A Home Health Aide (HHA) is a home healthcare worker who helps patients with basic medical tasks, such as wound care, driving to appointments, and assists with everyday tasks that patients may find difficult, such as taking a bath or feeding themselves. They may work for an agency or independently, and the way they help depends on the patient's specific needs.
What is the Difference Between an HHA, PHA & Caregiver?
There is no difference between a Home Health Aide, a personal health aide, and a certified caregiver in terms of responsibilities. You can use these names interchangeably to refer to a certified person to help patients complete daily tasks, including personal chores and errands and health monitoring and maintenance. The difference may lie in how they work.
Titles, such as a personal care aide and caregiver, are slightly different. Unlike a Home Health Aide, a personal care aide does not usually require certification and only assists with tasks of a personal nature. A caregiver is typically a family member or someone who volunteers to help someone in need of assistance for day-to-day tasks.
What Work Does a Home Health Aide do Today?
A Home Health Aide assists patients with various tasks where they require help. They may include personal tasks, home maintenance tasks, or general companionship.
Help with personal tasks, home tasks, and companionship may include:
Brushing hair, teeth, or applying makeup
Medication reminders, pickup from the pharmacy
Using a cane or transferring to a wheelchair
Shopping, preparing meals, washing dishes
Light housework such as sweeping, vacuuming, laundry
What are Home Health Aides not allowed to do?
The tasks that Home Health Aides are and are not allowed to do varies from state to state. For example, since Home Health Aides do not create treatment plans, they are not allowed to perform tasks similar to a physical or occupational therapist. In addition, they cannot provide advanced nursing care in most states, such as administering medication.
Where Do Home Health Aides Work?
Many Home Health Aides work in their clients’ homes, while others work in group care facilities or facilities for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Some HHAs work with several clients, individually or as a group, and others work with one client. Sometimes an HHA will work with a client for an extended period for a particular reason, such as after being transferred into hospice care, while others work with their clients short-term or alternate shifts with another HHA.
What is it like to be a Home Health Aide?
Being a Home Health Aide is not an easy job. It is physically and emotionally demanding. Since your clients are often people who are elderly or have physical or mental disabilities, their dependence on you is crucial. Sometimes people become HHAs and then realize that the pressure is too much or they find themselves too emotionally drained to continue with the job.
However, it can also be an enriching experience. You become an integral part of your clients' lives, and it's common to form a strong bond. If you can build resilience and handle the highs and lows of the job, it can be extraordinarily fulfilling.
What Attributes Make a Good Home Health Aide?
The following are some attributes and characteristics of a good Home Health Aide:
Excellent communication. A vital part of the job is explaining information to patients and their families, so it’s important to be able to communicate clearly and effectively.
Effective time-management. A home health aide is often solely responsible for making sure patients complete tasks on time, such as taking medication, so proper time management is necessary to do this job well.
Physical stamina. Being on your feet and completing necessary tasks requires physical stamina. If it’s required of you to help move patients to and from a wheelchair or help them into the bath, strength is also an important component.
Compassion. Many patients requiring care are experiencing life circumstances that are less than ideal and require a high degree of compassion from their Home Health Aide.
Patience. Since the people you work with are struggling either physically or mentally, being patient and managing your expectations are important to do the job well.
How Much Do Home Health Aides make?
The salary of a Home Health Aide varies from state to state, with a national average of $13.04 an hour or $27,120.78 a year. The range of pay is between $8.76 and $17.45 an hour or $18,210 and $36,300 a year.
You can find more information here.
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Advantages and Disadvantages of a Career as a Home Health Aide
There are advantages and disadvantages of working at any job. Still, because being a Home Health Aide is so personal and unpredictable, the highs and lows might be more pronounced than in other positions.
Advantages of Choosing a Career as a Home Health Aide
Flexible schedule - Since a Home Health Aide can work with an agency or as an independent contractor, you can choose to maintain certain hours or have a more flexible schedule.
Autonomy - While you usually have to report to a doctor to nurse, your decisions while working are up to you, which means you have more independence at work than in many other jobs in healthcare.
Personal interactions - Home Health Aides are rarely the only people involved in a patient's care, so there are often many opportunities to interact with different kinds of people. If you’re a people person, which you probably are if you’re considering a job as a Home Health Aide, then this is perhaps something you would enjoy about the job.
Trusted position - Caring for someone in such a personal capacity is an important and unique position. You’re trusted and relied upon, giving you a certain sense of pride that you may not get from a job without such a component.
Disadvantages of Choosing a Career as a Home Health Aide
Lack of structure - While you have a lot of autonomy at work, this lack of structure can detriment those new to working in health care or who haven’t built up the confidence that it takes to work in such an environment.
Lack of supplies - Unlike working in a hospital or clinical setting, you don’t have access to such a wide variety of supplies. Sometimes you have to work with what you can, which can be limiting or stressful.
Uncooperative clients - Since you’re working with people who lack control in their lives because of a physical or mental disability, sometimes clients are reluctant to accept help and come across as being uncooperative or difficult. When this happens, it can be stressful, but you have to find a way to manage it on your own.
How to Become a Home Health Aide
Most states require you to have a high school diploma or equivalent to become a Home Health Aide.
The federal government states that you must complete at least 16 hours of supervised training before being allowed to care for patients. If you decide to undergo training, it’s available from several institutions. Formal training is not mandatory. However, beyond certification, your job may require you to participate in training to ensure you can handle the responsibilities.
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How Long Does it Take to Become a Home Health Aide?
To receive certification from an accredited school and become a Home Health Aide, some institutions offer training programs that take a few weeks, while others take up to two months.
Programs offered by community colleges tend to take longer. The industry standard for certification is 120 hours of classroom learning plus 40 to 60 hours of clinical work, although this varies by state. In addition, once you receive your certificate, most states require that you renew it every 2 to 3 years.
Frequently Asked Questions About HHAs
What is the Difference Between a Caregiver and a Home Health Aide?
The differences between a caregiver and a home health aide boil down to the responsibilities and training. A caregiver requires no formal training to care for loved ones.
A caregiver generally does not perform medical tasks. Instead, they are primarily responsible for assisting with day-to-day personal tasks, light cleaning, and companionship.
What Does a Home Health Aide Do?
In addition to day-to-day personal tasks, a Home Health Aide may assist with medical necessities, such as checking vitals, bandaging wounds, or driving to doctors appointments.
Is a Home Health Aide a Bad Job?
Being an HHA is an excellent job for individuals who enjoy working with people and helping them with their basic needs. However, it may not be a good fit for those not particularly interested in helping people or those who struggle with showing compassion for those in difficult positions.
What is Better, Home Health Care Agencies or Private Health Aides?
They’re different, and one may not be better than the other. However, if you work for an agency, you have a good chance of being matched up with a new client, which is the convenience you don’t get from working independently.
What is Noncustodial Home Health Care?
Noncustodial health care involves medical or otherwise therapeutic care or intervention, as opposed to only helping with daily personal tasks.
How Do Home Health Aides and CNAs differ?
In addition to helping with medically-related tasks, HHAs assist with personal tasks on a day-to-day basis. CNAs, on the other hand, don't help with medically-unrelated tasks. They may also help with several patients, or a whole floor or unit, rather than private care.
You can expect to be successful at a job as an HHA if you have the compatible characteristics, and it can be an enriching and fulfilling career with a relatively short training period. With training and emotional resilience, you can get as much out of this job as you put into it.