Home health aides are part of a healthcare team and assist people with disabilities, age-related problems, chronic ailments, and cognitive impairments who are confined to their homes. Home health aides work usually under the supervision of a registered nurse or other medical professionals. They are responsible for taking care of the patient’s needs and for increasing the overall well being of the patient. Home health aides are responsible for helping the patients with the maintenance of their personal hygiene, checking their vitals, providing simple medical care, and offering companionship. Home health aides shouldn’t be confused with personal care aides who are mostly employed directly by the client and do not provide medical services of any kind while home health aides usually belong to agencies.
Duties and Responsibilities
Home health aides need to act in a professional manner and must be tactful and honest as they are working in private homes. They must know how to calmly and kindly deal with individuals who may be uncooperative, depressed, or in pain. They help the patients follow a specified care plan and keep track of their progress and report to the doctor or nurse if there is any change in the patient’s condition. Some of the duties and responsibilities that befall a home health aide include:
- Helping the client with personal hygiene tasks like bathing and grooming
- Assisting the clients in getting dressed or undressed and in maintaining proper clothing
- Accompanying the client when they visit the doctor
- Making sure they take the right medication and on time. They can also change the non-sterile dressing, provided skincare and help the client with braces or artificial limbs
- Helping the clients with their day to day activities which they are unable to perform
- Checking their vitals and tracking the condition and progress of the patient’s physical, mental or emotional states
- They may also have to be responsible for shopping, cooking, light housekeeping, and for arranging transportation for themselves or for the patients when needed
- Home health aides with specialized training can perform simple medical tasks such as giving medication and working with ventilators under the supervision of a registered nurse or other health care professionals.
This field can be very physically demanding as the home health aide may have to spend many hours standing, walking, and moving the patients. They have to be careful not to injure themselves or the patient while moving or positioning the patient. Home health aides should know how to respond to emergencies and must be trained about basic safety techniques. A downside of this job is that home health aides are often exposed to contagious diseases and infections while working so they must take necessary precautions to avoid such hazards. Home health aides also have to perform certain tasks that many consider unpleasant, like emptying bedpans, collecting stool and urine samples, or changing soiled sheets.
Education and Training
Although a high school diploma is not a requirement for a position as a house health aide, it is better to have one since most people who apply for work in this field have a high school diploma.
Applicants receive on-the-job training from licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, or experienced aides and are not required to meet any specific educational requirements. There are some states that require applicants to receive formal training through educational programs provided by some vocational schools, community colleges, and home health care agencies.
Those home health aides that work for agencies that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement have to go through a state-approved training program and competency evaluation. The National Association for Home Care and Hospice offers a voluntary certification program and the certification is proof that the individual has completed all requirements of the field. To receive certification the individual must complete a 75-hour course, must pass observation, and documentation of seventeen competency skills as assessed by a registered nurse and a written exam.
Skills and competency
Apart from the training they receive, some other attributes are also very important for a home health aide. Some of the “soft skills” that can help home health aides at their jobs include:
It is important for home health aides to connect with their clients and their families personally. They must have excellent listening and communication skills so that they can gain the trust of their patients and make them feel comfortable and safe.
A home health aide has many tasks to complete within one shift so they must have the ability to prioritize tasks in order to get everything done.
Home health aides have to keep track of medications, the client’s vitals, appointments, etc, and thus attention to detail is important. They must also monitor and report the progress of their patients.
At most times the home health aide will be required to help the client in walking or will have to lift them up and perform other tasks that require a lot of strength.
The outlook of this field is very strong over the next decade with respect to other occupations and industries as there is a growing demand for home health care services by the elderly population because it is much less expensive to choose home health aide than nursing homes or hospitals. Patients also like to be cared for at their own homes where they are comfortable, independent, and surrounded by family. There is expected to be a 47% growth in employment over the next 10 years and this is much higher growth than the average for all other occupations between 2016 and 2026. Due to this amazing job outlook, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has designated this field as a “Bright Outlook” occupation.
The salary is varied depending on the experience of the aide, geographical location, and some other factors. The median annual salary is about $23,210 ($11.16/hour), top 10% annual salary is more than $31,260 ($15.03/hour) and the bottom 10% annual salary is less than $18,450 ($8.87/hour). Home health aides are usually only paid for the amount of time they work in the client’s home and not for the time it takes them to travel to and from work, they have to pay for their own travel costs. Even with experience and added responsibilities the pay only slightly increases.
There are a variety of settings where home health aides can work apart from a client’s home such as continuing care facilities, mental health and substance abuse facilities, development disability facilities, nursing care facilities, and community care homes. Most jobs are full-time but some aides also work part-time. The job often requires the aides to work on weekends, evenings, and holidays. It is also not uncommon for a home health aide to do overnight shifts and live-in shifts.
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