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.
Home health and personal care aides typically do the following:
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.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition