What Is a Home Health Aide?

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Written by Kayla Tyson Editor, B2C Content, IntelyCare
What is a home health aide? A healthcare professional demonstrates this role.

Are you looking to kick-start your career in healthcare? While researching your options, you likely discovered a wide range of roles — each with varying requirements when it comes to education, training, and certification. Among these options, one path you might consider is becoming a home health aide.

But what is a home health aide? How does being a home health aide differ from other healthcare positions? We’ll unpack the basics of this role, differentiate between similar roles, and answer frequently asked questions to help you get started.

What Is a Home Health Aide?

Home health aides (HHAs) — sometimes also referred to as home care aides — are healthcare professionals who provide in-home assistance to clients. They typically work with older adults, people with disabilities, or those with chronic illnesses.

HHAs often work for agencies or other healthcare organizations under the management of licensed nursing staff. However, they can also be self-employed and work as private duty caregivers. This article will focus on state-certified HHAs.

What Does a Home Health Aide Do?

HHAs help their clients with various non-medical tasks that help them maintain their quality of life while living in their own homes. The responsibilities of home health aides can vary depending on their client’s needs, but may include:

  • Personal care, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, or toileting
  • Meal preparation, including grocery shopping and cooking
  • Medication reminders
  • Light housekeeping and errands
  • Companionship and social interaction
  • Monitoring the client’s well-being

What are home health aides not allowed to do? In short, home health aides are not trained to provide medical care. This means that they are not allowed to administer medication, perform medical procedures, make diagnoses, or conduct assessments, among other things.

Home Health Aide vs. CNA

The description of HHAs might remind you of other nursing professionals — certified nursing assistants (CNAs). While these roles share some similarities, they also have a number of differences.

One main difference is the workplace setting, as CNAs usually work in healthcare facilities and HHAs typically work in clients’ homes. This means that HHAs focus their attention on one person, while CNAs typically have many patients to care for throughout a shift. This also means that HHAs perform tasks associated with the client living in their own home (i.e., cooking and errands) and CNAs focus on facility-based duties.

In addition, though both CNAs and HHAs assist clients with personal care, CNAs generally have a broader scope of practice — they also take and document vital signs, and may assist nursing staff with basic medical care. As a result, CNAs may have more in-depth education and training requirements, though this can vary from state to state.

Home Health Aide vs. Caregiver

Another similar role is that of a caregiver. Like HHAs, caregivers are unlicensed workers who provide non-medical care, often in a client’s home. For this reason, the tasks performed by HHAs and caregivers overlap significantly. They each assist with activities of daily living and help improve their patients’ quality of life.

However, while HHAs specialize in in-home care, the term “caregiver” is broad. It can refer to family members or friends who provide care, as well as professionals who fill more formal roles in home health care, long-term care, and acute care facilities.

Another difference is that HHAs are subject to state regulations. Caregivers are not formally regulated, though they can pursue certification if they choose to.

What Are HHA Education Requirements?

Home health aides are generally only required to have a high school diploma and certification in their state of residence to get started. Many HHAs receive on-the-job training when they start in a new role. If you’re looking to get your foot in the door of the healthcare world, becoming a home health aide could be a great place to begin.

What Are Home Health Aide Certification Requirements?

You may be wondering — what is a home health aide required to do to become certified? Home health agencies certified by Medicare must make sure that any HHAs they employ complete a state-approved home health aide training program. Federal mandates require that these programs provide at least 75 hours of training, with at least 16 hours of supervised clinical practice and 12 hours of continuing education each year.

Depending on your state, HHAs may be required to complete more than 75 hours of training. In fact, some states — like Alaska, California, and Idaho — require 120 hours. Be sure to check the guidelines in your state to find a program that works for you.

What Is a Typical Home Health Aide Salary?

So, how much do home health aides make? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HHAs make an average salary of $29,430 per year, or $14.15 an hour. However, this amount can differ depending on your geographic location and years of experience.

Ready to Use Your Skills as a Home Health Aide?

What is a home health aide? You asked, and we answered. Are you ready to take the next step and find a place to put your HHA skills into practice? Join the IntelyCare team to create a career that fits your life.