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What Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides Do About this section

home health aides image
Personal care aides assist clients in everyday tasks.

Home health aides and personal care aides help people with disabilities, chronic illness, or cognitive impairment by assisting in their daily living activities. They often help older adults who need assistance. Home health aides may be able to give a client medication or check the client’s vital signs under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.

Duties

Home health aides and personal care aides typically do the following:

  • Assist clients in their daily personal tasks, such as bathing or dressing
  • Housekeeping, such as laundry, washing dishes, and vacuuming
  • Help to organize a client’s schedule and plan appointments
  • Arrange transportation to doctors’ offices or other outings
  • Shop for groceries and prepare meals to meet a client’s dietary specifications
  • Keep clients engaged in their social networks and communities

Home health aides may provide some basic health-related services (depending on the state they work in), such as checking a client’s pulse, temperature, and respiration rate. They may also help with simple prescribed exercises and or with giving medications. Occasionally, they change bandages or dressings, give massages, care for skin, or help with braces and artificial limbs. With special training, experienced home health aides also may help with medical equipment such as ventilators, which help clients breathe.

Personal care aides—sometimes called caregivers or personal attendants—are generally limited to providing non-medical services, including companionship, cleaning, cooking, and driving.

Direct support professionals work with people who have developmental or intellectual disabilities. They may help create a behavior plan and teach self-care skills, such as doing laundry or cooking meals.

Certified home health or hospice agencies often receive payments from government programs and therefore must comply with regulations regarding aides’ employment. Aides work under the direct supervision of medical professionals, usually nurses. These aides keep records of services performed and of clients’ conditions and progress. They report changes in clients’ conditions to supervisors or case managers, and work with therapists and other medical staff.

Work Environment About this section

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Most aides work in a client's home; others work in small group homes or larger care communities.

Home health aides and personal care aides held about 3.4 million jobs in 2019. The largest employers of home health aides and personal care aides were as follows:

Individual and family services 44%
Home healthcare services 25
Residential intellectual and developmental disability facilities 7
Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly 7

Most home health aides and personal care aides work in clients’ homes; others work in small group homes or larger care communities. Some visit four or five clients in the same day, and others only work with one client all day—in some cases staying with one client on a long-term basis. They may work with other aides in shifts so that the client always has an aide. They help people in hospices and day services programs, and may travel as they also help people with disabilities go to work and stay engaged in their communities.

Injuries and Illnesses

Work as a home health or personal care aide can be physically and emotionally demanding. Because they often move clients into and out of bed or help with standing or walking, aides must use proper lifting techniques to guard against back injury.

In addition, aides frequently work with clients who have cognitive impairments or mental health issues and who may display difficult or violent behaviors. Aides also face hazards from minor infections and exposure to communicable diseases but can lessen their chance of infection by following proper procedures.

Work Schedules

Most aides work full-time. They may work evening and weekend hours, depending on their clients’ needs.

How to Become a Home Health Aide or Personal Care Aide About this section

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Some home health aides may work under the direction of other health professionals to administer medications to clients.

Home health aides and personal care aides typically need a high school diploma or equivalent, though some positions do not require it. Those working in certified home health or hospice agencies must complete formal training and pass a standardized test.

Education

Home health aides and personal care aides typically need a high school diploma or equivalent, though some positions do not require it. There are also postsecondary nondegree award programs at community colleges and vocational schools.

Training

Home health aides and personal care aides may be trained in housekeeping tasks, such as cooking for clients who have special dietary needs. Aides may learn basic safety techniques, including how to respond in an emergency. Specific training may be needed for certification if state certification is required.

Training may be done on the job or through specialized programs. Training typically includes learning about personal hygiene, reading and recording vital signs, infection control, and basic nutrition.

In addition, clients have their own preferences, and aides may need time to become comfortable working with them.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Aides who work for agencies that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid must get a minimum level of training and pass a competency evaluation to be certified. Some states allow aides to take a competency exam in order to become certified without taking any training.

Additional requirements for certification vary by state. In some states, the only requirement for employment is on-the-job training, which employers generally provide. Other states require formal training, which is available from community colleges, vocational schools, elder care programs, and home healthcare agencies. In addition, states may conduct background checks on prospective aides. For specific state requirements, contact the state’s health board.

Aides also may be required to obtain CPR certification.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Home health aides and personal care aides must adhere to specific rules and protocols and carefully follow instructions to help take care of clients. Aides must carefully follow instructions from healthcare professionals, such as how to care for wounds or how to identify changes in a client’s condition.

Integrity. Home health aides and personal care aides should make clients feel comfortable when they tend to personal activities, such as helping a client bathe. In addition, aides must be dependable and trustworthy so that clients and their families can rely on them.

Interpersonal skills. Home health aides and personal care aides must work closely with clients. Sometimes, clients are in extreme pain or distress, and aides must be sensitive to their emotions. Aides must be compassionate, and they must enjoy helping people.

Physical stamina. Home health aides and personal care aides should be comfortable performing physical tasks. They might need to lift or turn clients.

Pay About this section

Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides

Median annual wages, May 2019

Total, all occupations

$39,810

Home health and personal care aides; and nursing assistants, orderlies, and psychiatric aides

$26,380

Home health and personal care aides

$25,280

 

The median annual wage for home health aides and personal care aides was $25,280 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $19,430, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $34,180.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for home health aides and personal care aides in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Residential intellectual and developmental disability facilities $25,680
Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly 25,660
Individual and family services 25,330
Home healthcare services 24,670

Most aides work full-time. They may work evening and weekend hours, depending on their clients’ needs.

Job Outlook About this section

Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Home health and personal care aides

34%

Home health and personal care aides; and nursing assistants, orderlies, and psychiatric aides

25%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Overall employment of home health aides and personal care aides is projected to grow 34 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the baby-boom generation ages and the elderly population grows, the demand for the services of home health aides and personal care aides will continue to increase.

Elderly clients and people with disabilities are increasingly relying on home care as an alternative to nursing homes or hospitals. Families may prefer to keep aging family members in their homes rather than in nursing homes or hospitals. Clients who need help with everyday tasks and household chores, rather than medical care, may be able to reduce their medical expenses by staying in or returning to their homes.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for home health aides and personal care aides are excellent. These occupations are large and are projected to add many jobs. In addition, the low pay and high emotional demands may cause many workers to leave this occupation, and they will have to be replaced.

Employment projections data for home health aides and personal care aides, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Home health and personal care aides

31-1120 3,439,700 4,599,200 34 1,159,500 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about home health aides and personal care aides, including voluntary credentials for aides, visit

American Society on Aging

National Association for Home Care & Hospice

Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute

O*NET

Home Health Aides

Personal Care Aides

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