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Is a Home Health Aide the same as a Personal Care Aide?
Personal Care Aides and Home Health Aides help people who are injured, 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 and preparation of meals.
There are many different levels of care that home health and personal care aides provide, including simply helping the client be comfortable, companionship, assistance with activities of daily living (which might include eating, toileting, grooming, dressing, bathing, transferring from bed to chair, mobility and positioning).
The main difference between a personal aide and a home health aide is in the level of medical care they provide.
In some jurisdictions the personal care assistant label is broad; this direct provider of personal care person may be a home health aide, a nurse’s aide, a personal care worker or a nursing assistant, just to name a few. Check with your states definitions to be sure of proper terminology in your area. A personal care aide by any name may provide care for an individual at home care or in a residential care facility, a health care facility or an long term care institution.
Home health aides and Certified Personal Care Aides have more specialized training than personal aides. Usually a home health aide is a certified nursing assistant (CNA) who’s supervised by a nurse. Often, home health aides work for certified nursing or hospice agencies that receive government funding and therefore must comply with regulations regarding documentation, medical supervision, and paperwork. Usually a doctor orders home care if an older adult is determined to be unable to care for himself or herself — during post-surgery rehabilitation, for example — and is therefore more likely to be covered by insurance.
Home health aides and Certified Personal Care Aides typically help administer medications and can help older adults with prescribed exercises and physical therapy routines. With proper training, they can change simple dressings, give massages, and assist with braces and mobility devices. Also, with specialized training, a home health aide can operate and troubleshoot medical equipment such as home oxygen or ventilators.
Training and employment of Personal Care Aides
Personal Care Aides (PCA) provide routine health and personal care support and assistance with activities of daily living to patients with physical impairments or disabilities in private homes, nursing care facilities, and other residential settings. According to the International Standard Classification of Occupations, they usually do not require extensive health care knowledge or training to practice their profession, but typically require a high level of manual dexterity and good interpersonal communication skills.
Certified Personal Care Aides can help clients with mobility restrictions to get out of bed, bathe, dress, and groom. They might provide some basic health-related services, such as checking the patient’s pulse rate, temperature, and respiration rate; helping with simple prescribed exercises; and assisting with medications administration. They may advise families and patients on nutrition, cleanliness, and household tasks. Depending on the clients’ needs, they may change simple dressings, provide skin care, or assist with braces and artificial limbs. Some accompany clients to doctors’ appointments or on other errands, and may also provide light housekeeping and homemaking tasks.
A PCA may be either independently contracted on a freelance basis directly by the person needing the assistance or their family, or employed by a larger staff network of care providers, such as in an assisted living facility, or employed by a private, government-operated or community-based organization that systematically dispatches providers of personal care to persons in need. The PCA may work exclusively with one client, or have a number of different clients. Some PCAs work with clients with long-term care needs, while others may primarily help discharge hospital patients who have relatively short-term needs.
- World Health Organization: Classifying health workers. Geneva, WHO, 2010.
- “DEFINITION OF CARING FOR ELDERLY”. LiveStrong.com. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- International Labour Organization: International Standard Classification of Occupations, ISCO-2008: Minor group 532-Personal care workers in health services. Geneva, ILO, 2010.
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition: Home Health Aides and Personal and Home Care Aides
- OECD: Long-term Care for Older People. Paris, OECD