Skip to Main Content

Home Health Care Aides


Family photographs from the last century frequently included a grandparent posed alongside the children or an elderly aunt or uncle arm-in-arm with a niece or nephew. A typical household of the time often counted an elderly parent or ill or injured relative among its members. Without most of the modern conveniences we take for granted today, day-to-day living and regular household chores could be impossible for someone weakened by illness or age. It was often expected that elderly parents would move in with their adult children when they became unable to look after themselves; sometimes a room was prepared and waiting for them long in advance. In rural situations, elderly parents might have been expected to give up the homestead to a child or grandchild once they became incapable of looking after the place themselves.

Those without families were sometimes confined to hospitals or sanatoriums. People with contagious diseases or disabilities who required constant supervision were also cared for in institutions. Even with family, however, the needs of the elderly or infirm person often exceeded the facilities, time, and energy that the family had to offer. The business of running a household left little time for the family to tend to the needs of the terminally or seriously ill.

Rural areas often made "visiting nurses" available to check on patients who lived far from town and lacked regular transportation for medical visits. These nurses eventually discovered that the needs of the patients went beyond medical care. Patients were grateful for the company of another person in their homes, someone to read their mail to them or run errands. They were grateful not to have to abandon their own homes just because they needed a little assistance from time to time. As the demand for this kind of home care advanced, home attendants found that people needed their services on a more consistent and regular basis, and the profession of home care aides began to grow.

Advances in modern medicine have made it possible for many illnesses to be treated at home. Hospitals and stores now rent items such as wheelchairs and oxygen tanks, enabling people to have medical equipment available in their own homes. The medical profession is also learning how a person's recovery and treatment can be affected by his or her environment. People generally recover from illnesses better when they are treated in their home environment.

Related Professions