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What Home Health and Personal Care Aides Do About this section

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

Home health and personal care aides monitor the condition of people with disabilities or chronic illnesses and help them with daily living activities. They often help older adults who need assistance. Under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner, home health aides may be allowed to give a client medication or to check the client’s vital signs.

Duties

Home health and personal care aides typically do the following:

  • Assist clients in their daily personal tasks, such as bathing or dressing
  • Perform housekeeping tasks, 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—such as checking a client’s pulse, temperature, and respiration rate—depending on the state in which they work. They also may help with simple prescribed exercises and 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 to help clients breathe.

Home health aides are supervised by medical practitioners, usually nurses, and may work with therapists and other medical staff. These aides keep records on the client, such as services received, condition, and progress. They report changes in the client’s condition to a supervisor or case manager.

Personal care aides, sometimes called caregivers or personal attendants, are generally limited to providing nonmedical services, including companionship, cleaning, cooking, and driving. Some of these aides work specifically with people who have developmental or intellectual disabilities to help create a behavior plan and teach self-care skills, such as doing laundry or cooking meals.

Work Environment About this section

Home health aides image.
Many aides work in clients’ homes; others work in group homes or care communities.

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

Many home health and personal care aides work in clients’ homes; others work in group homes or care communities. Some aides work with only one client, while others work with groups of clients. They sometimes stay with one client on a long-term basis or for a specific purpose, such as hospice care. They may work with other aides in shifts so that the client always has an aide.

Aides may travel as they 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 may 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, although part-time work is common. They may work evening and weekend hours, depending on their clients’ needs. Work schedules may vary.

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

Home health aides image.
Under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner, home health aides may be allowed to give a client medication.

Home health and personal care aides typically need a high school diploma or equivalent, but 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 and personal care aides typically need a high school diploma or equivalent, although some positions do not require a formal educational credential. Postsecondary nondegree award programs are available at community colleges and vocational schools.

Training

Home health 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. If state certification is required, specific training may be needed.

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

In addition, individual clients may have preferences that aides need time to learn.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Home health and personal care aides may need to meet requirements specific to the state in which they work. For example, some states require home health aides to have a license or certification, which may involve completing training and passing a background check and a competency exam. For more information, check with your state board of health.

Certified home health or hospice agencies that receive payments from federally funded programs, such as Medicare, must comply with regulations regarding aides’ employment. Private care agencies that do not receive federal funds may have other employment requirements that vary by state. 

Aides also may be required to obtain certification in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Home health and personal care aides must adhere to specific rules and protocols to help care for clients. They must carefully follow instructions, such as how to care for wounds, that they receive from other healthcare workers.

Emotional skills. Home health and personal care aides must be sensitive to clients’ needs, especially while in extreme pain or distress. Aides must be compassionate and enjoy helping people.

Integrity. Home health and personal care aides must be dependable and trustworthy so that clients and their families can rely on them. They also should be respectful when tending to personal activities, such as helping clients bathe.

Interpersonal skills. Home health and personal care aides must be able to communicate with clients and other healthcare workers. They need to listen closely to what they are being told and convey information clearly.

Physical stamina. Home health and personal care aides should be comfortable doing physical tasks. They might need to be on their feet for many hours or do strenuous tasks, such as lifting or turning clients.

Pay About this section

Home Health and Personal Care Aides

Median annual wages, May 2020

Total, all occupations

$41,950

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

$28,270

Home health and personal care aides

$27,080

 

The median annual wage for home health and personal care aides was $27,080 in May 2020. 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 $20,130, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $36,990.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for home health and personal care aides in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly $27,430
Individual and family services 27,360
Residential intellectual and developmental disability facilities 27,300
Home healthcare services 26,220

Most aides work full-time, although part-time work is common. They may work evening and weekend hours, depending on their clients’ needs. Work schedules may vary.

Job Outlook About this section

Home Health 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 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 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

About 568,800 openings for home health and personal care aides are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment projections data for home health 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 and personal care aides, visit

American Society on Aging

National Association for Home Care & Hospice

PHI

For more information about licensing and certification requirements, check with your state board of health.

CareerOneStop

For a career video on home health aides, visit

Home Health Aides

For a career video on personal care aides, visit

Personal Care Aides

O*NET

Home Health Aides

Personal Care Aides

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