Personal Care Aide

Personal care aides, or personal care assistants (PCA), homemakers, or simply caregivers – as they are commonly known – are individuals employed to help the disabled, the cognitively impaired, chronically ill, or older adults in need of assistance with their activities of daily living (ADLs), both within and outside the home.

As personal attendants, they offer clients companionship and provide help with daily activities at the client’s location. They are often hired along with medical care workers, like hospice workers, who may perform home visits. Medical service does not fall under the responsibility of the personal care aide, but are offered at the client’s home by home health aides.

Job Overview

Here are some of the tasks that can be performed by PCAs:

  • Light housekeeping (doing the laundry and the dishes, vacuuming) and meal preparation.
  • Helping with daily tasks, for example offering help with bathing, dressing and eating. Activities such as emptying changing soiled or bedding the patient’s bedpan may be necessary to perform.
  • Organizing the client’s schedule and planning appointments.
  • Shopping for groceries and other items of personal need.
  • Providing companionship.
  • Arranging transportation for outings, such as to the MD’s office.
  • Preparing leisure and exercise activities. For example, they can take the client for walks or join them in playing games.

The client’s family may supervise the aide and give him or her tasks to perform.


In 2010, the median annual wage of personal care aides was, according to the BLS, $19,640. Those who earned the least earned less than $15,970 and those who earned the most earned $25,900.


Despite the fact that a high school diploma or the equivalent is not necessarily asked for, most personal care aides have one. Training is usually received on the job, from other aides or supervisors. Training can refer to housekeeping tasks, like cooking for clients who must follow a special diet. Safety techniques and response to emergency situations are also taught. Competency evaluations may be needed.

There are states where on-the-job training is considered sufficient for entering the job. This training can generally be provided by the employers. Other states however ask that formal training be completed. Formal training can be provided by community colleges, vocational schools or elder care programs. Background checks of the future aides might also be performed.

Reviews & Advice

A personal care aide must be detailed oriented, have good interpersonal skills, physical stamina and appropriate time management skills. Specific rules and protocols must be followed in taking care of patients. Working close with their clients, PCAs must communicate well and have empathy. Their clients can sometimes suffer extreme pain or mental stress, thus they need to be taken care or with sensibility.

The schedule set for visiting the client’s home is important for both the client and his or her family, therefore time management must be valued. Being physically fit is important because the PCA might need to lift or turn clients with disabilities. A cheerful and emotionally stable PCA is a positive companion for the client.

Personal care aides can be employed by the following industries: services for the elderly and persons with disabilities, home health care services, private households and vocational rehabilitation services.

During the interval of 2010-2020, the employment of PCAs is expected to grow by as much as 70 percent. This is a much faster growth than the average for all other occupations. One reason is that many clients prefer to be cared for at home rather than in special facilities, feeling more comfortable in their own homes.

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