Home Health Aides: Who Are They and What Do They Do?

Do you need help caring for your elderly parents?

Caring for your elderly parents all on your own can be very difficult, especially if you have a full-time job. Luckily, you can hire a home health aide to help with their care needs. 

But, what is a home health aide? And, why should you hire one?

Check out this guide to discover everything you need to know about home health aides. 

What is a Home Health Aide?

So, what exactly is a home health aide?

A home health aide is someone who cares for people who have age-related problems, chronic illnesses, disabilities, and cognitive impairments. 

Home health aides provide their clients with basic services such as medication administration, bandage changing, and checking of vital signs. While home health aides work independently, they’re typically supervised by a medical professional, such as a registered nurse. 

Here are some of the things a home health aide can help your parent with:

  • Getting dressed and undressed
  • Bathing, brushing teeth, and grooming
  • Accompanying your parents to doctor’s visits and other appointments
  • Taking medications
  • Cooking and cleaning
  • Sorting mail
  • Exercising/staying active 

Even if your parent doesn’t need help with these specific tasks, hiring a home health aide can still be beneficial, as they can provide companionship to your parent so they don’t get lonely. 

Home Health Aid vs CNA vs PCA

A lot of people confuse home health aides with CNAs (certified nursing assistants) and PCAs (personal care assistants). While these positions are similar, they do come with differences that are important to understand. 

Home Health Aide vs CNA 

Home health aides are mainly tasked with providing their clients personal care. While home health aides can offer tremendous support when it comes to completing everyday tasks, it’s important to understand that a home health aide has limited medical training. 

Because of this, they rarely provide clients medical assistance, and they cannot offer medical advice. However, home health aides can help monitor your parent’s condition and remind them to take their medication. 

CNAs, on the other hand, do have some medical training. This means they can take patients’ vital signs and track their symptoms. In addition to helping clients with personal care tasks, CNAs can also help clients switch bed positions and switch them in their wheelchairs. 

Whereas home health aides just work in clients’ homes, CNAs work in a variety of settings, including nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and hospitals. 

While some states require that home health aides undergo a certification process, most learn their skills from on-the-job training. However, to become a CNA you must undergo formal training. 

Home Health Aide vs PCA 

So, how does a home health aide differ from a PCA? 

A personal care aide typically performs all of the same tasks as a home health aide. However, PCAs are typically hired on an individual basis, while home health aides are usually hired through an agency with staffing services

The benefit of hiring through an agency is that it runs background checks and vets employees before hiring them. 

Benefits of Hiring a Home Health Aide

So, why should you hire a home health aide? Here are some of the top benefits:

1. Maintain Independence 

One of the best things about hiring a home health aide is that it still allows your loved one to maintain their independence. A lot of times, elderly persons are hesitant to enter nursing homes because they’re afraid of losing all of their freedom. 

With a home health aide, you can receive all of the help you need from the comfort of your home. 

2. Help Around the House 

Many people have trouble keeping house as they get older. The great thing about hiring a home health aide is that they can help your loved one with basic cleaning tasks.

This way, when you visit your loved one, you won’t need to spend all of your time cleaning up after them. Instead, you can just enjoy your time together. 

3. Receive Private Attention 

Another great thing about hiring a home health aide is that it means your parent will get private attention. While nursing homes certainly have their benefits, one of the major downsides is the staff to patient ratio. 

Typically, interactions with staff members are short and limited to when someone needs physical help. The great thing about a home health aide is that they can spend the entire day with your parent, even when they don’t need immediate help. 

4. Companionship 

Even if your parent is still relatively independent, hiring a home health aide can still be a good idea. This is because they can provide companionship for your parent. 

According to the CDC, older adults are at an increased risk for depression. While depression can be caused by a variety of different factors, a lot of times, elderly people suffer from depression due to loneliness and isolation. 

Since you can’t be with your parents around the clock, hiring a home health aide can help your parents combat their loneliness and isolation. Plus, a home health aide can take your parents to social activities and gatherings. 

Home health aides can also go for walks with your parents. Seeing as exercise can help fight depression, this can be extremely beneficial. 

5. Alleviate Stress 

Another major benefit of hiring a home health aide is that it can alleviate the stress and burden of caring for your parents on your own. Even if you have other family members and friends helping you, it’s nearly impossible to have someone there around the clock. 

A home health aide can help fill in those gaps when you and family members can’t be around. Plus, if you work with a home health agency, you’ll have care available to your family member around the clock. Home health aides don’t just work 9-5 hours. They’re also available on nights, weekends, and holidays. 

6. More Convenient Visits 

When you hire a home health aide, you can easily visit your parents in their home at a time that’s convenient for you. You never have to worry about working around visitation hours or navigating an unfamiliar healthcare facility. 

7. Protection From Disease and Infection 

Another major benefit of a hiring a home health aide is that you don’t have to worry about your parent being unecessarily exposed to infections or diseases. 

While nursing homes do the best they can to keep their facilities sanitized, there’s no way you can completely stop germs from spreading amongst elderly persons. This is especially the case in nursing homes where patients share rooms. 

8. The Cost 

In general, hiring a home health aide is much more affordable than putting your parent in a nursing home or even hiring a CNA. Because CNAs have medical training, they generally charge a higher rate. 

If your parent doesn’t need extra medical attention, there’s no need to pay extra money for a CNA. Nursing homes are a lot more expensive because they have living facilities, onsite meals, social activities, and extra amenities. 

While all of these extra perks can be nice, they come with a steep price tag. 

Plus, if your loved one requires skilled care, Medicare will pay in full for your home health aide. 

How to Choose a Home Health Agency 

As we mentioned earlier, it’s best to hire a home health aide through an agency. But, how do you choose which agency to work with? Here’s what you need to do:

1. Asses Your Parent’s Needs 

First things first, you need to asses your parent’s needs. Some agencies hire caregivers who can provide companionship and do light housekeeping, while others hire caregivers who can help individuals suffering from debilitating health conditions. 

If you’re unsure about your parent’s exact needs, it’s best to speak with their physician. 

2. Check the Agency’s Reputation

When researching agencies, one of the first things you want to do is check their reputation. To find an agency with a good reputation, we first suggest asking family members and friends for recommendations.

You should also read reviews on the agency’s Google My Business Page, and check if the agency is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau. Here are some questions you should ask the agency to learn more about their reputation:

  • Have you been inspected by an outside organization? If so, when was your last inspection?
  • How long have you been in business for?
  • Why should we choose your agency over others in the area?

The answers the agency gives can provide a lot of insight into their reputation, so be sure to take notes. 

3. Look Into Staff Credentials and Training

A home care agency is only as good as its staff members, so you’ll also want to inquire about staff credentials and training. 

First things first, you want to make sure that the agency runs background checks on their home health aides before hiring them. You should also ask about what type of experience and training people need before they become staff members.

While a lot of states don’t have particular home health aide certifications, it can give you peace of mind knowing that an agency’s home health aides are certified in CPR and first aid. 

Depending on your parent’s needs, you may also want to inquire about other credentials. For example, if your elderly parent speaks Spanish, finding an agency that has Spanish-speaking caregivers can be beneficial. 

4. Ask About Costs

As we mentioned earlier, your home health aide costs should be covered by Medicare if your parent requires specialized care. If your parent does require specialized care, you’ll want to make sure the agency you work with is certified by Medicare. 

Certification means that the agency meets state and federal guidelines. Medicare only works with certified agencies, so if the agency you hire isn’t certified, then you’ll end up having to pay in full. 

If your parent doesn’t need specialized care and just needs help with personalized services, then you won’t be able to get Medicare coverage. This is why it’s very important to inquire about pricing before hiring a staffing agency

However, this doesn’t mean you should go for the cheapest company you find, as cheap doesn’t always translate to great service. 

5. Ask About Availability

You’ll also want to inquire about staff availability before hiring a home health agency. Ideally, you’ll want to find an agency that offers around-the-clock availability.

This way, you never have to worry about your parent being alone. Just be aware that if the hours you hire for are inconsistent, the agency may set you up with several different caregivers. If you choose consistent hours week to week, the agency will do their best to provide your parent with the same caregiver so they can get to know them better and form a bond. 

6. Ask to Meet Potential Caregivers

It’s never a bad idea to ask an agency if you can meet some potential caregivers. Not only do you want to find a caregiver who is qualified to help your parent, but you also want to find someone who has a compatible personality. 

Interviewing potential caregivers is the best way to find someone who gets along with your parent. Of course, if a caregiver doesn’t work out, the agency can always set you up with a new one. 

Are You Ready to Hire a Home Health Aide? 

Now that you’ve read this home health aide guide, it’s time to decide if hiring one for your parent is the right decision. If you’ve decided that hiring a home health aide is a good idea, then it’s time to start researching different agencies. 

If you want to learn more about finding the right agency, you can contact us today