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What Does a Home Health Aide Do (Pay, Job Outlook, and Certification)

Written by Des Sinkevich on Monday, 15 June 2020. Posted in Healthcare

Woman taking care of a patient.

Home health aides (HHA) assist patients with day to day tasks. Aides lend a helping hand when it comes to maintaining a patient’s household, buying groceries, running errands, and preparing meals. Additionally, aides may help patients with dressing, grooming, and bathing. They work to ensure their patients are comfortable and cared for. With an increased demand for HHAs, it could be the perfect time to start a new job in the field. Here’s what you need to know about what a home health aide does, how to become one, and how much you can make.

What is a home health aide?

Home health aides provide care to individuals who may not have the ability to care for themselves, but desire to still live in their homes. Home health aides may assist those with chronic illnesses, disabilities, learning impairments, and the elderly. Helping patients with daily activities and ensuring their well-being is the main responsibility of HHA. Under the supervision of a healthcare professional, aides may also distribute medication or check their patient’s vital signs.

What does a home health aide do?

Typical duties for a home health aide include helping patients with activities of daily living, ensuring patients are maintaining their health, and making sure they’re taking their medications properly and on time. The job responsibilities of home health aides may vary slightly by client, however, their duty is to support their patient. The main responsibilities of an HHA include:

  • Housekeeping. Home health aides do various housekeeping work, including cleaning, washing dishes, vacuuming, laundry, and grocery shopping. Aides also prepare their patients’ meals.
  • Hygiene. Often, patients can’t groom themselves. Home health aides may bathe patients as well as style their hair, trim facial hair, and dress them for the day.
  • Organizing. Home health aides keep their patients organized. They may schedule doctor appointments, oversee their schedule, and ensure they have transportation to and from their various outings.

Additionally, home health aides may provide basic health services. They can check their patient’s temperature, provide them with exercises they may do, and distribute medication.

Read more: How to Become a Medical Administrative Assistant.

Are HHAs and CNAs the same thing?

No. While there may be some overlap in where they work, being a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is not the same as being a home health aide.

CNAs can provide slightly more advanced medical care than an HHA can, often working under the supervision of a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse. While HHAs will more often work for private and government-funded home health agencies, CNAs can work for agencies, in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and assisted living facilities. Because they need to be able to have more medical skills than HHAs, there are usually more requirements for becoming a CNA, including being licensed by the state in order to work.

Is a home health aide the same as a personal caregiver?

No, being a home health aide is not the same as being a personal caregiver or aide. Generally, personal caregivers are family members or friends who are paid to see to the daily needs of their ill or elderly relative, while home health aides are professionals who work for an agency to provide basic in-home care.

Do I need to be certified to become a home health aide?

It depends. Each state has different requirements for working as a home health aide, including whether or not you need to be licensed or certified to work. The amount of training or education you need to start a job as a home health aide can also depend on the state you’re working in and whether you want to work for a Medicare-certified home health agency. It’s important to know what your state requires before investing in a training program, so make sure to look into what your state’s minimum requirements are ahead of enrolling.

Read more:What Jobs are in Doctors’ Offices

How do I become a home health aide?

Each state has different requirements for becoming a home health aide, and these requirements can vary depending on whether you want to work for a Medicare-certified home health agency or a private agency. For many states, there is no minimum requirement to work as a home health aide for a private agency outside of what an employer may be looking for in new hires, which is usually a high school diploma or equivalent. After being hired, you’ll often receive on-the-job training or complete a training program through the agency to gain the skills you need.

However, in order to work for a Medicare-certified home health agency, you will need to have some sort of formal education or training to get hired. Medicare certification means that the agency meets the federal minimum requirements for quality patient care and management. Medicare will not pay for services provided by agencies that aren’t Medicare certified. The minimum federal requirement is 75 hours of formal training, though some states may require as much as 120 hours of training to qualify as a home health aide.

Depending on the training program you decide to take to meet these requirements, it can take as little as a few weeks or as long as a several months to complete. The home health aide training program you take should cover basic skills you’ll need on the job, as well as some healthcare basics. You’ll typically take classes like:

  • Safety in the Home Environment. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to assess the environment for any potential safety hazards.
  • Caring for the Elderly Patient. This lesson covers the physical and cognitive changes related to aging, how to transport elderly patients safely, and exercise, sleeping, and medication.
  • Skin Care and Personal Care. In this lesson, you’ll learn about the formation and healing of decubitus ulcers, basic skin care, the effects of radiation and chemotherapy, oral hygiene, and more.
  • Emergency Procedures. This lesson gives an overview of first aid and CPR, burns, and how to prepare for emergency situations.

A career as a home health aide may require that you be licensed or certified. Licensing and certification vary by state. States may also conduct background checks and aides may be required to earn a CPR certification.

What are the pros of being a home health aide?

The pros of being a home health aide include being able to make a difference in people’s lives, caring for the same patients, and being able to work in different environments by seeing patients in their homes. Right now, there’s also a huge demand for home health aides – the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 25% increase in the need for HHAs over the next decade – which means there are a lot of opportunities to find secure jobs in the field.

What are the cons of being a home health aide?

Being a home health aide is hard, demanding work. You’re not just helping patients manage their health, you’re helping them with housework, errands, bathing, and more. It can be physically demanding, especially when working with patients who aren’t as mobile and may require some heavy lifting.

How much do home health aides make?

The average salary for a home health aide in 2021 was $29,430, or $14.15 per hour. The amount you can earn can depend on the state you work in, your qualifications, and your work experience. The states that pay HHAs the most include Alaska ($35,360) and North Dakota ($34,020).

How can home health aides make more?

Like any career, you can potentially earn more as a home health aide over time by building up work experience and excelling on the job. You can also use becoming a home health aide as a steppingstone to starting a career in healthcare and moving into different roles in the industry. For example, after working as a home health aide and gaining some experience, you may want to take on more advanced medical work. Becoming a CNA could then be your next step! However, taking that next step in your career will require more training and certification.

A potential career path for a home health aide could look like this:

  1. Become a home health aide. Working as a HHA, you’ll gain valuable experience and knowledge that can help you further your career in healthcare. With many opportunities available for home health aide jobs, you can make sure you have a steady, reliable income while you pursue additional training to prepare for a more advanced career.
  2. Train to become a CNA. Though you could choose many different career options in the medical field while working as a home health aide, becoming a CNA can often be the next best step because there are some similarities between the two. While working as home health aide, you’ll want to pursue additional training and become licensed to be a CNA.
  3. Become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). After working as a CNA for a while, you may decide you’re ready to move up. A good next step could be becoming an LPN. LPNs perform basic nursing tasks like updating patients’ health records, administering medication, and helping registered nurses during their shifts. Since an LPN does more direct medical care than a CNA, you’ll need to again pursue more training, certification, and licensing.
  4. Emergency Procedures. This lesson gives an overview of first aid and CPR, burns, and how to prepare for emergency situations.

Careers similar to home health aide

If becoming a home health aide doesn’t sound like the right fit for you, but you still want to work in the healthcare industry, some similar careers to consider include:

  • Medical assistant. Medical assistants work in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and clinics assisting nurses and physicians with patients. They’ll often do things like take vital signs, update patient health records, and assist the doctor during exams.
  • Certified nursing assistant. CNAs do work very similar to home health aides but are able to take on some slightly more advanced medical work.
  • Emergency Procedures. This lesson gives an overview of first aid and CPR, burns, and how to prepare for emergency situations.

Start helping others with Ashworth

Break into the healthcare field with Ashworth College. With our online Home Health Aide Program, you can build the skills and knowledge that can help you prepare to be successful on the job from day one – all on your own terms, from home. Call an Admissions Advisor at to learn more about how the program works and what you need to get started or enroll online today.

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