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Home Health Aide Career

Career Description

A Home Health Aide helps elderly, convalescent, or disabled persons live in their own homes instead of health care facilities.

Common Work Tasks

  • Provide health-related services, such as administering oral medications
  • Check patients’ pulse rate, temperature, and respiration rate; help with simple prescribed exercises; and help patients to get in and out of bed, bathe, dress, and groom
  • Change non-sterile dressings, give massages and provide skin care, or assist with braces and artificial limbs
  • Assist with medical equipment such as ventilators, which help patients breathe
  • Keep records of the services performed and record each patient’s condition and progress
  • Report changes in a patient’s condition to the supervisor or case manager
  • Provide patients and families with emotional support and instruction in areas such as caring for infants, preparing healthy meals, living independently, or adapting to disability or illness
  • Change bed linens, wash and iron patients’  laundry, and clean patients’ quarters
  • Entertain, converse with, or read aloud to patients to keep them mentally healthy and alert
  • Plan, purchase, prepare, or serve meals to patients or other family members, according to prescribed diets

Other Job Titles

Home Health Aides are also known by other titles, including:

  • Nursing Aides
  • Nursing Assistants
  • Personal Care Aides
  • Social Workers

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Home health aides are generally not required to have a high school diploma. They usually are trained on the job by registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, or experienced aides. Also, clients may prefer that tasks are done a certain way,  and make those suggestions to the home health aide. A competency evaluation may be required to ensure the aide can perform the required tasks.

Certification and Licensure
The Federal Government has guidelines for home health aides whose employers receive reimbursement from Medicare. Federal law requires home health aides to pass a competency test covering a wide range of areas. A home health aide may receive training before taking the competency test. In addition, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice offers voluntary certification for home health aides. Some States also require aides to be licensed.

  Aides must be in good health. A physical examination, including State-regulated tests such as those for tuberculosis, may be required. A criminal background check also is usually required for employment.

Applicants should be tactful,  patient, understanding, emotionally stable, and dependable and should have a desire to help people. They also should be able to work as part of a team, have good communication skills, and be willing to perform repetitive, routine tasks.  Home health aides should be honest and discreet because they work in private homes. They also will need access to a car or public transportation to reach patients’ homes.


The median annual salary for a Home Health Aide is $20,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $28,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $15,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of home health aides are:

  • Home Health Care Services- $20,550
  • Residential Mental Retardation, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Facilities - $20,590
  • Community Care Facilities for the Elderly- $19,650
  • Individual and Family Services - $20,130
  • Nursing Care Facilities - $21,310

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  49%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 384,000
  • Employment 2006 : 787,000
  • Employment 2016:  1,171,000
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