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Home Health Aide

Alternate Career Titles: HHA

Career Overview: Home Health Aides assist people with disabilities, chronic illnesses or cognitive impairments in completing daily living activities.

Career Salary Range: $17,990 to $30,610

Estimated Period of Schooling Required: 75 hours

Required Minimum Degree/License: Postsecondary non-degree award program

Become a Home Health Aide

Career Description

Home Health Aides assist their patients by helping them bathe and dress. These professionals may also assist with housekeeping responsibilities, such as doing laundry, washing dishes and vacuuming. They may be responsible for organizing a patient’s schedule to ensure that they can make all necessary appointments, and the HHA may transport the patient to and from these appointments. Other tasks of a Home Home Aide include grocery shopping for their patients, keeping them engaged in their networks for communities, checking their pulse/temperature/respiration rate, administering medications, caring for injuries and helping them to pursue necessary lifestyle accommodations.

“Being a Home Health Aide is very fulfilling,” Ashley Grenger, a HHA practicing in New Jersey, said. “You know you are helping someone who cannot help themselves and you are making their day a little easier and happier. This takes a lot of commitment, but is gratifying.”

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Education & Training

To become a Home Health Aide, professionals should obtain a postsecondary non-degree program from a community college or vocational school. During these programs, professionals can expect to receive training in basic safety techniques, housekeeping tasks, dietary needs, hygiene practices, taking vital signs, etc. After the completion of a program, agencies typically require that these professionals pass a competency evaluation to then become certified. Obtaining a CPR certification may also be required. While additional training may be required based on the employer, all-in-all a great deal of learning also comes from working first-hand with patients. This is because each patient often has their own preferences and a duration of time necessary to become comfortable with their Home Health Aide.

“To become a Certified Home Health Aide, you need to take a class and complete 75 hours of training,” Grenger added. “I took a class at Brookdale Community College, which was only 2 weeks I believe, but we met 5 days a week. The course itself was not challenging, because I was a Health Studies major at Monmouth University.”

She continued by recalling the HHA class as very basic class, health-wise, but the most challenging was learning all of the tasks and performing them on dummies. Grenger said her class practiced the skills needed for their career during the first week of instruction, and then the second week they went to a nursing home and performed the tasks.

“Once you complete the HHA course, you will take a test and if you pass then you receive a completion certification,” Grenger explained. “If you wish to actively practice as a Home Health Aide, then you will need to fill out a form which is online, and submit it to receive your license. Waiting for the license will take a couple months, but they do give you a temporary license to start working once the form is submitted.”

Advancement

To advance in a career as a Home Health Aide, professionals can choose to advance their skill sets through additional education and training, for they can consider learning an additional language to make them increasingly marketable within the field. Additionally, if an HHA is a temporary employee, they can request additional responsibilities helping them to move to a more permanent role. Alternatively, to advance in their careers, these professionals could also pursue an Associate’s Degree in healthcare or nursing, seek opportunities outside the home health spectrum (i.e. in hospitals, outpatient centers, etc.), start their own business or consider moving into the realm of education to teach principles relating to a career as a Home Health Aide. The potential for advancement is endless in this career in healthcare!

Experience & Skills

Possessing physical stamina can be important in the role of a HHA, because some clients require their Aide’s help to perform tasks. Clients may also need to be lifted, transitioned or moved by their Home Health Aide. These professionals should also have strong communication and interpersonal skills, allowing them to effectively communicate with both their patients and other healthcare professionals. Ultimately, they should possess the skills necessary to be able to provide levels of care to those who are unable to care for themselves. The extent to which a patient may need assistance will vary, but Home Health Aides need to be open-minded and genuinely want to help their patients improve the quality of their lives and to complete daily functions and activities.

“Some other skills needed for this job are helping someone get dressed, bathing, hygiene skills and possibly meal preparation. I volunteered at a nursing home a few years ago and this experience helped me get comfortable being in this type of setting,” Grenger said.

Personality

“Personality-wise, in my opinion a Home Health Aide should be compassionate, patient, kind, just being able to listen and have a calm personality,” Grenger explained. “Some people just want to talk, they are lonely.”

Also, since many Home Health Aides work to help take care of patients who are unable to fully take care of themselves independently, the career involves a high level of integrity. To be successful in the career, HHAs should enabled their patients to feel comfortable in their presence, and to trust that their needs are priority to the professional. Home Health Aides should also be dependable and detail oriented.

They should be dependable because clients rely heavily on their assistance, and they should be detail-oriented because the slightest error in protocol or instruction could have detrimental effects on the client. Lastly, an HHA should have strong interpersonal skills, allowing them to communicate and relate to their clients. Included in these interpersonal skills should be empathy and compassion, as dependency on a professional can often be frustrating or upsetting for the client.

Lifestyle

The lifestyle of a Home Health Aide can be busy, yet flexible. Many of these professionals work full-time and may visit four for more patients within a single day. Yet, others, especially those who are self-employed, can essentially build their schedules. By determining their own schedule, Home Health Aides can choose to take on as many or as few patients as they believe they can handle. Yet, more patients often equates to a higher salary, so many Home Health Aides choose to stay busy. Furthermore, because patients may require a Home Health Aide by their side constantly, these professionals may need to work evenings, nights, weekends or holidays depending on their clients’ needs.

Additionally, because Home Health Aides can be required to help move, reposition or transport a patient, they can become susceptible to injuries. Thus, they must constantly remain conscious of their own health by using best practices in regards to physical demands.

“As a per diem, the lifestyle of a Home Health Aide is very flexible. I can pick up a shift when I am available and pretty much choose which shifts I want to work,” Grenger said. “This changes with how much you are committed to working through, a full-time Home Health Aides schedule might not be as flexible.”

Employment

Today is the perfect time to begin a career in healthcare as an HHA! The employment of Home Health Aides is projected to grow 40 percent from 2016 to 2026, at a rate much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth can largely be attributed to the aging baby-boom population, and their increasing personal care needs. With age, elderly clients become unable to perform many of the day-to-day tasks they were accustomed to completing over the course of their lives, thus, Home Health Aides have come to serve a vital role in their lives.

Additionally, the vast majority of Home Health Aides are employed by home healthcare services, and work within a client/patient’s home. However, other professionals within this occupation find employment via elderly and/or disabled person services, retirement care communities, assisted living facilities, developmental facilities and nursing homes. Furthermore, the state with the highest employment level within this occupation is currently New York, followed by Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

“I know there are so many companies that are constantly looking for Certified Home Health Aides,” Grenger said. “I hear all the time that there are never enough. If you simply google jobs or use a job search engine, I am sure you will find some companies that are looking for employees.”

Earnings

In May 2016, the median annual wage for HHAs rested at $22,600, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,990 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $30,610. Additionally, the top paying industry for these professionals is within nursing care facilities, followed by retirement communities, assisted living facilities, developmental facilities, disability services and home healthcare services. Also, the highest paying state for this occupation is Alaska, followed by North Dakota, Delaware, California and Massachusetts.

“The wages are fair and I believe pretty good for someone just starting out in their career,” Grenger said. “I cannot speak for others, but this is only a per diem job for me and right now I just needed a little extra income. It all really depends on the hours you work and how available you are.”

Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations

The American Society on Aging is an essential resources to cultivate leadership, advance knowledge and strengthen the skills of those who work with, and on behalf of, older adults.

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) is a nonprofit organization that represents the nation’s 33,000 home care and hospice organizations. NAHC also advocates for the more than two million nurses, therapists, aides and other caregivers employed by such organizations to provide in-home services to some 12 million Americans each year who are infirm, chronically ill and disabled. Along with its advocacy, NAHC provides information to help its members maintain the highest quality of care and is committed to excellence in every respect.

Getting Started

  • Shadow a Home Health Aide to get a better sense of what the occupation entails
  • Enter a postsecondary non-degree program
  • Take the Home Health Aide course at an accredited school
  • Network with staffing agencies and other Home Health Aide professionals

All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meet the professional: Ashley Grenger

Age: 23
Practice: Meridian At Home
Location: Neptune, NJ

What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?

I would suggest to those coming into the field, that you have to be committed. You are dealing with other individuals lives and you have to be respectful and patient.”

What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?

“I think one mistake some people make when getting into this career is that they are not committed and do not take this job that seriously.”

What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?

One question that I think people should ask more, is actually internally. Can you handle this type of job? Some patients you are taking care of, possibly on hospice, are dying and you are there to help them. You know they are at the end stages of their life and this can be hard for some people. This can take a toll on some individuals working in the field.”

Why did you choose to become a Home Health Aide?

“I choose to become a Home Health Aide to get my foot in the door in the health field. I recently got accepted into school to get my Master’s of Public Health, so this job as a Home Health Aide will actually help me see some of the ways healthcare is run.”

*Credentialing organizations vary depending on the state