DECD: Occupational Profile: Home Health Aides

Occupational Profile: Home Health Aides - May 2002

By Wanda Izdebski, Research Assistant, DOL

Introduction

Home health aides help elderly, convalescent, or disabled persons live in their own homes instead of in a health facility. Aides do whatever is needed for patients who cannot live alone without help, and make it possible for the sick to stay at home instead of moving to a nursing home. Some help discharged hospital patients who have relatively short-term needs.

Nature of the Work

Following a doctorís treatment plan, home health aides work under the supervision of a registered nurse or physical therapist, and take care of and do house chores for the elderly and disabled.

Some typical duties of home health aides include helping patients move from bed, and helping them to bathe, dress, groom and use the toilet or bedpan. They check pulse and breathing rates; they change bandages, and they help patients take their medicine. They clean a patientís room, kitchen and bathroom, do the laundry, and change linens. Aides also shop for food, and plan and fix meals. On top of their regular duties, they give patients emotional support and teach them how to get along independently. Home health aides report changes in the patientís condition to the nurse supervisor and keep records of patient care.

Average Hourly Wage for Home health aides by Selected Labor Market Area, 2001
{Average Hourly Wage for Home health aides by Selected Labor Market Area, 2001}

Working Conditions

Most full-time aides work about 40 hours a week, but because patients often need care 24 hours a day, some aides work evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays. Many work part time. Aides spend many hours standing and walking, and they often face heavy workloads. Most aides work with a number of different patients, each job lasting a few hours, days, or weeks.

This occupation can offer individuals an entry into the world of work. The flexibility of night and weekend hours also provides high school and college students a chance to work during the school year. Some Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) choose to become home health aides after receiving some additional training, even though the wage is slightly lower due to the flexibility found in this occupation.

Employment and Earnings

Nationally, approximately 561,000 home health aides were employed in 2000. In Connecticut, 11,340 home health aides were employed in 2000. Most home health aides are employed by home health agencies, visiting nurse associations, social service agencies, residential care facilities, and temporary-help firms. Others work for home health departments of hospitals and nursing facilities, public health agencies and community volunteer agencies.

National average hourly earnings of home health aides were $8.71 in 2000. In Connecticut, the average hourly wage was $13.25 or $27,585 annually in 2001. Home health aides in the Hartford area report the highest average hourly wage of $13.55 and those employed in the Bridgeport area report the lowest hourly wage of $11.55 an hour (chart).

Training and Education

Home health aides in Connecticut must complete a minimum of 75 hours of mandatory training comprised of both theory and clinical practice. There are only a few schools that offer home health aide training, but some employing healthcare agencies are approved by the Connecticut Department of Public Health to offer Homemaker-Home Health Aide Training and Competency program. To find training programs in Connecticut, contact the Connecticut Department of Public Health or Connecticut Association for Home Care, Inc. at the telephone numbers listed below.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of home health aides is projected to grow faster than the average through the year 2010, due to the growing demand for home healthcare from an aging population and efforts to contain healthcare costs by moving patients out of hospitals and nursing facilities as quickly as possible. The Connecticut Association for Home Care, Inc. states, "There arenít enough home health aides to fill all the available positions. The healthcare community is fighting for employees from the same pool of people as other high demand occupations, such as cashiers and casino workers."

Numerous openings for home health aides will arise from a combination of fast growth and high replacement needs for health services occupations. Turnover is high, a reflection of modest entry requirements, low pay, high physical and emotional demands, and lack of advancement opportunities. Over 390 annual openings are anticipated in Connecticut; therefore, persons who are interested in this work and suited for it should have excellent job opportunities. Most of the openings will be in the capital and southwest areas of the State.

Sources of Additional Information

Connecticut Department of Public Health (860) 509-7400 http://www.dph.state.ct.us/
Connecticut Association for Home Care, Inc. (203) 265-9931