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How to Become a Home Health Aide in the USA

If your friends tell you you’re a “mother hen” who always has to be taking care of someone, maybe you should consider a career as a home health aide. If your passionate about make a considerable difference in the lives of the sick, disabled and elder, then you are the right fit for this job.

 What do home health aides do?

Home health aides provide in-home care for people who are unable to take care of themselves due to old age, cognitive impairment, chronic illness, etc. Most home health aides work for a certified home health or hospice agency and, therefore, are responsible for more medically-related tasks and record keeping than personal care aides. Many home health aides, however, do provide assistance with personal tasks. Duties may include:

  • Administering medication
  • Helping with prescribed exercises
  • Taking and recording vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, etc.)
  • Helping with household tasks, like cooking and cleaning
  • Taking the client to the grocery store and other errands (or arranging for transportation)
  • Providing companionship
  • Being available for emergencies
  • Helping with correspondence, financial matters, etc.
  • Alert medically-qualified supervisors of changes in the client’s health

Where and when do home health aides work?

  • Most home health aides work a 40-hour week.
  • Most home health aides work in clients’ homes, although some work in community care facilities like a nursing home.
  • Since many clients need round-the-clock care, regular shifts may include nights and weekends.
  • Home health aides will typically work with one client at a time and share that client’s care with other aides (if the client needs 24-hour care). However, some visit many clients within one shift.
  • Home health aides must occasionally adjust to switching locations and clients, due to death, recovery, etc.
  • Working as a home health aide is often physically draining. Home health aides have a higher-than-average rate of back injuries and are often exposed to illness.




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Required skills:

  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Excellent people skills
  • The strength and fitness required to lift and move patients
  • Basic medical and health knowledge
  • Attention to detail
  • Organizational skills

 Education and Training

In the U.S., there are no formal requirements regarding certification or education and training. However, most employers will want at least a high school diploma or GED, and employers who receive government funding will require their aides to pass a competency test or receive state certification.

Formal training (such as that required for certification) may include topics like:

  • Hygiene
  • Emergency preparedness and response
  • Safety
  • Cooking for clients (especially those with specific dietary needs)
  • Housekeeping

Possible Career paths

With experience and additional training, home health aides may be able to advice to supervisory positions, directing the activities of other home health aides.

Job outlook

The population in the U.S. is aging rapidly. Because of that, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts job growth of 48 percent for home health aides between now and 2022. That is significantly higher than the average across all job categories.

If you like helping people, enjoy developing long-term relationships with clients and their families, and have a passion for health care, a career as a home health aide could be just what you’re looking for.


photo credit: flickr via, 2011

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