Home healthcare aides, also called home caregivers and residential assistants, help elderly, disabled, and ill people to live in their own homes by working with clients who need more extensive care than family can provide. In addition to helping clients with household chores, shopping, cooking, and personal care, home healthcare aides (HHAs) also advise patients and their families on nutrition, hygiene, and household tasks. Aides provide the psychological support and companionship patients need to remain independent. While most states do not require HHAs to be certified, many HHAs find a greater variety of job opportunities, and higher pay after obtaining certification.
Research the field. HHAs may work part-time or full-time. Most HHAs work with a number of patients throughout the week, often working evening, weekends, and holidays. Some HHAs are self-employed, while others work for state or county welfare agencies or private home health agencies. The job can be physically demanding, as HHAs are required to stand and walk for long periods of time. They also must be able to lift and move patients, and help them to balance while standing and walking.
Successful HHAs possess a specific set of skills and personality characteristics. If you are compassionate, patient, and enjoy working with people, a career as a home healthcare aide may be right for you. HHAs must also be in good physical health and have strong communication skills.
Gain education and experience. Most states do not require HHAs to have a high school diploma or any level of formal education. However, many employers prefer HHAs with high school diplomas, as this demonstrates that a person has the minimum required reading, math, and problem solving skill to be successful in the profession.
All HHAs receive some on the job training under the supervision of RNs, LPNs, or more experiences HHAs. Many employers also provide classroom instruction, workshops, or some other form of specialized training. Employers may also require new HHAs to pass a competency exam at the completion of their training.
Take the NAHC Certification Exam. Though certification is not required in most situations, HHAs may find that obtaining certification gives them access to a broader range of career opportunities, including supervisory roles. In some cases, HHAs working for providers that receive Medicare reimbursement may need certification to adhere to government guidelines.
Home healthcare aides may obtain certification from the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC). To obtain certification, HHAs must complete a training program offered by a community college, technical or vocational school, or hospital. The program includes 75 hours of coursework in health care concepts, medical terminology, math, medications, CPR and first aid, and other subjects. After successfully completing coursework, HHAs must pass a skills demonstration and written exam. As HHAs advance in their careers, they may also seek training to obtain Certified Home/Hospice Care Executive (CHCE) certification and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) designation.
Know what to expect. The job outlook for HHAs is excellent, due in large part to aging baby boomers who increasingly rely on home health care as they become elderly. The increase is also due in part to the number of people with disabling illnesses and injuries who are living longer and are able to remain independent with the help of HHAs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth of 51 percent, adding about 389,000 jobs, between 2006 and 2016.
In 2008, HHAs earned between $6.33 and $12.84 per hour, or $14,230 to $25,650 per year, on the national average. Home healthcare aides with more extensive education and experience may earn slightly more.