Home Health Aides

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What Home Health Aides Do[About this section] [To Top]

Home health aides help people with disabilities, chronic illness, or cognitive impairment with activities of daily living. They often help older adults who need assistance. In some states, home health aides may be able to give a client medication or check the client’s vital signs under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.

Duties of Home Health Aides

Home health aides typically do the following:

  • Assist clients in their daily personal tasks, such as bathing or dressing
  • Provide basic health-related services according to a client’s needs, such as checking vital signs or administering prescribed medication at scheduled times
  • Do light housekeeping, such as laundry, washing dishes, and vacuuming in a client’s home
  • Help to organize a client’s schedule and plan appointments
  • Arrange transportation to doctors’ offices or for other kinds of outings
  • Shop for groceries and prepare meals to meet a client’s dietary specifications
  • Help to keep clients engaged in their social networks and communities

Home health aides, unlike personal care aides, typically work for certified home health or hospice agencies that receive government funding and therefore must comply with regulations. They work under the direct supervision of medical professionals, usually nurses. These aides keep records of services performed and of clients’ conditions and progress. They report changes in clients’ conditions to supervisors or case managers. Home health aides also work with therapists and other medical staff.

Depending on their clients’ needs, home health aides may provide some basic health-related services, such as checking a client’s pulse, temperature, and respiration rate. They may also help with simple prescribed exercises and or with giving medications. Occasionally, they change bandages or dressings, give massages, care for skin, or help with braces and artificial limbs. With special training, experienced home health aides also may help with medical equipment such as ventilators, which help clients breathe.

Work Environment for Home Health Aides[About this section] [To Top]

Home health aides hold about 913,500 jobs. The industries that employ the most home health aides are as follows:

Home healthcare services 38%
Services for the elderly and persons with disabilities 24
Residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities 11
Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly 10

Most work in a client’s home; others work in small group homes or larger care communities. Some home health aides go to the same home every day or week for months or even years. Some visit four or five clients in the same day, while others work only with one client all day. They may work with other aides in shifts so that the client always has an aide. They help people in hospices and day services programs, and also help people with disabilities go to work and stay engaged in their communities.

Home Health Aide Work Schedules

Most home health aides work full time. They may be required to work evening and weekend hours to attend to their clients’ needs.

Injuries and Illnesses

Work as a home health aide can be physically and emotionally demanding. Aides must guard against back injury because they often move clients into and out of bed or help them to stand or walk.

In addition, home health aides frequently work with clients who have cognitive impairments or mental health issues and who may display difficult or violent behaviors. Aides also face hazards from minor infections and exposure to communicable diseases, but can lessen their chance of infection by following proper procedures.

How to Become a Home Health Aide[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Home Health Aides near you!

There is no formal education requirement for home health aides, but most aides have at least a high school diploma. Home health aides who work for certified home health or hospice agencies must complete formal training and pass a standardized test.

Home Health Aide Education

Although a high school diploma or equivalent is not generally required, most home health aides have one before entering the occupation. Some formal education programs may be available from community colleges or vocational schools.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Home health aides who work for agencies that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid must get a minimum level of training and pass a competency evaluation to be certified. Training typically includes learning about personal hygiene, reading and recording vital signs, infection control, and basic nutrition. Aides may take a competency exam to become certified without taking any training.

Additional requirements for certification vary by state. In some states, the only requirement for employment is on-the-job training, which employers generally provide. Other states require formal training, which is available from community colleges, vocational schools, elder care programs, and home healthcare agencies. In addition, states may conduct background checks on prospective aides. For specific state requirements, contact the state’s health board.

In addition, many home health aides may be required to obtain CPR certification.

Home Health Aide Training

Home health aides may be trained in housekeeping tasks, such as cooking for clients who have special dietary needs. Aides learn basic safety techniques, including how to respond in an emergency. Specific training may be needed for certification if state certification is required.

In addition, clients have their own preferences, and aides may need time to become comfortable working with them.

Important Qualities for Home Health Aides

Detail oriented. Home health aides must adhere to specific rules and protocols to help take care of clients. Aides must carefully follow instructions from healthcare professionals, such as how to care for a client’s wound or how to identify changes in a client’s condition.

Integrity. Home health aides should make clients feel comfortable when they tend to personal activities, such as helping a client bathe. In addition, home health aides must be dependable and trustworthy so that clients and their families can rely on them.

Interpersonal skills. Home health aides must work closely with their clients. Sometimes, clients are in extreme pain or distress, and aides must be sensitive to their emotions. Aides must be compassionate, and they must enjoy helping people.

Physical stamina. Home health aides should be comfortable performing physical tasks. They might need to lift or turn clients.

Home Health Aide Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for home health aides is $21,920. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,480, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $29,950.

The median annual wages for home health aides in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly $22,200
Residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities 22,020
Home healthcare services 21,710
Services for the elderly and persons with disabilities 21,500

Most home health aides work full time. They may be required to work evening and weekend hours to attend to clients’ needs.

Job Outlook for Home Health Aides[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of home health aides is projected to grow 38 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As the baby-boom population ages and the elderly population grows, the demand for home health aides to provide assistance will continue to increase. The older population often has health problems and will need help with daily activities.

Elderly clients and people with disabilities are increasingly relying on home care as a less expensive alternative to nursing homes or hospitals. Clients who need help with everyday tasks and household chores, rather than medical care, can reduce their medical expenses by returning to their homes.

Another factor that will likely lead to an increase in the demand for home care is that most clients prefer to be cared for in their homes, where they are most comfortable. Studies have found that home care is often more effective than care in a nursing home or hospital.

Home Health Aides Job Prospects

Job prospects for home health aides are excellent. This occupation is large and is projected to add many jobs. In addition, the low pay and high emotional demands may cause many workers to leave this occupation, and they will have to be replaced.

Employment projections data for Home Health Aides, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Home health aides 913,500 1,261,900 38 348,400


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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