How to Become a Home Care Assistant

How to Become a Home Care Assistant

How to Become a HomeCare Aide/Assistant


By Kelli Hansen, RN

Personal care aide helping an elderly woman get used to her walker

Home care assistants serve a vital role in providing much-needed
assistance to the elderly, disabled, and chronically ill populations
within our communities. They care for patients who independently are
unable to maintain good hygiene, proper nutrition, and a clean living
space. They may also assist with daily activities and recreation if
needed by the patient.

“Home care assistant” is often a generalized term used to refer
collectively to two different branches of assistants: personal care
aides and home health aides. Each branch varies in job function and

Home health aides (HHAs) help
patients with personal necessities like dressing, bathing, and hygiene
needs. By assisting with housekeeping and other IADLs (instrumental
activities of daily life) like cooking and laundry, HHAs enable clients
to live safely in their own homes, greatly improving their quality of
life in the process. Aides may have to document the patient’s condition
and the care that they provide, along with any problems encountered
during care, submitting this report to a supervisor. In some cases, HHAs
also facilitate transportation and leisure activities for clients.
Depending on the state regulations, they may be able to take vital
signs, give medications, and perform basic wound dressing changes as

Personal care aides assist patients with
self-care and everyday tasks as well as provide some clients with much
needed companionship. Personal care aides are sometimes known by other
titles, including caregiver, companion, and personal attendant. They
often perform tasks similar to those of home health aides; however, they
cannot provide any type of medical-related services, whereas home
health aides may be able to provide basic medical services depending on
state regulations.



The word “home” within the title of home care assistant would
suggest that the environment is primarily within an individual’s home,
but this is not necessarily true. While most home care assistants do
work in homes, their job functions may also be performed in a variety of
provider settings such as retirement homes, community centers,
residential group homes, and even nursing care facilities. An assistant
may care for one individual or many, depending on the provider setting
in which he or she works. The length of time during which a home care
assistant may work with a client or clients varies from one day to
multiple years. Work may include nights, weekends, and holidays
depending on the requirements of the employer or the private client with
whom the assistant is working.

Because of their work environments, home care assistants have a
higher rate of injury than the national average. The work provided in
this role can at times be very emotionally and physically demanding.
Injury can occur when lifting a client, helping a client ambulate
(walk), or simply helping a client to get in and out of a bed, chair, or
shower. Clients may suffer from Alzheimer’s or other cognitive
impairments that prove very challenging at times; the client may even
become violent and aggressive. In some instances, personal care aides
may be exposed to communicable diseases or infections when working with
clients, depending on the nature of a client’s health issues.



No formal education is required to become a home care assistant. But
according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014), most home health
aides have earned a high school diploma. This is true for personal care
aides as well.

HHAs who aim to work in a certified home health or hospice agency are
required to get formal training. In anticipation of this, preparatory
classes are offered at some community colleges or through
vocational/technical schools. To enroll in classes, students typically
must be at least 18 years of age.


Training requirements for home care assistants vary from state to
state. Broadly, for both HHAs and personal care aides, there are
circumstances in which no formal training programs are required and the
budding professional receives all necessary training while on the job.
This is often the case for personal care aides, who may be trained by a
nurse, social worker or other aide to meet the specific needs of a
particular client – for instance, if a client has cognitive impairment
issues or has very specific dietary requirements.

However, formal training programs are required in some states and are
available from vocational schools, community colleges, agencies and
elder care programs. The duration of these programs varies based on
varying state requirements.

An HHA who wishes to work with a home health agency will need to
obtain formal training and pass a competency exam before becoming
employed. Some states include additional required training above the
nationally mandated minimum for working within an agency.

Furthermore, if a home health aide wishes to become certified, which
can definitely improve job prospects, he or she must obtain a minimum of
75 hours of training in order to become eligible for certification.




Home health aides are not licensed, but many employers prefer or require that HHAs, Care Givers, obtain certification. The National Certification Coucil of Activity Professionals
(NCCAP) ( oversees a HHC certification. Minimally, in
order to become certified, the candidate must complete 75 hours of
training. In some states, the required amount of time is greater than 75
hours. You can refer to this map
for HHA training requirements in your state. Upon completing the
training, HHAs will have to take a standardized written test and
correctly demonstrate the skills they learned during training.

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Because they focus on direct patient care, home care assistants must
possess patience, dependability, good interpersonal skills, and
effective time management skills. They must be detail-oriented to follow
specific rules and protocols. Home care assistants will be working
closely with patients who may have severe pain or who may be
experiencing emotional distress; they must be able to show sensitivity
to patients’ emotions. It is important for the aide to be warm,
compassionate, and emotionally stable. This role involves performing
physical tasks such as lifting, turning and repositioning patients; an
aide must possess a higher level of physical stamina and strength in
order to be comfortable and safe performing those required tasks.

Opportunities for Advancement

Personal care aides may start within their role and progress into the
role of a home health aide by receiving additional health training.
Once they advance into the HHA role, they may have more opportunities to
advance even further into medical assisting, nursing or both. Many home
care assistants with experience and a higher level of training seek out
available opportunities to teach students or supervise new home care

Salary and Job Outlook Interactive Map of Salary and Job Growth


The annual mean wage reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is $21,380 for home health aides. Salaries range from a low of $17,040 up to a high of $29,560.

Meanwhile, the median annual wage for a personal care aide is $20,440, according to the BLS. The lowest 10% of wage earners make around $16,580 and the highest 10% earn closer to $27,910.

Job opportunities for home care assistants will be numerous from now
well into the future; based on its statistic, the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics anticipates a 48% employment increase for HHAs and a 49% increase
in jobs for personal care aides between 2012 and 2022. This job growth
is due mostly to more elderly people needing care and choosing to stay
in their homes as long as possible. Some clients don’t require medical
related assistance as much as additional assistance with household tasks
or minor personal hygiene assistance. Hiring a home care assistant may
be a cheaper option for many clients who wish to stay in their homes to
avoid the increased expenses that occur with moving to a higher level of
care, such as an assisted living facility or retirement home.

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