Home support workers help people who can't manage everyday activities by
themselves. They provide emotional and physical support.
Also called home health aides, home care providers, home support specialists
and nurse assistants, these workers help the elderly, weak, disabled and ill
in many ways. They may prepare meals, do laundry and housekeeping. They may
also help their clients with ordinary tasks, such as answering mail, paying
bills or using the telephone.
Home support workers also provide personal care to their clients. Personal
care may include giving baths, cutting hair or nails, or helping clients dress.
Workers with medical training may help to preserve their clients' health.
They may ensure medication is taken properly, or help clients with therapeutic
"Home support services can range from somebody who has gone through nursing
and is providing one-on-one support for somebody who isn't able to bathe themselves
or feed themselves, to somebody who just simply comes and helps them mow their
lawn because they're not that mobile anymore, so they need a little help doing
that sort of thing," says Kevin Martin. He's a home support specialist.
There were 1,738,800 home health aides, and personal and home care aides
in the U.S. in 2008. That number is expected to grow to 2,575,600 by 2018,
an increase of 48 percent! This is according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
The goal of a home support worker is to help people remain in their homes
and live independently. Without the help of these workers, many sick and elderly
people would have to move to hospitals or nursing homes.
Teri Christian is the client service manager for a home care company in
Washington State. The company employs about 75 home care workers. She says
people are much more aware of home care than they were 20 years ago. And attitudes
and expectations regarding care for seniors are changing.
"[Twenty years ago] it was, if you're sick you go in a nursing home, that's
it," says Christian. "But now people are just so much more aware of their
options. There's the Internet [so] there's just so much more information available.
And the elderly community is growing."
Home support workers are often part of a team of people working with a
client. The team may include nurses, physiotherapists, social workers and
other health professionals.
In some states, before you can become a home support worker, you have to
pass a criminal background check and prove that you've taken courses, such
as CPR training. Nursing homes, government-funded agencies and private home
care companies often require such training and background checks.
A key duty of home support workers is to observe and report any problems
or progress that their clients are making.
Resident care attendants do much the same type of work as home support
workers. However, home support workers work in clients' homes. Resident care
attendants work in care facilities, such as nursing or retirement homes.
Many hospitals are now discharging patients early and sending them home
to complete their recovery. Home support workers are needed to help patients
manage at home until they're able to take care of themselves.
The hours of work vary for home support workers. Workers may have the same
client for years or for just a few days. Depending on the client, home support
workers may be called upon to work at any hour.
Though most home support workers are not certified nurses, there are a
number who do have some medical training for specific types of patients, such
as cancer patients and those who have suffered a stroke.
Most home support workers are employed by home health agencies, nurse associations,
residential care facilities with home health departments, hospitals, public
health departments, community volunteer agencies and temporary help firms.
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Provide support and care to people in their homes
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Home Health Aides
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