Home Healthcare Explained: What is a Home Health Aide?

Apr 15, 2013

Perhaps you have decided it would make sense to hire someone to help you at home or someone has suggested you might benefit from home healthcare.  Most likely you enjoy living in your own home and prefer to remain there as you age (as do 90+% of older Americans).  The first step is determining what you need, how to get the help and understanding your options.

We will help by explaining some of the terminology you might hear regarding the qualifications for working in home healthcare.  We welcome your calls and questions directly and our Senior Care Consultant offers personalized help when you need it:






Home health aides and personal care aides are two of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  As defined by the Bureau, “Home health and personal care aides help people who are disabled, chronically ill, or cognitively impaired. They also help older adults who may need assistance. They help with activities such as bathing and dressing, and they provide services such as light housekeeping. In some states, home health aides may be able to give a client medication or check the client’s vital signs under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.”  The term home health aide is particularly used to designate helpers who typically work in individuals’ homes versus similar roles in institutional settings like nursing homes or hospitals (though home may indicate a private home or assisted living/retirement community and services may be rendered throughout different community settings).

You will hear the term CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) or nurse’s aide used more frequently in hospitals and nursing homes.  The duties and qualifications of home health aides and certified nursing assistants overlap quite a bit and many home health aides have been qualified as a certified nursing assistant.  In Florida, a person can become a CNA by passing the CNA examination.  A person can either take a training program to prepare for this exam or “challenge” the exam (i.e. sit for the exam without a training course).  There is also some reciprocity with other states for those who are qualified as CNAs in other areas and relocate to Florida. 

Most home health aides are either qualified as CNAs or take a specific home health aide training course and then demonstrate their competency through the examination given when seeking employment.  At EasyLiving, we require any home health aide coming to work for us to not only pass the exam, but to be an “A student”, with a score of 90% or above.

Most home health agencies and senior care organizations offer both home health aide care and companion care.  Companion care is typically “hands off”, meaning that it may include household duties and errands but not physical tasks like helping a person get up from a chair, bathing and dressing.  Many clients find that at some point they benefit from having the qualified assistance of a home health aide as there may be times physical assistance is needed.

In addition to hiring the services of a home health aide through a home health care agency, you will find that many home health aides and nursing assistants work independently.  They may be available to hire privately for elders.  Often, when you ask around you will locate these individuals through word-of-mouth.  There are some important things to keep in mind when considering hiring a home health aide privately, though.  At the basic hiring level, you need to do your own homework on references, background checks and getting proof of training and competency.  You will also be missing out on the support, training and oversight an agency provides.  And, you do not have the backup and assistance with trouble shooting that a professional agency offers.  Bigger and even more costly issues include concerns like liability, insurance and payroll/taxes.

Sometimes these factors do not seem like a big deal, especially when someone is referred to you as having done a great job for a friend.  However, the efforts that a quality home health care agency puts in to support its staff and clients should not be underestimated.  The added work and potential hassle for you and your family often come as an unpleasant surprise.  This type of very personal and sometimes challenging care should not be taken lightly.  You do not want someone who is not sufficiently prepared (or who has outdated training) and doesn’t have professional help and oversight.  You don’t want to be left scrambling when an issue arises or the person is sick or can no longer do the job.

You can read more about some of the ways EasyLiving supports our home health aide team.  We recently added a new position to further support our team members in the field.  Our Client Care Supervisors provide supervisory visits on a regular basis in clients’ homes, serving as a mentor for our home health aides and a customer liaison.  This helps us to troubleshoot any issues, make suggestions for improvement and ensure ongoing quality service.  We know many times there are minor changes that could make a better experience for client and caregiver, but clients may not feel these warrant calling the office.  By bringing a liaison out to the home, we can work with our team members to better meet client needs.  It also gives us more opportunities to spot the great things our home health aides do every day and recognize and reward their efforts.

You might also be interested in our profile of over 50 ways home health aides can help you in the home, from maintaining an organized clean home to preparing meals and reminding you about your medication schedule:






Topics: Home Care, Financial/Legal

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