In the coming years, America's aging population will undergo a significant transformation. By the end of this […]
The best home health aides (HHAs) have a unique mix of professional expertise and soft skills. In addition to providing quality health care, caregivers must be able to work with each client's personality.
This HHA skills checklist provides an overview of the skills required of HHAs and is an excellent resource for agencies looking to hire HHAs. Download the HHA Skills Checklist at the end of this article for a more detailed checklist.
Essential HHA Skills
In an entry-level position, most agencies look for the following skills.
Certain character traits directly influence the quality of care an HHA provides. When interviewing candidates, look for:
- Patience: HHAs often deal with challenging situations that require patience, especially when caring for patients with severe illnesses like dementia. For example, caregivers must be able to calmly guide patients through a routine they constantly forget, showing patience and professionalism despite the repetitive nature.
- Compassion: HHAs demonstrate compassion through a variety of activities. In addition to medical care, caregivers may assist patients with other tasks to help them live more comfortably, such as laundry or shopping. Compassion and understanding are essential to comfort patients and help them remain independent.
- Empathy: Empathy is essential for HHAs to form genuine connections with patients. Empathic HHAs listen to their patients' concerns and provide comforting companionship — for example, if a patient is frustrated about their limited mobility, an empathetic HHA actively listens and validates their feelings. This strengthens the caregiver-patient relationship.
A candidate must possess technical skills and aptitude to handle medical equipment, such as oxygen machines, blood pressure monitors, and software for ongoing training. HHAs must also possess basic computer skills to manage their day using a smartphone application, access essential training, and learn any software necessary.
HHAs must effectively manage time to ensure quality care for multiple patients. For instance, the role may require tracking meal times, medical appointments, and medication schedules for multiple patients every day. Efficient time management allows caregivers to plan daily routes, track needs, and complete tasks while staying on schedule.
HHAs must have the physical strength to lift, turn, and move patients to help them get dressed, bathe, sit, stand, and move about the home. They may also need to assist with household chores or meal preparation, so physical stamina is essential to ensure all clients get the service they expect.
Candidates must have basic medical knowledge to provide medical care to their patients, including:
- Administering medication
- Taking a patient’s pulse
- Checking oxygen levels
- Changing dressings for wounds or incisions
- Assisting other professionals, like health or occupational therapy providers
Candidates should be capable of:
- Cleaning the home
- Doing the laundry
- Grocery shopping
- Running errands
In addition to the required skills, you may also consider the following optional skills.
Driver’s license and clean driving record
Some agencies require a driver's license and a driving record free of violations because grocery shopping and running errands can be part of the job. However, driving requirements aren’t always essential, particularly in urban areas where public transportation is widely available.
High school diploma
Candidates may need a high school diploma, on-the-job training, or both. Some agencies require a combination of education and experience.
Proficiency in a foreign language
Speaking multiple languages can be an asset for HHAs, particularly if your agency has clients from other countries. An HHA with advanced language skills can assist more clients.
To be certified in CPR, an HHA has to complete a three-hour class. The Red Cross or American Heart Association often awards CPR certification.
HHA certification requires 75 hours of training. Because this is a significant time commitment, your agency may find candidates easier if you don’t require it. Instead, consider requiring new hires to become HHA certified as part of the onboarding process.
Some states require HHAs to have additional certifications, which can vary from state to state. A few examples include:
- Arizona: Food Labels and Special Diets
- California, Delaware, Illinois, and New York: Sexual Harassment Prevention
- Nevada: Recognizing and Preventing Abuse of Older Persons
- Oregon: Methods and Techniques to Prevent Skin Breakdown, Responding to Non-Medical Emergencies, and The Importance of Proper Hydration
Depending on the needs of your clientele, you may need to hire specially trained HHAs. The following are just a few of the advanced skills agencies seek.
Patients with dementia require specialty care. Dementia can take many forms, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease. Other forms of dementia include:
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Vascular dementia
Each of these can lead to different symptoms and progress in different ways, so consider asking candidates to be specific about their experience in this field.
Beyond dementia, other diseases that require advanced skills specific to their symptoms and treatment include:
- Heart disease
- Parkinson’s disease
For example, Parkinson's patients need home health aides who can provide practical care as well as medical care. For people with Parkinson's disease, walking and staying balanced can be challenging, as can coping with multiple changes and distractions. It's crucial that HHAs are trained on additional safety steps, such as keeping the floor clear, the home well-lit, and following a daily routine.
Monitoring fluid intake and food intake is essential for HHAs. Ensure candidates are familiar with patients' diets and nutritional requirements. HHAs should be knowledgeable about the food pyramid, the effects of dental on diet, and how to ensure patients receive adequate nutrition for overall well-being.
How to Grow Your Talent Pool
If finding qualified candidates is difficult, consider training new hires and existing employees to learn the skills your agency and your patients require.
Offering training to your employees and allowing them to build their skills also improves job satisfaction and employee retention.
CareAcademy makes training easy and accessible for your employees. With an extensive online training library, CareAcademy gives your employees the flexibility and freedom of training anywhere at the time that works best for them.