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Home Health Aide

Home health aides assist elderly, convalescent, or disabled persons who, instead of living in a health facility, reside in their own homes. They provide many different types of medical services, such as checking patients' vital signs, assist with exercise, clean rooms, administer medications, and help patients move bath, dress, and get in and out of bed. Home health aides usually work for either patients discharged from hospitals or elderly or disabled patients who require extra care at home. They are supervised by physical therapists, social workers, registered nurses, or other nursing or medical staff.

Job Skills

Besides having a strong desire to help people, home health aides need to be compassionate, tactful, and understanding. They should be willing to perform repetitive tasks, have good interpersonal communication skills, and be able to work in a team. They also need to be in good health, as some States require tests for tuberculosis and other diseases.

Income

In 2002, home health aides earned a median hourly wage of $8.70. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10 percent, who earned less than $6.56, and the highest 10 percent, who earned more than $12.34. The highest hourly wage was found in the employment services industry, and the lowest was found in individual and family services.

Training and Education

Often it is not necessary to have a high school diploma or previous work experience to obtain a job as a home health aide. If home health aides work for employers who receive reimbursement from Medicare, then they fall under Federal guidelines which require them to pass a competency test covering a variety of skills. Training for the competency test usually consists of 75 hours, supervised by a registered nurse. Employment agencies may also offer training that is certified by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. National home health aide certification is offered by the National Association for Home Care, and is offered on a voluntary basis.

Employment

Out of the nearly 2 million nursing, psychiatric, and home health aide jobs in 2002, about 580,000 people were employed as home health aides.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of home health aides is expected to increase faster than the average, mostly due to an increasing elderly population and their resulting health care needs. A growing effort to transfer more patients out of hospitals and nursing facilities will also add to the demand for home health aides, as will advances in medical technology that make home care a more viable choice.

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