Home is often where people want to be, especially if they are dealing with a chronic illness, recovering from a serious injury, or simply getting older. Finding ways to live comfortably and safely in their own homes can vastly improve their mental health and promote their general wellbeing.
This is where Home Health Aides can help. This unique role within the healthcare field focuses on helping patients remain in their homes, promoting a sense of normalcy and independence. It can also potentially reduce their exposure to infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, that they might otherwise face in a hospital or nursing home setting.
For these reasons and others, the demand for qualified Home Health Aides is growing. If you are considering a career in this area, you will need to meet home health aide requirements, including completing a training program and passing an exam.
Here’s a complete overview of what a home health aide is, how to become a home health aide, and protecting yourself on the job.
What is a Home Health Aide?
A Home Health Aide (HHA) cares for patients living in their own homes. These patients are usually elderly, living with a disability, or chronically ill. As an HHA, you will likely build a strong relationship with your patients and their families, and you may be their first point of contact in the medical system.
What does a Home Health Aide do?
Home Health Aides fill an essential role in a patient’s life. You will assist your patients with many medical and everyday tasks, including:
- Bathing and hygiene (i.e., toileting, brushing teeth, combing hair, etc.)
- Preparing and serving meals (including feeding the patient, if needed)
- Giving medicine as prescribed by a doctor (sometimes under the supervision of a certified nurse)
- Changing wound dressings
- Checking the patient’s vital signs (i.e., temperature, blood pressure, pulse, etc.)
- Light housework (i.e., changing bed sheets, laundry, dishes, etc.)
Given how closely and frequently HHAs work with a patient, you may be the first person to notice a change in their health and wellbeing. You will be responsible for documenting these changes and notifying their family, doctor, or nurse as needed.
Job outlook for Home Health Aides
The career outlook for Home Health Aides is positive. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data forecasts that the number of Home Health and Personal Care Aide jobs will increase by 33% between 2020 and 2030. This is much faster than the average growth of 8% predicted for all occupations in the same period.
States with the highest employment rates for these jobs are:
- New York
Average pay in 2020 was $28,060 per year ($13.49 per hour) for Home Health and Personal Care Aides, according to the BLS. However, average annual salaries vary depending on the state, city, or region where you work.
States with the highest average salaries for Home Health and Personal Care Aides are:
- Alaska – $35,360
- North Dakota – $34,020
- Massachusetts – $33,890
- Vermont – $33,810
- Washington – $32,860
As the baby boom generation continues to age, demand for HHAs will likely grow across the country in the coming years.
How to Become a Home Health Aide?
Becoming a Home Health Aide is different from state to state. However, you will generally need to complete the following steps to become a certified HHA in the United States:
1. Get your high school diploma or GED
You do not need an advanced degree to work as an HHA. However, a high school diploma or equivalent education is helpful. Having this level of education could make it easier to enroll in a home health aide certification program and find a job.
2. Complete a training program
You must get certified as a home health aide to work with a healthcare agency that accepts Medicare or Medicaid, regardless of the state where you live. This is generally done by completing an approved training program through a community college, private school, or with your employer.
Regardless of where you train, you will need to meet home health aide requirements set by the federal government and your state. This includes a minimum of 75 hours of training. At least 16 of these hours must be supervised practical or clinical training. Some states require over 120 hours of training for HHAs to receive a home health aide qualification.
You may be able to find work without completing a home health aide education program, but your job prospects will likely be limited.
3. Pass a proficiency exam
Passing a Home Health Aide test is the final step to becoming a certified home health aide. The exam varies by state, but it generally has two sections: written and practical. Both will test your knowledge and skills in caring for patients.
The written portion of the test usually includes multiple-choice questions. It may cover areas such as:
- Basic nursing skills
- Mental health
- Preventing and treating infection
- Personal care
- Data collection
- Patient rights
The practical section of the test will assess how you care for patients. A mannequin or actor playing a patient may be used to test skills such as:
- Safely transferring a patient in and out of bed, the shower, or car
- Taking blood pressure, measuring pulse rate, and other basic nursing skills
- Proper handwashing technique
- How you react and handle an emergency
Study guides and practice exams may be available online to help you prepare for your home health aide certification exam.
Insurance for Home Health Aides
Once you’ve entered the workforce as a certified Home Health Aide, you may consider protecting yourself financially while on the job. Because you will be working very closely with patients and their families, you open yourself up to unique risks. An accident or simple misunderstanding has the potential to explode into an expensive claim or lawsuit that could threaten your career and bank account.
As an HHA, you may consider different types of insurance to cover potential workplace hazards:
- Professional Liability insurance – Helps protect you against allegations of negligence and mistakes or errors in the services you provide. HHAs often get this coverage because they may offer patients and families advice or recommendations for managing their health and wellbeing.
- General Liability insurance – Helps protect you if a patient or other member of the public is physically injured due to your actions or you accidentally damage someone else’s belongings while working. HHAs often get this coverage because they work in other people’s homes and help patients in situations where they might be injured.
- Cyber Liability insurance – Helps protect you against data breaches, viruses, malware, and other malicious online or software attacks. HHAs often get this coverage if they store sensitive patient data on a device that’s connected to the internet.
When deciding if you need coverage (and what types), consider how you would cope financially if a claim or lawsuit were brought against you. Legal fees and compensation can easily reach thousands of dollars. Business insurance for Home Health Aides could pay these costs for you, providing you with important peace of mind while helping to protect your finances.
Making a difference in patients’ lives
Home healthcare aides are uniquely able to support and advocate for the patients under their care. If you enjoy caring for others, have good communication skills, and have an interest in medicine, then this may be the career path for you. After you’ve met the home health aide requirements in your state, you could be well on your way to making a difference in patients’ lives!
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