Certified Home Health Aide Careers

Overview

Home health aides assist elderly, disabled or cognitively impaired patients who want to live in their homes but aren’t able to take care of themselves. Oftentimes, these patients have no one in their family who can provide the necessary care. Home health aides can help these patients by doing daily chores and helping with things like moving, bathing or clothing the patient.

Because of their additional training in health care, home health aides can provide more care in matters of medicine and personal health than other types of home attendants or personal care workers can. Working under the supervision of a nurse, these aides can provide basic health care tasks like changing bandages or dressing wounds, as outlined by the laws of the particular state.

Elderly and disabled people are increasingly turning to home care as an alternative to expensive hospitals and nursing homes. Most elderly and disabled people prefer to live at home, and studies have shown that home treatment is often more effective than treatment in a health care facility.

Job Duties

Depending upon state regulations and the personal needs and situation of the client, a home health aide might perform some or all of the following tasks for clients:

  • Changing dressings
  • Checking pulse, temperature and respiration
  • Administering prescribed oral medications
  • Massaging and applying ointments, rubs or liniments
  • Recording progress, conditions and problems
  • Helping patients do light exercises
  • Accompanying patients to places outside the home
  • Helping move patients in and out of beds, baths, restrooms, wheelchairs or vehicles
  • Running errands
  • Providing post-operative care
  • Grooming
  • Caring for children of disabled parents
  • Cleaning house and doing laundry
  • Planning and preparing meals
  • Providing emotional support for patients and their families

Some of the necessary personality traits for home health aides include being cheerful, compassionate and emotionally stable. Clients can be in pain and their families can be under a lot of stress, so aides must be sensitive to their needs, kind and patient.

The job can also be physically demanding, and aides must be prepared for a lot of lifting and supporting of the client. Aides must know how to manage time so as to meet the needs of the patient in time for appointments, meals and scheduled treatments.

Career Outlook

As the baby-boomer generation ages, the elderly population grows, increasing the demand for home health aides. Older clients suffer more than their share of health problems and often need assistance in performing daily activities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics site, the employment of home health aides is expected to grow at a rate of 69 percent from 2010 to 2020, among the fastest rates among professions. There is already a shortage of home health aides, and the physical and emotional demands of the job, along with the fairly low pay rate, make the job less attractive to many people in the younger generation, so the shortage is liable to deepen.

Salary Prospects

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median national pay rates for home health aides in 2012 were $10.49 per hour or $21,830 per year. But these rates might increase with the expected increase in demand for home health aides.

Educational Requirements

There are currently no national educational requirements for home health aides, though some states have certain educational requirements for gaining certification. In cases where an aide works for a home care agency that receives reimbursement payment from a government program like Medicaid or Medicare, the aide must undergo a prescribed level of training and pass a certification test. In many cases, the aide must also attend a certain number of continuing education courses in order to maintain certification.

Gaining certification often increases an aide’s pay rate. Some employers will provide all the necessary training for free or at a greatly reduced cost, as long as the student signs an agreement to work for that employer for a prescribed amount of time, such as a minimum of six months.

Some training programs accept students who are only sixteen years old. The basic curriculum at a typical training program might include sanitation, infection control, personal hygiene, the reading of vital signs and basic nutrition. Many programs also include more advanced training like checking blood sugar, dispensing medications and performing CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.

Some home aides are required to attend continuing education programs and client care conferences. Learning as many health skills as possible can increase the odds of getting a higher-paying aide job; becoming fluent in a foreign language can also be a boon. Learning these skills and gaining experience as a home health aide can eventually help an aide land a better-paying job in a related field.

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