What Is a Home Health Aide?


If you find a loved one in need of extra help to properly care for themselves, a home health aide may help provide a safe environment while allowing them the comfort and independence of living at home. Home health aides primarily assist with everyday tasks that your loved one might be struggling with.

Main points

  • Home health aides provide care for patients in their own home to improve their safety and quality of life.
  • A home health aide may provide assistance with activities of daily living, medication management, monitoring a patient’s health, and responding to emergencies
  • Home health aides are different than personal care aides which are caregivers who provide companionship, housekeeping, grocery shopping, transportation, etc.
  • The average monthly cost for a home health aide is about $28,000 per month.

What Is a Home Health Aide?

A home health aide (HHA) is a certified health care paraprofessional who has received training and meets state set licensing requirements to provide care for a patient in their own home. They are trained to provide assistance with:

  • Activities of Daily Living – helping with a patient’s every day activities such as dressing, eating, bathing, toileting, moving around, etc.
  • Health Monitoring – this includes checking vital signs, monitoring physical health, and mental health.
  • Medication Management – Administering prescriptions. 
  • Responding to Emergencies – providing assistance in case of emergencies such as a heart attack, stroke, or other accident.

Home health aides provide home health care, but are not registered nurses and are not trained to provide services like physical therapy, nursing care, occupational therapy, counseling, etc.

What Is a Personal Care Aide?

Personal care aides (PCA) provide people in need with light services such as housekeeping, managing medications, preparing meals, transportation, grocery shopping, and other chores. Additionally, personal care aides can provide companionship for patients so they are not socially isolated and lonely. 

Unlike home health aides, personal care aides do not offer health care. Their focus is more on physical services at home rather than medical.

Personal care aides mostly act as companions and perform some other basic duties: 

  • House-keeping
  • Providing bathing and cleaning
  • Conversation
  • Walks around the park or in the neighborhood
  • Meals, etc. 

Home health aides and personal care aides are often incorrectly used interchangeably. While some home health aides may provide personal care services, this is not always the case. And conversely, PCA’s may not provide any healthcare related services. 

When to Look for a Home Health Aide 

There are some indicators that you need to keep an eye on in order to confirm if your loved one needs a home health aide. If you happen to notice changes in your loved one’s daily activities or a lack of caution in some situations, you must dig a little deeper into what the potential cause may be. Some of the signs to watch out for include: 

  • Leaving the stove on
  • Not eating regularly
  • Not preparing simple meals
  • Not driving safely to a doctor’s appointment
  • Not bathing regularly
  • Wandering away from home

When you identify that one of your loved ones needs care for whatever reason, you will have to consider whether you should hire a home health aide or a personal care aide – or find a home health aide (or home health agency) who provides both services. In order to identify which is best for your loved one, it’s important to identify what specific things your loved ones need help with. 

How Much Does a Home Health Aide Cost? 

There are several ways to approach the hiring of one of these professionals: you can hire one directly or through home health agencies that provide HHA and PCA services. It is important to bear in mind that when you hire them directly, you may pay less but you are responsible to follow up on them and monitor their work. Another downside of hiring directly is that you’ll have to arrange for coverage when your home health aide is sick or goes on vacation.

On the other hand, if you hire one through a licensed agency, even though you may have to pay more because of the middleman services, the agency itself takes care of the recruiting and the monitoring of their work. 

On average, the cost of hiring an HHA is around $27,800 yearly. Some long-term care insurances cover part of these services. For veterans, the federal government has benefit programs available to help cover home health aid costs.. 

Does Medicare Cover Home Health Aide Costs?

Medicare does not cover the cost of non-medical home care aide. It does cover, however, the needs of a senior who may require the following services:  

  • Part-time or “Intermittent” skilled nursing care
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Medical social services
  • Medical supplies for use at home, etc.

It is important to bear in mind that it will only cover 100% of the costs of part-time home health services, which means no more than 28 hours a week.

Does Long-Term Care Insurance Pay for Home Health Aides?

Some long-term care insurances pay for home health aides, but that depends on the insurance provider. Generally, this type of insurance does cover HHA, but it won’t cover costs during the exclusion period in the case of pre-existing conditions. 

Related: How Much Does Long-term Care Insurance Cost?

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