Healthcare Career Spotlight: the Personal Care Assistant

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Personal care assistants, also known as direct care workers, personal care attendants, direct care staff, home care aides, paid caregivers, healthcare assistants, carers, home health or personal care aides, are allied healthcare workers who provide hands-on assistance to clients who are not able to help themselves.

The clients of personal care assistants are often unable to help themselves due to a wide variety of reasons that might include lengthy illness, cognitive or mental impairment, acute injury, physical disability, advanced age, weakness or fragility. Other clients may be rendered unable to care for themselves due to intellectual and developmental disabilities, limited mobility, paralysis, debility or congenital handicaps.

Personal care assistants typically work in the home setting and assist their clients with various activities of daily living, such as showering, bathing, toileting, feeding, grooming, and taking medications. Personal care assistants may also be responsible for other tasks such as meal preparation, light housekeeping duties, and companionship.

In addition to the aforementioned tasks, personal care assistants might also assist their clients in the instrumental activities of daily living that help ensure households run smoothly. These instrumental activities can include the provision or arrangement of transportation, physicians’ appointments, ensuring clients take their medications, and other duties. Personal care assistants often serve as companions to their clients.

Most personal care assistants are employed by home care agencies to report to the homes of clients, while some personal care assistants are hired directly into private duty cases by clients or family members of the client. Likewise, some personal care assistants are employed by personal care group homes, assisted living facilities and independent living complexes where they often report directly or indirectly to a licensed nurse.

The typical personal care assistant tends to work long hours. Their role can be physically demanding on occasion due to lifting requirements and extended periods of time spent in a standing position. Nonetheless, this healthcare career can be very fulfilling due to the profound sense of purpose many workers derive after helping people who cannot help themselves. Providing companionship to clients can be invigorating.

The majority of personal care assistants have earned a minimum of a high school diploma or general education diploma (GED) certificate, but this level of education is not required by all employers. Sometimes the training for the personal care assistant role is done on the job by licensed nurses or other assistants with more experience.

The on-the-job training typically provided to personal care assistants is comprised of safety information, response to common emergency issues, and other duties specific to the home or employer. Additional training topics may include proper body mechanics, self-care techniques, and ways to deal with difficult client behaviors.

A number of states may require personal care assistants to complete more formalized occupational training from an adult education center, vocational school, nurse aide training academy, community college program or other home health entity. Also, certification is mandated for all personal care assistants who work for companies that receive reimbursements and payments from the Medicare or Medicaid programs.

A healthcare career as a personal care assistant opens the doors to wonderful attributes such as steady income and job security. The Baby Boomer generation is aging and becoming elderly; therefore, personal care assistant job openings will increase at a speedy pace in the foreseeable future. Personal care assistant job openings are projected to increase by 69 percent, much faster than the average of all other occupations.

 

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