Home Health Aide: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Home health aides care for the elderly, sick or disabled in private homes or residential care settings. Read on to review the job duties of home health aides, and learn what type of education, training and certification you might need to become one. Discover the career outlook and salary potential for this field. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are the Job Duties of Home Health Aides?

As a home health aide, you'll help individuals who need assistance with basic daily living, especially the elderly. Home health aides allow these individuals to live in their homes instead of at a care home or other institutionalized setting. You'll help patients with tasks such as bathing, dressing, walking, exercising and eating. Also, you may be required to perform some personal services such as ironing, housekeeping and laundry.

With guidance from nurses and other medical staff, you may be allowed to administer medication, check vital signs and change dressings. Home health aides often work for government hospices or home health agencies and face stricter regulations than if you worked for a private employer.

Among your most important responsibilities is to be aware of your patient's needs. You'll keep detailed care records and report any changes in a patient's medical condition. Along with providing physical and medical care, you'll interact closely with patients, giving you the opportunity to gauge their mental alertness and health condition.

What is the Employment Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for home health aides were expected to grow by 50% between 2008 and 2018, much more rapidly than other occupations (www.bls.gov). This growth was attributed to a projected rise in the elderly population, many of whom prefer home health care because of the high cost of inpatient health care.

The average annual salary for home health aides in May 2010 was $21,716, according the BLS. If you worked during this period, you would have found the top paying jobs at psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, where home health aides earned about $34,970 a year. If you worked at an elderly community care facility, you would have earned $21,050 a year, while you would have received $22,090 a year at a nursing care facility, the BLS stated.

What Type of Education Do I Need?

Most training for a home health aide takes place on the job under the guidance of experience nurses or supervisors. Generally, you must have completed at least 75 hours of training in areas such as nutrition, patient care, vital signs, infection control and personal hygiene, according to the BLS. Afterward, you'll be expected to pass a skills competency evaluation or a state-administered examination to work as a home health aide.

Various states may have additional certification requirements such as a background investigation. Although a college degree is not required, home health care training programs are available at community colleges. Additional on-the-job training may be needed if you want to assist patients with breathing equipment and other medical apparatus.

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