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Home Health Aide
Home health aides provide routine, personal healthcare, such as bathing, dressing or grooming, to elderly, convalescent or disabled persons in their own home or in a residential care facility.

Home health aides make it possible for people requiring such care, to live in their own homes instead of in health care facilities. Under the direction of nursing or medical staff, they provide health-related services, such as administering oral medications. They may check a patient’s pulse, temperature and respiration rate, help with simple prescribed exercises, help patients get in and out of beds, baths, wheelchairs or cars, and with dressing and grooming. Occasionally, they may be required to change non-sterile dressings, give massages and apply preparations and treatments, such as liniment, alcohol rubs and heat-lamp stimulation, or assist with braces and artificial limbs.

Experienced home health aides, with proper training, may also assist with operating medical equipment such as ventilators, which enable patients to breathe. In some cases they may be asked by the client to do other duties, such as obtaining household supplies and running errands. They may be required to accompany clients to doctors’ rooms and on other trips outside the home, providing transportation, assistance and companionship.

Their tasks may include any of the following:
care for children who are disabled or who have sick or disabled parents
to maintain accurate records of patient care, condition, progress and problems in order to report and discuss observations with a supervisor or case manager
provide patients and families with emotional support and instruction in areas such as infant care, the preparation of healthy meals, living independently, and coping with disability or illness
change bed linens, wash and iron patients’ laundry, and clean patients’ quarters
entertain, converse with, or read aloud to patients to keep them mentally healthy and alert
plan, purchase ingredients, prepare and serve meals to patients and other family members, according to prescribed diets.

Home health aides may work with the same patient at their home for months or even years. However, most aides work with a number of different patients, each job lasting a few hours, days, or weeks. Home health aides often visit many different patients on the same day.

Home health aides generally work alone, with periodic visits from their supervisor. They receive detailed instructions explaining when to visit patients and what services to perform. Aides are individually responsible for getting to patients’ homes, and they may spend a good portion of the working day travelling from one patient to another. Because mechanical lifting devices usually available in institutional settings are not as frequently available in patients’ homes, home health aides must take extra care to avoid injuries resulting from over-exertion or muscle strain when they assist patients.

Psychiatric aides, also known as mental health assistants or psychiatric nursing assistants, care for mentally impaired or emotionally disturbed individuals. They work as part of a team that may include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, and therapists.

Satisfying Aspects
- helping others
- working with people
- being part of the medical profession
- the challenge and variety of their work

Demanding aspects
- long hours and having to work shifts, including nights, weekends and holidays
- being on your feet all day long
- many routine duties
- rude and over-demanding patients
- working under pressure
- clients who do not explain instructions clearly

- strong desire to help others
- enjoy working with people, being patient
- being responsible and dependable
- able to follow orders carefully
- able to take the initiative in emergencies
- being sympathetic and flexible
- good communication skills
- able to work well under pressure
- emotionally stable and physically fit to be able to work long hours

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate

Compulsory Subjects: None
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences

Home health aides are usually trained on the job by registered nurses or experienced aides. Clients may prefer tasks to be done in a certain way, and instruct the home health aide on how the tasks should be done.

- health and welfare organisations
- nursing agencies
- self-employment

The South African Nursing Council (SANC)   
P O Box 1123
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 420-1000 Fax: (012) 343-5400

Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA
P O Box 1280
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 343-2315/6/7 Fax: (012) 344-0750