What Does a Home Health Aide Do?
A home health aide is a healthcare worker who assists individuals in their home environment. For most patients, that is a house or an apartment. For others, it may be an assisted living facility, a nursing home, or a hospice.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, home health aides work for certified home health or hospice agencies. Unlike private duty companions, home health aides work under the supervision of a nurse case manager who coordinates all the services the patient receives.
Home health aide duties vary greatly from patient to patient, but frequently consist of the following:
Basic Medical Care. Home health aide responsibilities may include checking a patient’s temperature, pulse, or respirations, assisting the patient with taking oral medication, or doing simple wound care and dressing changes. The home health aide should immediately report any abnormal findings to the patient’s nurse case manager.
Personal Care. Home health aides may help a patient with personal hygiene by assisting him or her with showering or bathing, or by providing a bed bath if necessary. Aides may also help patients brush their teeth, wash their hands and faces, comb their hair, and take care of their fingernails.
Light Housekeeping/Chores. The home health aide rarely provides heavy cleaning, like vacuuming every room in the house or washing an entire sink full of dishes. He or she may, however, perform light tasks such as changing soiled bedclothes, starting a load of laundry, or fixing the patient a simple meal and cleaning up afterwards.
Maintenance Therapy. Home health aide responsibilities may include working under the supervision of a physical therapist or nurse to help the client build strength and become more mobile. The aide might, for instance, help the patient walk a short distance every day or transfer from the bed to a chair. A home health aide may also do passive range of motion exercises with an unresponsive patient.
Emotional Support. The home health aide may be the person on the care team with whom the patient interacts the most frequently. As the patient and family come to know and trust the aide, they may express private concerns about the patient’s disease process or other problems. The aide should provide supportive, empathetic listening. The aide should also be sure to discuss the patient’s concerns with the nurse case manager, who may refer the patient to a social worker or chaplain for additional assistance.
Patient and Family Education. Home health aides have a wealth of information they can share to make the lives of their patients a little easier. They might, for example, give advice on safer ways to transfer from one seat to another, or they might give the family tips on convincing a confused, resistive patient to take his or her medications. As always, the nurse case manager should be aware of any education the aide is providing.
Documentation. There’s an old saying in the medical profession: “If you didn’t document it, you didn’t do it.” One of the vital home health aide responsibilities is to maintain timely and accurate documentation of the services they provided to each patient under their care.
Home health aide duties are extremely diverse and are likely to vary from client to client. Therefore, each day in the life of a home health aide is a little different. Some people find the job taxing, but very few every complain that it is boring!
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11 Edition, “Home Health Aides and Personal and Home Care Aides,” http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos326.htm.
Career Depot, “31-1011.00 – Home Health Aides,” http://www.careerdepot.org/Descriptions/job_home_health.htm
State University, “Home Health Aide Job Description…,” http://careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/433/Home-Health-Aide.html