Learn About Being a Home Health Aide

By Indeed Editorial Team

December 10, 2019

What does a home health aide do?

Home health aides administer health care and support to the elderly, ill or people with disabilities, often in the patient’s home. They may work for an agency or a patient’s family. A home health aide may do a combination of the following tasks:

  • Monitors and records patient information

  • Does light housekeeping duties such as cooking, laundry and dishes 

  • Assists with medical tasks such as administering medication and checking vital signs

  • Assists with personal care such as bathing, grooming and getting dressed 

  • Accompanies patients to doctor’s visits and/or other errands

  • Provides emotional and social support to patients regularly 

Average salary

Some home health aides work full time, while others work part time. Some patient schedules require aides to work on weekends, evenings and holidays. Overnight shifts and live-in shifts are other possibilities. A home health aide’s salary will vary based on geographical location as well as experience and other factors. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $12.36 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $18.71 per hour.

Home health aide requirements

Home health aide jobs require specific skills and certifications:

Education

Home health aides are not usually required to obtain a high school diploma or GED. However, many job candidates have received one of these credentials. A college education is not required to be a home health aide. 

Training

Training is an integral part of becoming a home health aide. Aides who work for organizations or companies that receive funds from Medicare or Medicaid must complete a state-approved training program and evaluation. These are usually provided through community colleges or vocational schools, and they vary from state to state. States require 75 hours of training, 16 hours of supervised practical work and a passed evaluation and/or state certification. Those who work for private companies are not bound by this law and are more likely to receive on-the-job or other training from experienced aides at their company. 

Certifications

In most states, certification is optional. However, some states do license, register and otherwise certify their home health aides. You will want to check your state’s laws before applying for jobs. Here are two options for certification: 

Certified nursing assistant (CNA)

CNAs learn to provide high-quality, safe patient care. To become a CNA, you can sign up for a certificate program at a community college, vocational school or high school. Most programs are a combination of class hours and clinical hours. Some are online. 

Licensed vocational nurse (LPN)

An LPN learns how to take vital signs, collect samples, administer medication and make patients comfortable. This certification is the next step after becoming a CNA. Community colleges and vocational schools offer LVN programs that typically last from 7 to 24 months. After completing a program, you must then apply for licensure and pass an exam.

Skills

Home health aides perform a wide variety of tasks. This job description’s breadth requires home health aides to have an equally wide variety of skills. They develop skills through experience and on-the-job training. To be a successful home health aide job candidate, work towards acquiring the following skills: 

Compassion

Home health aides work closely with other people who are often elderly, ill, or otherwise in need of care and help. One of the most important things home health aides can offer their patients is compassion. Compassionate aides are patient, kind and empathetic. Their calm yet upbeat attitudes help their patients stay positive.

Communication

Verbal communication is a necessary skill set for home health aides. Aides need to communicate clearly and effectively to stay safe when lifting, bathing or otherwise physically helping patients. They may also need to communicate with patients’ family members or with agency supervisors. 

Flexibility

While many home health aides work set schedules, they must always be prepared for change. A day’s activities might change due to the patient’s illness, or the aide might get called in without notice to assist with an urgent issue. The ability to be flexible helps patients, and it also serves the home health aide, keeping their stress levels low. 

Physical strength and stamina

Home health aides are often expected to lift, turn and otherwise physically support their patients. They are often the only person present who can do these tasks, so they need to be physically strong, fit and energetic. 

Time management

An aide’s exact tasks may vary by day, but they are typically full of activities. Home health aides need to budget their time to make sure they complete all tasks, from dispensing medication to grocery shopping to helping their patients take showers. Strong time management ensures that they meet all the expectations for their patients’ best care.

Home health aide work environment

Home health aide jobs can be found in a variety of environments, though most take place in patients’ homes or residential facilities. Here are a few things that home health aides can expect in their work environment: 

  • Home health aides’ environments may be equipped with some basic medical equipment to help them complete tasks like taking vital signs, bathing patients and more.

  • Physical work is often required, such as moving patients in and out of bed, helping with standing and assisting with walking. 

  • Home health aides practice proper safety procedures to avoid infections and injuries on the job. 

  • Some travel may be required, especially for patients who the aides must take to and from doctor’s appointments and errands. 

How to become a home health aide

If you’d like to become a home health aide, you can follow these steps:

1. Gain experience.

Most home health aide positions require some experience in the healthcare field. If you can, gain experience through another job, internship or apprenticeship. Caring for an elderly or ill relative or family friend can also be a worthwhile experience. 

2. Pursue training.

If you want to strengthen your resume, you can pursue a certificate or other training program related to health. First aid and CPR certification can be helpful first steps. See what programs are offered at your local community college, vocational school, high school and hospital. 

3. Build your resume.

Be sure to customize the cover letter to refer to the specific job environment you are applying for, such as an agency or an individual. In your resume, include any educational credentials, certifications and experience. 

4. Search for jobs. 

You can start your job search online. You may do some in-person searching too. Consider all the different medical and residential environments in your area, such as elder care facilities and retirement communities. 

Home health aide job description example

Health Care Co. is hoping to hire an experienced home health aide to work with several patients in the local area. The individual will be responsible for housework duties such as cooking, cleaning and laundry, as well as accompanying patients to local doctor’s appointments and errands. Must be comfortable assisting patients with personal care and health monitoring. The successful candidate will maintain accurate and updated care records while providing a safe, caring and comfortable environment for all patients. 

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