Personal Care Aides
Education and Training Requirements
Many home care providers require only a high school diploma for entry-level positions. In high school take classes in family and consumer science, health, psychology, business, speech, English, and computer science. Since a growing percentage of people in the United States do not speak English or speak English only as a second language it’s a good idea to learn a foreign language such as Spanish or Mandarin. If you plan to work with the deaf or hard of hearing, you should become proficient in American Sign Language.
Most social service agencies and home care firms provide short on-the-job training to new hires. Trainees learn how to bathe, dress, and feed clients; help clients to safely walk up and down stairs, get up from bed, or get in and out of cars; prepare meals for clients with specific dietary needs; assist clients who are disabled; and work with depressed or combative clients. Employers may also require aides to complete first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation training.
Some states require job applicants to complete formal education or training programs at vocational schools, community colleges, and care providers.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Training may be required through state home care associations or local training programs. Some home care agencies and states require aspiring aides to undergo a background check.
Some employers require a background check, so it's important to have a clean record.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Any experience you can obtain caring for others—such as helping a grandparent or neighbor or volunteering at a community assistance organization—will be useful.
Working as a personal care aide is a rewarding, yet demanding, job. Successful aides enjoy helping others. They are patient, pleasant, and emotionally stable—especially when interacting with clients who are depressed, demanding, and sometimes argumentative and abusive. It takes a special person with a strong degree of empathy to work with the elderly and those with disabilities. Personal care aides must be organized and detail-oriented in order to manage the myriad details that are required to effectively care for clients. Time-management skills are important because clients and their families rely on aides to arrive on time for their work and take clients to appointments. Other important traits include excellent communication skills (including strong listening skills), the ability to follow instructions, and a good sense of humor.