As adults get older, their bodies become increasingly fragile, and prone to injury and illness. To ensure that elderly and disabled relatives receive the care they need, family members hire home care workers to assist with basic household functions, grooming and health care needs. Although these workers usually hold a high school degree or GED, classroom training is not required. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most home care workers gain their experience on the job.
Duties assigned to home care workers include grocery shopping, cooking and housekeeping for elderly or immobile clients. Home care professionals perform exercises with patients, take their blood pressure and drive them to and from doctor's appointments. In addition, home care workers administer clients' medication according to instructions provided by physicians and nurses. These professionals often train patients to care for themselves, as well as educate family members on bedside care for elderly relatives. Additional tasks include filling out weekly or monthly reports on clients' health progress, activities and behavior.
Home care workers are on their feet for long periods of time and must be in good physical health to lift or carry clients if required. Although part of their job is to perform daily housekeeping tasks and sanitize clients' home to eliminate risk of contamination, home care workers may be exposed to contagious infections or bodily fluids on the job. Workers are sometimes faced with unpredictable or emotional situations where their patient is extremely ill or dying. During winter months, home care workers may need to drive through snow or other difficult conditions to get to patients.
Strong problem-solving and decision-making skills are needed, as these professionals are responsible for monitoring and caring for elderly and disabled residents. Home care workers should be able to work well independently and within teams. Although these professionals often work in private settings, some home care workers communicate frequently with medical staff, doctors and pharmacists. As a result, effective oral and interpersonal communication is also important on the job.
According to PayScale, the total pay for home health care care workers in the United States was between $17,502 and $31,700 as of November 2010. Total pay includes tips, overtime hours and bonuses. Hourly rates for the position ranged between $8.38 and $14.48.
According to the BLS, jobs in the home health care field are expected to grow by 46 percent between 2008 and 2018. The BLS attributes this enormous growth to an elderly population projected to become the fastest growing demographic during this period. In addition, demand will rise for long-term care facilities offering gerontology services as a result of increasing life-expectancies and limited family resources. Moreover, high turnover rates in the industry and less competition from foreign workers should improve candidates' chances for obtaining home care worker positions.