What Does a Home Health Aide Do?

by TBS Staff

Updated May 23, 2023 • 3 min read

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Essential Career Information

2018 Median Pay $24,060 per year / $11.57 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2018 3,253,000
2018, wage of lowest 10 percent $18,740
Employment Change, 2018-28 +1,185,800
2018, wage of the highest 10 percent $31,650
Job Outlook, 2018-28 36% (Much faster than average)
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent

Alternate Job Titles

Home health aides and personal care assistants help individuals with disabilities, cognitive impairments, and chronic illnesses. In some settings, personal care aides give clients medications and check their vital signs. By providing personal care for clients, home health aides and personal care assistants play a critical role in the healthcare field.

Each state sets their own licensure and certification requirements for home health aides and personal care assistants. Prospective home health aides can typically complete training requirements through a college or vocational school. In every state, aides working with agencies that receive support from Medicare or Medicaid must pass a competency evaluation.

Over 3 million home health aides work around the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Home health aides provide critical services for clients. As the elderly population increases, demand for home health aides will continue to grow.

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What Does a Home Health Aide Do?

Home health aides provide several critical services for clients. They help older adults remain in their homes rather than move to a hospital setting, and they assist clients with disabilities and illnesses. Home health aide duties may include assisting clients with daily tasks, like bathing and housekeeping. Some home health aides provide basic medical care, including checking a client's temperature, giving medication, and changing bandages.

Personal care assistants provide many of the same services as home health aides, though they generally do not offer medical services. Personal care assistant duties may include arranging transportation for medical appointments, ensuring a clean living environment, and organizing the client's schedule. Personal care assistants may also shop for clients and cook meals that meet their dietary needs.

Home health aides and personal care assistants can work in a variety of settings. Many of these professionals provide care in the client's home, while others work in assisted living facilities, group homes, or hospice centers. Home health aides may work for a single client on a long-term basis or care for multiple clients in a single day. Some personal care aides travel with clients to provide ongoing assistance or help clients with disabilities commute to work.

Home health aides draw on several skills to effectively care for patients. For instance, they must be detail oriented to carefully follow instructions and comply with rules and protocols. Home health aides must also pay close attention to their clients' conditions to report any changes to medical professionals.

Since home health aides spend most of their job working closely with clients, they must bring strong interpersonal and communication skills. The position also requires empathy for patients struggling with pain and physical stamina.

How Can I Become a Home Health Aide?

Home health aides can follow a variety of educational paths to obtain the training and skills required for the job. Home health aides with a high school diploma can complete a brief training period before working in the field. Home health aides and personal care assistants can also complete programs through a community college or vocational school to build their skills.

Working as a home health aide or personal care assistant can lead to advancement opportunities in the healthcare field. For instance, with additional training, home health aides can become licensed vocational nurses (LVN) or certified nursing assistants (CNA). Earning an associate degree or diploma in nursing can lead to career opportunities as a registered nurse.

High School Diploma and On-the-Job Training

Home health aide training requirements vary by state. Some states do not require any prior field specific training, while others require a high school diploma and on-the-job training. On-the-job training covers personal care skills, housekeeping tasks, and safety procedures. Other states require home health aides to complete a training program and pass an exam before providing care.

The training requirements for personal care assistant jobs may include knowledge of basic safety techniques, such as emergency response and CPR training. Because each state sets its own education and training requirements for home health aides, prospective aides should research the specific requirements in their state.

Home health aides who work for agencies that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding must meet specialized training standards. These home health aides must complete 75 hours of training and at least 16 hours of supervised work. The training covers interpersonal skills, infection control techniques, emergency procedures, and basic nursing skills. Students also study personal care skills, including grooming, dressing, and assisting with eating and bathing.

The Medical and Healthcare Degrees Source: Online, Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's & Doctorate

Certification and Licensure

Certification and licensure requirements for home health aides vary by state. In some states, home health aides must apply for a license and pass an examination before providing care. In other states, licenses and certifications are voluntary. Voluntary licenses help home health aides demonstrate their skills and stand out on the job market. For example, a home health aide can pursue an LVN or CNA credential.

In states that require home health aide certification, candidates must meet education and training requirements. Candidates must pass an examination, which may include a written and skills test. Candidates may need to pay a fee of around $100 to take the exam, depending on the state. After completing the certification process, which may include a background check, certified home health aides may need to meet continuing education requirements to maintain their license.

At the national level, home health aides can pursue certification from the National Association of Home Care & Hospice. Candidates for the certified home care and hospice executive credential must pass an exam on ethics, legal and regulatory compliance, and training.

The Medical and Healthcare Degrees Source: Online, Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's & Doctorate

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a license to be a personal care assistant?

Licensure requirements vary by state; however, all personal care assistants working for companies that receive Medicaid or Medicare reimbursement must earn certification.

How long does it take to become a home health aide?

In some states, home health aides can complete the required training in a few weeks. Other states require more extensive training.

How much does a personal care assistant make an hour?

Personal care assistants make just over $11.50 an hour, on average, amounting to about $24,000 per year, according to the BLS.

Is a home health aide the same as a CNA?

No, CNAs must complete additional training and pass an exam. CNAs often work with registered nurses (RNs) to care for patients in hospitals, while many home health aides care for patients in their homes.

What is the difference between a CNA and a PCA?

A CNA, or certified nursing assistant, provides basic care under the supervision of an RN. A PCA, or patient care assistant, completes more extensive training and provides some medical treatments.

What services do home health aides provide?

Home health aides help people with daily activities such as bathing, eating, and dressing. They also assist clients with basic medical tasks.

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