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Personal Care Aides

The Job

According to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, "direct-care workers (home health aides, nurse aides, and personal care aides) represent one of the largest and fastest-growing occupations in the United States. These workers provide an estimated 70 to 80 percent of the paid, hands-on services and supports received by elders and persons with disabilities." They help clients perform a variety of tasks (such as dressing and bathing) that allow them to live in their own homes, although some aides serve clients in care facilities. Personal care aides should not be confused with home health care aides, who work under the supervision of nurses or social workers and perform health-related tasks (as well as a few basic household chores).

Personal care aides are responsible for a variety of tasks depending on the client and work setting, including the following:

  • help clients to bathe, dress, brush their teeth, use the washroom, and perform other personal hygiene tasks
  • help transfer clients from a bed to a wheelchair or vice versa
  • perform housekeeping tasks, such as washing dishes, cleaning living areas, washing clothes, and changing bed linens
  • help clients get exercise or complete at-home physical therapy assignments 
  • help plan and prepare meals
  • organize a client’s daily schedule and plan appointments
  • take clients to medical and dental appointments, grocery shopping, and on other errands (or arrange transportation for their clients)
  • provide general companionship by talking, playing games, watching movies, etc. with the client
  • help clients manage their finances by paying bills and taking the client to the bank or to meet with financial advisors
  • provide special care and assistance to clients with cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s, or mental illness
  • prepare reports for supervisors and family members regarding their client’s mental and physical status

Direct support professionals are specialized personal care aides who work with people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Their duties include creating a behavior plan, teaching self-care (such as doing laundry) and community living skills, and promoting self-determination.