulations. They work under the direct supervision of medical professionals, usually registered nurses. These aides keep records of services performed and of clients’ conditions and progress. They report changes in clients’ conditions to supervisors or case managers. Home health aides also work with therapists and other medical staff.
Depending on their clients’ needs, home health aides may provide some basic health-related services, such as checking a client’s pulse, temperature, and respiration rate. They may also help with simple prescribed exercises and with giving medications. Occasionally, they change bandages or dressings, give massages, care for skin, or help with braces and artificial limbs. With special training, experienced home health aides also may help with medical equipment such as ventilators, which help clients breathe.
Home health aides held about 875,100 jobs in 2012. They work in a variety of settings.
Most work in a client’s home; others work in small group homes or larger care communities. Some home health aides go to the same home every day or week for months or even years. Some visit four or five clients in the same day, while others work only with one client all day. This may involve working with other aides in shifts so that the client always has an aide. They help people in hospices and day services programs, and also help people with disabilities go to work and stay engaged in their communities.
The industries that employed the most home health aides in 2012 were as follows:
|Home health care services||37%|
|Residential care facilities||31|
|Individual, family, community, and vocational rehabilitation services||18|
Most home health aides worked full time in 2012.
Injuries and Illnesses
Home health aides have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Work as an aide can be physically and emotionally demanding. Aides must guard against back injury because they often move clients into and out of bed, or help them to stand or walk.
In addition, home health aides frequently work with clients who have cognitive impairments or mental health issues and who may display difficult or violent behaviors. Aides also face hazards from minor infections and exposure to communicable diseases, but can avoid infections by following proper procedures.
There is no formal education requirement for home health aides, but most aides have a high school diploma. Home health aides who work for certified home health or hospice agencies must get formal training and pass a standardized test.
Although a high school diploma or equivalent is not generally required, most home health aides have one before entering the occupation. Some formal education programs may be available from community colleges or vocational schools.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Home health aides who work for agencies that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid must get a minimum level of training and pass a competency evaluation or receive state certification. Training includes learning about personal hygiene, reading and recording vital signs, infection control, and basic nutrition. Aides may take a competency exam to become certified without taking any training. These are the minimum requirements by law; additional requirements for certification vary by state.
In some states, the only requirement for employment is on-the-job training, which employers generally provide. Other states require formal training, which is available from community colleges, vocational schools, elder care programs, and home health care agencies. In addition, states may conduct background checks on prospective aides.
Home health aides can be certified by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). Although certification is not always required, employers prefer to hire certified aides. Certification requires 75 hours of training, observation and documentation of 17 skills demonstrating competency, and passing a written exam.
Home health aides may be trained in housekeeping tasks, such as cooking for clients who have special dietary needs. They learn basic safety techniques, including how to respond in an emergency. In addition, there may be specific training needed for certification if state certification is required.
A competency evaluation may be required to ensure that the home health aide can perform some certain tasks. Clients have their own preferences, and aides may need time to become comfortable working with them.
Without additional training, advancement in this occupation is limited.
Detail oriented. Home health aides must follow specific rules and protocols to help take care of clients.
Interpersonal skills. Home health aides must work closely with their clients. Sometimes, clients are in extreme pain or mental stress, and aides must be sensitive to their emotions. Aides must be cheerful, compassionate, and emotionally stable. They must enjoy helping people.
Physical stamina. Home health aides should be comfortable performing physical tasks. They might need to lift or turn clients who have a disability.
Time-management skills. Clients and their families rely on home health aides. Therefore, it is important that aides follow agreed-upon schedules and arrive at their clients’ homes when they are expected.
The median annual wage for home health aides was $20,820 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,600, and the top 10 percent earned more than $29,250.
Most home health aides worked full time in 2012.
Employment of home health aides is projected to grow 48 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.
As the baby-boom population ages and the elderly population grows, the demand for home health aides to provide assistance and companionship will continue to increase. The older population often has health problems and will need help with daily activities.
Elderly and disabled clients increasingly rely on home care as a less expensive alternative to nursing homes or hospitals. Clients who need help with everyday tasks and household chores, rather than medical care, can reduce their medical expenses by returning to their homes.
Another reason for home care is that most clients prefer to be cared for in their homes, where they are most comfortable. Studies have found that home treatment is often more effective than care in a nursing home or hospital.
Job prospects for home health aides are excellent. This occupation is large and expected to grow very quickly, thus adding many jobs. In addition, the low pay and high emotional demands may cause many workers to leave this occupation, and they will have to be replaced.
For information about voluntary credentials for aides, visit