Careers: Become A Home Health Aid

Home health aides provide domestic support for elderly or sick persons who can no longer look after themselves in competent fashion.

If you enjoy helping people in need but don't want to pursue medical training, becoming a home health aide may be the career for you. Taking a few classes and perhaps obtaining a certification will allow you to visit those who can benefit from your domestic support.

First, check with local nursing, aging, or medical associations in your area to find out if this position is available and what it requires. Chances are that you won't need much extra education or even experience to fill the role. Ask about the shifts that are open to employment, since some aides may be able to choose their days and hours, working half a day or less at times. You also can ask about salary, uniforms (if required), bonding, security, and training.

Most home health aides go to a client's home to provide household services that are not being met. For example, you may be asked to make beds, cook light meals, vacuum and dust, or do a load or two of laundry. Typically, you will not be expected to handle heavy duties that may cause physical strain, nor will you be asked to do something that you are not trained to do, such as file tax forms or handle a client's checkbook.

Be prepared to take helpful notes of your services. For example, if checking on a bedfast or mentally impaired resident, you might note that he smiled and seemed pleasant, finished his breakfast, and helped you fold a load of towels from the laundry. Include the date and time of each entry unless your agency provides a special form with particular information categories highlighted for your use.

If you drive or take the bus, you may be able to get reimbursed for mileage or transportation costs. Keep track of your hours and any expenses you may incur, although always the agency should approve these before you can expect repayment, as some items may not be reimbursable. Find out in advance which costs may be repaid, and which will not. Most agencies have a policy for this type of expenditures.

Let the agency know if you feel unsafe. For example, a male resident who takes a flirtatious approach when you arrive should be told in no uncertain terms that such behavior is inappropriate and unacceptable, or if a neighbor appears to be watching your arrivals and departures, report it to your employer, along with the date, time, and a description of the watcher. Certainly you are not expected to tolerate yelling, cursing, or physical abuse from an out-of-control resident.

A home health aide provides services that often allow an ailing resident to remain in his or her home without being institutionalized. Your cheerful outlook or pleasant smile may be the bright spot in these people's day. You can take pleasure in knowing that your help can make a difference in the quality of life enjoyed by those in uncertain health, especially when their families or finances cannot manage through other means to provide this needed support.

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