If you’ve ever wondered exactly what a home health aide does, or what qualifies as home care in the first place, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we answer seven of the most frequently asked questions about being a home health aide, from who employs you to how home care differs from hospice care. Read on to learn everything you need to know before you grab your nursing bag for your first home visit.
Do I need a degree or certification?
Most (though not all) home health aides need to have graduated from high school or achieved their GED. As a home health aide, you’ll receive on-the-job trainingfrom professionals such as a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a more experienced aide. Some states require all home health aides, no matter who they work for, to have received formal training. In other states, only aides who work for agencies that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement must go through the training and receive a certification. Do your research on your state’s requirementsand make sure you’re in good standing on all points.
What kinds of tasks will I be expected to help with?
In a nutshell, home health aides help clients with their daily tasks of living. These activities may include (but are by no means limited to):
● Administering medications
● Accompanying the patient to doctor appointments
● Assisting with personal hygiene tasks such as grooming and bathing
● Helping the client to dress or undress
● Completing light housekeeping duties (vacuuming, dusting, laundry, etc.)
● Grocery shopping and making small meals
● Helping the patient to eat
● Running other errands
Perhaps most importantly, home health aides are also responsible for documenting any changes in a patient’s condition in a report and notifying a doctor, nurse and/or the family.
What types of clients might I work with?
There are many different kinds of potential home health aide clients. Many of them are older adults suffering from physical impairments and/or mental ailments that negatively impact their ability to execute daily tasks. You may work with a senior who has Alzheimer’s and forgets to take their medication or one who is suffering from a broken hip after a falland having trouble getting around. However, you may also work with patients from different age groups, such as an infant who underwent a major surgery and was finally cleared to go home to recover or an adult with learning disabilities who isn’t able to live independently.
What does “homebound” mean?
As the name suggests, home health aides care for homebound patients. Generally speaking, homebound clients cannot safely leave their home without the assistance of another person and perhaps assistive devices (i.e., wheelchair, crutches, etc.). Patients are usually still considered homebound if they leave the home for doctor appointments or other infrequent non-medical trips such as getting their hair cut or attending church.
Who will I actually work for?
A few families employ home health aides directly, but in the majority of cases, you will be employed by an agency, hospice center, senior community to name a few. Depending on how the agency is set up, you may be considered a part-time employee and/or contractor or (if you work enough hours) a full-time employee who is eligible for benefits and insurance. Even if you work a full 40-plus hours a week, it might not be on a traditional Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. business schedule. Some patients need care around the clock, so you might work nights, weekends and/or holidays.
What counts as a “home?”
The definition of home health care is more liberal than you might think in terms of location. In this case, home refers to the patient’s primary place of residence. Of course, this could be a traditional standalone home, an apartment, a relative’s house, a senior community, other institutions, or group living situations. That being said, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care facilities aren’t considered homes, and care that takes place in these settings doesn’t fall under home health aide work.
How is home health care different from hospice care and private care?
Home health care often gets lumped in with hospice care and private care, probably because they all have “care” in their name—but these types are all distinct. Home health care aides work with patients who are recovering from an illness or injury. The ultimate goal is either to help the patient recover and gain their independence or (if the condition is chronic) to maintain the highest quality of life possible and assist with personal tasks.
In contrast, hospice care is intended to provide non-curative treatments and comfort for those facing a terminal illness. Unlike home health care, which is often geared towards recovery, hospice caregivers focus on alleviating pain symptoms as much as possible in addition to assisting with personal care tasks and medical care. They may also connect the patients and their families to emotional and spiritual resources to help with bereavement, such as counseling.
As the name indicates, private care is paid for out of pocket rather than by insurance. Families may seek out private personal care when they don’t qualify for home care, but they would still like assistance for their loved one. Paying out of pocket gives families more flexibility in the type and amount of services they contract for, and avoids potential care restrictions put in place by insurers. While private care may seem expensive, in some cases it can actually save money compared to nursing homes and assisted living.
Now that you have a clearer picture of what home health care is and is not, you’re better equipped to either embark on your career as a home health aide or hire the best caregiver for your loved one. Keep these seven FAQs in mind as your explore your home health options.
Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com They believe no one works harder than caregivers and strive to be advocates for healthcare professionals and students through their website, philanthropy, and web series, Real Caregivers, Real Stories.