In 2007, almost 1.5 million patients received home health care each day in the United States, according to the 2007 National Home and Hospice Care Survey. The majority of the patients were 65 or older. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects demand for in-home adult care workers to continue to grow between 2008 and 2018 because families are unable to handle the high costs of inpatient services. Wages for home care workers vary depending on role and expertise.
Home Care Aides
Home care aides can function in a variety of ways. Some focus on offering health care assistance, including giving patients their medications and helping them with supportive devices. Personal care aides, however, are primarily involved in assisting clients with the tasks of daily living such as bathing, cooking meals and cleaning. Because of their more specialized training, home health aides earn higher wages than those working in personal care. Health aides working for home health care services earned an average of $10.10 an hour, according to 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Personal aides, however, earned $8.97 an hour on average working for the same type of employer.
Most nursing assistants work in inpatient facilities; however, home health care agencies are among the top five employers. Nursing assistants typically work under the supervision of nurses and have many duties. They help patients with eating and hygiene, monitor health status, give treatments as instructed and may have light cleaning responsibilities. The average hourly wage for nursing assistants in home health care services was $11.09 in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is 49 cents less than the hourly wage of those working in nursing homes, which is the top employer for nursing assistants.
Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurses
Physicians and registered nurses supervise the work of licensed practical or vocational nurses. These nurses earn about double the hourly wages of nursing assistants because they have more advanced responsibilities including monitoring vital signs, giving injections and collecting samples for testing. Their role in home care may involve providing health education to families and assisting with daily activities. LPNs or LVNs working for home health care agencies earned $20.33 an hour on average in 2009; this was slightly higher than the wages earned working in hospitals, a top employer for nurses.
The top earners working in in-home care are registered nurses. RNs who work in such a capacity often provide aftercare following patients' discharge from an inpatient facility. Physicians develop treatment plans and the home health nurse follows through with these guidelines in the home. The nurses check on patients' status, administer treatment, collect samples, and educate families about proper care. The North Carolina Center for Nursing reports that RNs who have at least a year of experience working in a hospital setting may have an edge when on the hunt for a home health position. The average hourly wage for home health RNs in 2009 was $30.43, about $2 less than the average wage for hospital RNs.