Home Health and Personal Care Aides

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Summary

Home health and personal care aides
Home health and personal care aides help people in their own homes or in residential facilities.
Quick Facts: Home Health and Personal Care Aides
2010 Median Pay $20,170 per year
$9.70 per hour
Entry-Level Education Less than high school
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2010 1,878,700
Job Outlook, 2010-20 70% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2010-20 1,313,200

What Home Health and Personal Care Aides Do

Home health and personal care aides help people who are disabled, chronically ill, or cognitively impaired. They also help older adults who may need assistance. They help with activities such as bathing and dressing, and they provide services such as light housekeeping. In some states, 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.

Work Environment

Home health and personal care aides work in a variety of settings. Most work in a client’s home; others work in small group homes or larger care communities.

How to Become a Home Health or Personal Care Aide

There are no formal education requirements for home health and personal care aides. Home health aides working in certified home health or hospice agencies must get formal training and pass a standardized test.

Pay

The median annual wage of home health aides was $20,560 in May 2010. The median annual wage of personal care aides was $19,640 in May 2010.

Job Outlook

Employment of home health aides is expected to grow by 69 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of personal care aides is expected to grow by 70 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of home health and personal care aides with similar occupations.

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What Home Health and Personal Care Aides Do About this section

Home health and personal care aides
Aides provide light housekeeping and homemaking tasks, including planning and preparing meals.

Home health and personal care aides help people who are disabled, chronically ill, or cognitively impaired. They also help older adults who may need assistance. They help with activities such as bathing and dressing, and they provide services such as light housekeeping. In some states, 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 and personal care aides typically do the following:

  • Help clients in their daily personal tasks, such as bathing or dressing
  • Do light housekeeping, such as laundry, washing dishes, and  vacuuming in a client’s home
  • Organize a client’s schedule and plan appointments
  • Arrange transportation to doctors’ offices or for other kinds of outings
  • Shop for groceries and prepare meals
  • Provide companionship

Aides often keep track of when a client’s prescriptions need to be filled or when the client has his or her next doctor’s appointment. Aides may prepare leisure activities, including exercise, to keep their clients active and healthy. They may go for walks with their clients or play games with them. In some states, home health aides may be able to provide some medical services. Aides may be expected to complete unpleasant tasks such as emptying a client’s bedpan or changing soiled bed linens.

Some aides are hired directly by the client or the client's family. In these situations, the client or the client's family supervises the aide and gives the aide tasks to do.

Home health aides, unlike personal care aides, typically work for certified home health or hospice agencies that receive government funding and therefore must comply with regulations. They work under the direct supervision of a medical professional, usually a nurse. These aides keep records of services performed and of the client's condition and progress. They report changes in the client's condition to the supervisor or case manager. Aides also work with therapists and other medical staff.

Home health aides may provide some basic health-related services, such as checking clients' pulse, temperature, and respiration rate. They also may help with simple prescribed exercises and with giving medications. Occasionally, they change simple 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—also called homemakers, caregivers, companions, and personal attendants—provide clients with companionship and help with daily tasks in a client’s home. They are often hired in addition to other medical health workers, such as hospice workers, who may visit a client’s home. Personal care aides do not provide any type of medical service.

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

Work Environment About this section

Home health and personal care aides
Home health aides may provide some basic health-related services, such as checking a client’s pulse.

Home health and personal care aides held about 1.9 million jobs in 2010. They work in a variety of settings. Most work in a client’s home; others work in small group homes or larger care communities. Some aides go to the same home every day or week for months or even years. Some visit four or five clients on the same day. Others work only with one client all day. This may involve working with other aides in shifts so the client always has an aide. They may help people in hospices and day services programs and may also help people with disabilities go to work and stay engaged in their communities.

The following industries employed the largest numbers of home health aides in 2010:

Home health care services34%
Residential mental retardation facilities16
Services for the elderly and persons with disabilities14
Community care facilities for the elderly14
Nursing care facilities4

The following industries employed the largest numbers of personal care aides in 2010:

Services for the elderly and persons with disabilities33%
Home health care services26
Private households10
Vocational rehabilitation services5

About 7 percent of personal care aides were self-employed in 2010.

Injuries

Home health and personal care aides had a higher-than-average number of work-related injuries and illnesses in 2010. Work as an aide can be physically and emotionally demanding. Aides must guard against back injury because they may have to move clients into and out of bed or help them to stand or walk.

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

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

Home health and personal care aides
Aides may help clients get out of bed, bathe, dress, and groom.

There are no formal education requirements for home health and personal care aides, but most aides have a high school diploma. Home health aides working in certified home health or hospice agencies must get formal training and pass a standardized test.

Education and Training

Although a high school diploma or equivalent is not generally required, most aides have one before entering the occupation. They usually are trained on the job by nurses, other aides, or supervisors.

Aides may be trained in housekeeping tasks, such as cooking for clients who have special dietary needs. They learn basic safety techniques, including how to respond in an emergency.

A competency evaluation may be required to ensure that the aide can perform some required tasks. Clients have their own preferences and aides may need time to become comfortable working with them.

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 health care agencies. In addition, states may conduct background checks on prospective aides.

Without additional training, advancement in this occupation is limited. 

Important Qualities

Detail oriented­. Home health and personal care aides must follow specific rules and protocols to help take care of clients.

Interpersonal skills. Home health and personal care aides must work closely with their clients. Sometimes, clients are in extreme pain or mental stress, and aides must be sensitive to their emotions. Aides must be cheerful, compassionate, and emotionally stable. They must enjoy helping people.

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

Time management skills. Clients and their families rely on home health and personal care aides. Therefore, it is important that aides stick to the agreed-upon schedule and arrive when they are expected.

Certification

Home health aides who work for agencies that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid must get a minimum level of training and pass a competency evaluation or receive state certification. Training includes learning about personal hygiene, reading and recording vital signs, infection control, and basic nutrition. Aides may take a competency exam to become certified without taking any training. These are the minimum requirements by law; additional requirements for certification vary by state.

Aides can be certified by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). Although certification is not always required, employers prefer to hire certified aides. Certification requires 75 hours of training, observation and documentation of 17 skills demonstrating competency, and passing a written exam.

Pay About this section

Home Health and Personal Care Aides

Median annual wages, May 2010

Total, All Occupations

$33,840

Healthcare Support Occupations

$24,760

Home Health Aides

$20,560

Other Personal Care and Service Workers

$20,420

Personal Care Aides

$19,640

 

The median annual wage of home health aides was $20,560 in May 2010. 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 $16,300, and the top 10 percent earned more than $29,390.

The median annual wage of personal care aides was $19,640 in May 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $15,970, and the top 10 percent earned more than $25,900.

Job Outlook About this section

Home Health and Personal Care Aides

Percent change in employment, projected 2010-20

Personal Care Aides

70%

Home Health Aides

69%

Other Personal Care and Service Workers

35%

Healthcare Support Occupations

34%

Total, All Occupations

14%

 

Employment of home health aides is expected to grow by 69 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of personal care aides is expected to grow by 70 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As the baby-boom population ages and the elderly population grows, the demand for home health and personal care aides to provide assistance and companionship will continue to increase. Older clients often have health problems and need some help with daily activities.

Elderly and disabled clients increasingly rely on home care as a less expensive alternative to nursing homes or hospitals. Clients who need help with everyday tasks and household chores, rather than medical care, can reduce their medical expenses by returning to their homes.

Another reason for home care is that most clients prefer to be cared for in their homes, where they are most comfortable. Studies have found that home treatment is often more effective than care in a nursing home or hospital.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for both home health aides and personal care aides are excellent. These occupations are large and expected to grow very quickly, thus adding many jobs. In addition, the low pay and high emotional demands cause many workers to leave these occupations, and they will have to be replaced.

Employment projections data for home health and personal care aides, 2010-20
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2010 Projected Employment, 2020 Change, 2010-20 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Home Health and Personal Care Aides

1,878,700 3,191,900 70 1,313,200

Home Health Aides

31-1011 1,017,700 1,723,900 69 706,300 [XLS]

Personal Care Aides

39-9021 861,000 1,468,000 70 607,000 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of home health and personal care aides.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2010 MEDIAN PAY Help
Child care workers

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers care for children when parents and other family members are unavailable. They care for children’s basic needs, such as bathing and feeding. In addition, some help children prepare for kindergarten, and many help older children with homework.

High school diploma or equivalent $19,300
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (known as LPNs or LVNs, depending on the state in which they work) provide basic nursing care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

Postsecondary non-degree award $40,380
Medical assistants

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.

High school diploma or equivalent $28,860
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants

Nursing Aides, Orderlies, and Attendants

Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

Postsecondary non-degree award $24,010
Registered nurses

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.

Associate’s degree $64,690
Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists in treating patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.

See How to Become One $47,490
Physical therapist assistants and aides

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Physical therapist assistants and physical therapist aides work under the direction of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries, illnesses, and surgeries regain movement and manage pain.

See How to Become One $37,710
Radiation therapists

Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by giving radiation treatments.

Associate’s degree $74,980
Social and human service assistants

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants help people get through difficult times or get additional support. They help other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

High school diploma or equivalent $28,200
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Home Health and Personal Care Aides,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home-health-and-personal-care-aides.htm (visited March 05, 2015).

Publish Date: Thursday, April 5, 2012