How to Become a Home Health Aide?

About Home Health Aides

Home health aides provide essential assistance to those who are elderly, ill or have disabilities. Everyday tasks such as cooking and cleaning can be difficult or impossible for these individuals.

Home health aides offer everyday assistance with regular living activities. There’s a growing demand for professionals in this field, making it an outstanding choice if you’re looking for a job with a strong career outlook.

Home health aides must be organized and detail-oriented to handle the routines that are essential to their patients’ health and well-being. They should also have good strength and stamina to help with physical activities and strong communication and interpersonal skills.

If you have a desire to help others and want a job in which you’ll make a meaningful impact every day, this may be the career you’re looking for.

Education and Experience Needed

Home health aides can often gain employment with as little as a high school diploma. However, some states require formal training. This is available through vocational schools, community colleges, and some home health agencies.

These sources offer specialized training for students entering this career field and cover topics such as bloodborne pathogens, infection control, vital signs, emergency procedures, and home safety.

Certification is required by some states, and many employers prefer to hire certified home health aides even if it’s not a legal requirement in their location. Certification usually requires between 75 and 120 hours of training and hands-on experience, though some programs may require more.

Certification tests include both written sections and a demonstration of practical skills.

Average Salary

The median annual salary for home health aides was $22,600 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those with earnings in the top 10 percent made over $30,610, while those with salaries in the bottom 10 percent made less than $17,990.

Nursing care facilities offer the highest wages for this occupation with median earnings of $23,570. Retirement and assisted living communities also pay well, with a median salary of $22,860.

The job outlook for home health aides is very strong. Employment for this career is expected to increase by 40 percent between 2016 and 2026. This is much faster than the national average of 7 percent for occupations in the United States. Much of this increase is due to the aging baby boomer generation.

Average Duties and Tasks

Home health aides assist with essential daily tasks that their patients are unable to complete on their own. Many tasks are fairly basic, such as cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, and running routine errands. Others are specialized to suit the patient’s healthcare needs.

These may include preparing medications, changing wound dressings, offering therapeutic massages, providing transportation to doctor’s appointments, and creating menus that adhere to strict dietary guidelines. When patients are unable to do so themselves, home health aides may assist with personal hygiene tasks such as bathing and dressing.

Each patient has unique needs, and it’s up to the aide to work closely with the patient to determine how he or she can be of the greatest assistance. Aides may work with a single patient, providing full-time care and companionship throughout the day, or they may care for several patients. An average day could include:

  • Preparing a hot breakfast and putting together lunch and dinner for the patient to eat later
  • Cleaning dishes from the previous day
  • Helping the patient shower, dress, and handle other hygiene tasks
  • Sorting prescription medications for the week
  • Changing linens and doing laundry
  • Transporting the patient to a therapy appointment
  • Helping the patient with physical therapy exercises
  • Accompanying the patient on a walk
  • Checking and recording the patient’s vital signs

Throughout the day, home health aides also provide conversation and companionship, which is particularly important for those living alone who may not see other adults in the course of an average day.

Advancement Opportunities

Those who enjoy work as a home health aide may want to advance their career to provide more specialized healthcare services. With further education, you could become a physical therapy assistant or aide with a median annual salary of $45,290. Occupational therapy assistants and aides enjoy median annual earnings of $56,070.

If you complete a full nursing education and become a registered nurse, you’ll have the opportunity to provide and coordinate more advanced patient care. Registered nurses must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. The median annual salary for a registered nurse is $68,450.

A job as a home health aide is typically easy to get with some basic training. This is an outstanding stepping stone for those who want to start work soon and pursue a more advanced medical career in the future.