Many home health aides are employed by home health agencies. Home health agencies are businesses that provide health care and personal services in the home. Healthcare services provided by home health agencies may include nursing care, specialized therapy, specific medical equipment, pharmacy and intravenous (IV) products and personal care. Personal care services may include housekeeping, shopping, help with activities of daily living and cooking.
Clients who need home care are referred to a home health agency by their doctors. They can also be referred by a hospital discharge planner, a social services agency, the state or local department of public health, the welfare office, a local agency on aging or a senior center. Clients and family members can also choose an agency that meets their needs.
Once an agency is chosen and the doctor has made a referral, a staff member performs an assessment of the client. This determines how the care need can best be met. The home environment will also be evaluated to determine whether it is safe for the client.
The services home health agencies provide depend on the size of the agency. Small agencies may provide basic nursing care, personal care, and housekeeping services. Larger agencies may provide speech, physical, and occupational therapies, and medical social work. Some common services are:
- Physical therapy.
- Occupational therapy.
- Speech therapy.
- Medical-surgical nursing care, including management of clients with AIDS, diabetes management, instruction, care of different types of tubes, and catheterization.
- Intravenous infusion therapy.
- Maternal, pediatric and newborn nursing care.
- Nutrition therapy and dietary counseling.
- Medical social work.
- Personal care, including bathing; taking vital signs; skin, nail and hair care; meal preparation; light housekeeping; ambulation; and range of motion exercises.
- Homemaker/ companion services.
- Medical equipment rental and service pharmacy services.
- Hospice services
All home health agencies have professional staff who make decisions about what services are needed. These professionals, who may be physicians, registered nurses, or other licensed professionals, also reassess clients’ needs for service, write care plans, and schedule services.
Once staff determine the amount and types of care needed, assignments are given. A home health aide may be assigned to spend a certain number of hours each day or week with a client providing care and services. While the care plan and the assignments are developed by the supervisor or case manager, input from all members of the care team is needed. All HHAs are under the supervision of a skilled professional: either a registered nurse, a physical therapist, or a speech therapist.