Home health aides and personal care aides help people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or cognitive impairment by assisting in their daily living activities.
What they do
Home health aides and personal care aides 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.
They 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.
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.
How to become a Home Health Aide and Personal Care Aide
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Similar Job Titles
Caregiver, Certified Home Health Aide (CHHA), Certified Medical Aide (CMA), Certified Nurse’s Aide (CNA), Home Attendant, Home Care Aide, Home Health Aide (HHA), Home Health Provider, Hospice/Home Health Aide, In Home Caregiver, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Home Care Aide, Home Health Care Provider, Medication Aide, Patient Care Assistant (PCA), Personal Care Aide, Personal Care Assistant (PCA), Personal Care Attendant (PCA), Resident Care Assistant (RCA)
Psychiatric Aide, Occupational Therapy Aide, Physical Therapist Aide, Childcare Worker, Personal Care Aide, Home Health Aide, Funeral Attendant, Transportation Attendant (except Flight Attendant)
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Red Cross - The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
- National Association for Home Care and Hospice - The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) is the largest and most respected professional association representing the interests of chronically ill, disabled, and dying Americans of all ages and the caregivers who provide them with in-home health and hospice services. NAHC is a trade association that represents the nation’s 33,000 home care and hospice organizations.
Magazines and Publications
Home health aides and personal care aides make a major difference in the lives of their clients— providing essential health care that their families may not be able to offer. Home health aides help the elderly… people with disabilities… and those recovering from illness… with basic healthcare tasks such as changing dressings and administering medications. They monitor their clients’ health and report changes in status to licensed nursing staff, who direct their work. Personal care aides —sometimes called caregivers or personal attendants— generally provide only non-medical services, including companionship, cleaning, cooking, and driving. Their clients may be elderly, or have developmental or intellectual disabilities. Both personal care aides and home health aides may help with routine tasks like feeding, bathing, and dressing. Most aides work in clients’ homes, but they may also work in group homes, hospice care, and adult daycare facilities. Some see the same client daily for years, while others work with new clients often. Full-time work is common but many aides work part time… their schedules generally depend on clients’ needs. Most aides have a high school diploma, although not all positions require it. Jobs in certified home health or hospice agencies require formal training and certification. Some states require additional certification. While these careers can be emotionally and physically demanding —clients… and their families… rely on the skills and integrity of home health and personal care aides.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org