A Home Health Aide (HHA) provides basic, personal care and health-related services to a variety of individuals (patients) who require more assistance than family and/or friends are able to provide. HHAs are part of a category of occupations that is commonly referred to as "direct care workers." The services/care that a Home Health Aide provides depends upon their specialty area.A registered nurse (RN), physical therapist (PT), other health professional, social worker, or home health agency generally gives assignments and duties to a home health aide. For each patient, a HHA is responsible for recording services performed, as well as the patient's condition and progress. They also record and report any changes in a patient's condition to the case manager or supervisor and also discuss observations with them.
The types of patients with whom a home health aide may work include:
- The Elderly
- Physically Disabled
- Terminally Ill
- Convalescent Persons
- Hospice Patients
- Individuals with Long-term Illness
- Adults with Mental Disabilities (e.g., Alzheimer's disease)
- Children with mental illness
Home health aides generally work in a patient's private home:
or residential care facility by assisting with, and performing, a variety of duties that include
- Checking temperature, pulse, and respiration rates
- Changing (surgical) dressings
- Assisting with prescribed exercises
- Helping to move patients in and out of bed, chairs, baths, wheelchairs, and autos
- Administering prescribed medications
- Providing psychological and emotional support
- Reading aloud to, or conversing with, patients (for mental health maintenance)
- Purchasing and preparing meals (at times following a prescribed diet)
- Personal hygiene (e.g., bathing)
- Changing bed linens 0l>
Home health aides also perform a variety of housekeeping chores such as cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping. Also, depending on their assignment, an HHA may be responsible for picking up prescriptions and/or transporting a patient to scheduled doctors' appointments, or any other venue the patient wishes to go.
While some HHAs work part-time, the majority of them work a full-time, 40-hour work week. Many may also work nights, evenings, weekends, and holidays for patients who require round-the-clock care. If not self-employed, Home Health Aides are typically employed by state or county welfare agencies, or private home health agencies.
More often than not, home health aides have heavy workloads that include physical demands such as walking and standing for long periods of time. Also, because an HHA may be required to move clients from one spot to another and assist in standing and walking, it is very important that they learn and practice correct procedures for lifting and moving patients. Other hazards that an HHA may encounter in this occupation include minor infections and major diseases (e.g., hepatitis). It is important to note, however, that infections can be avoided by adhering to proper procedures. There are also duties performed by an HHA that most individuals would consider unpleasant, such as changing soiled bed linens and emptying bedpans.
Most home health aides simultaneously work with a variety of patients where the duration of each assignment may last anywhere from a few hours, days, or weeks. During a given day, many will drive from one patient to another. There are also HHAs who work with the same patient at their residence for many months or years.
While physical and emotional demands are part of this occupation, most HHAs find it gratifying to enhance the lives and help those in need.
Individuals in this profession must possess and exude the following characteristics, attributes, and abilities:
- Precision and accuracy
- Emotional stability
- Strong communications abilities
- Good physical health (including strength to lift, carry, push, pull)
- Service oriented
- Socially perceptive
- Problem recognition/sensitivity/solving
- Ability to work as part of a team
The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS) projects that overall employment for home health aides is expected "to grow 50 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations." Growth will vary between these individual occupations. Furthermore, according to the USDL BLS, for Home Health Aides specifically, the following factors will contribute to the "much faster than average employment growth:"
increasing demand from the aging population for in-home services
cost containment efforts focused on moving patients (as quickly as possible) out of nursing care facilities and hospitals that have higher inpatient costs
preference by consumers for in-home care services
medical technology advancements for in-home treatment tial care facilities.
Typical Home Health Aide Programs May Include Courses in:
- 1. Geriatric Skills
- 2. HIV/AIDS Awareness Training
- 3. Introduction to Body Systems
- 4. Introduction to Nutrition
- 5. Introduction to Physical Therapy
- 6. Occupational Therapy Aide Training
- 7. Patient Communication
- 8. Patient Mobility
- 9. Patient Personal Care
- 10. Phlebotomy
- 11. Recording Vital Signs
- 12. Respiratory Equipment Training
- 13. Respiratory Therapy Aide
- 14. Understanding Vital Signs
- 15. Uses of Basic Laboratory Equipment