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The Role of Aides
Profiles of Personal Care Assistants and Certified Nurse Assistants

A Personal Care Assistant or Resident Assistant employed by an assisted living community helps the disabled, chronically ill, and less independent residents with activities of daily living which include using the toilet, bathing and washing, dressing, cooking, serving food and collecting food trays. They help with other tasks like physical mobility, recreational and social activities.

Health and personal care aides are one of the fastest-growing industries in the health and medical care profession. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that personal care aide jobs will grow by a tremendous 70.5 percent between 2010 and 2020!

What's in it for professional caregivers and personal care aides?

  • No experience or medical skills necessary
  • Flexible part-time and full-time schedules available
  • Ongoing comprehensive training provided
  • A way to meet people and interact with others outside your home
  • Very rewarding career; professionally and personally

Health Care Aide Salaries

Health Care Aides
Health Care Aides

The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies resident assistants in assisted living facilities as home health and personal care aides.

As of 2012, the median salary for personal care aides was $20,820 per year. This position does not earn as much as other health care jobs. Nursing aides made $25,620, medical assistants received $30,550 and physical therapist assistants earned $52,320.

The best paying cities for personal care aides work in metropolitan areas of Taunton, Mass., Binghamton, N.Y., and Haverhill and N. Andover, Mass, Ocean City, N.J. area and Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

The pay is low but the expected level of education is low too. Personal care aides working in assisted living need at least a high school diploma. Some facilities require post-secondary education in caregiving skills. Some may not require extra training but offer on-the-job training.

Skills Needed

The workload of a Personal care aide is physically demanding. The job requires the PCA to perform a number of physical tasks, like lifting, and transporting residents. Working with older adults requires aides to have a friendly, patient and compassionate disposition with residents.

Other job duties:

  • Help clients with mobility restrictions to get out of bed, bathe, dress, and groom
  • Deliver basic health services like recording pulse rate, temperature, and respiration rate
  • Help with prescribed exercises
  • Assist with medications administration
  • Provide light housekeeping and homemaking tasks

In a 2010 survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by Center for Disease Control found that 82% of personal care aides perform housekeeping duties in addition to helping with activities of daily living like dressing and assistance with medications.

In addition to helping with activities of daily living, such as dressing and assistance with medications, do personal care aides routinely perform housekeeping?
Responses of legitimate skip (6%), and not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Other Duties of Care Aides

  • Advise families and patients on nutrition and cleanliness
  • Change simple dressings, provide skin care, or assist with braces and artificial limbs
  • Accompany residents to doctors' appointments or other errands
  • Perform resident's personal laundry

The survey of Residential Care Facilities by CDC found 89% of personal care aides perform laundry for residents.

What other services are performed by personal care aides?
The data in this chart has been rounded and simplified.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Personal Care Aide responsibilities directed and supervised by a registered nurse. The work given by the RN adheres to procedures and standards involving a high degree of accuracy in observing, recording and reporting data.

Yet, in the 2010 survey of Residential Care Facilities by the Center for Disease Control found that 60% of personal care aides perform janitorial services in addition to their other functions.

Duties of PCA's include making beds, doing laundry, washing dishes and preparing meals.

The CDC survey of Residential Care Facilities found that 69% of personal care aides routinely perform assistance with food preparation.

In addition to health care tasks, personal hygiene services, housekeeping tasks and other related support services essential to the resident's care, CDC found that 87% of personal care aides in assisted living routinely provide assistance with recreational activities.

All PCA's must demonstrate competence in performing necessary skills and only perform those skills on the plan of care. But in the CDC survey of Residential Care Facilities, 52% of the personal care aides routinely performed transportation or escort services for residents.

And 97% of the personal care aides routinely perform other duties and tasks.

In addition to helping with activities of daily living, do personal care aides routinely perform any other tasks?
Responses of legitimate skip (6%), and not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Since this is an entry-level position in healthcare, the pay is low but most facilities provide health insurance.

In the CDC survey of Residential Care Facilities, 44% of the personal care aide receive health insurance that includes family coverage. When family coverage is not offered, 10% of the personal care aides receive health insurance for themselves. So, in total, over 50% of personal care aides receive some form of health coverage. Additionally, 64% of facilities pay for more than half of the health insurance premium.

Does this facility offer to personal care aides health insurance that includes family coverage?
Responses of legitimate skip (6%), don't know (< 1%), and not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)
If family coverage is not offered, does this facility offer to personal care aides health insurance for the employee only?
Responses of legitimate skip (48%), and not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)
If this facility offers health coverage, does it offer to personal care aides to pay for more than half of the health insurance premium?
Responses of legitimate skip (53%), refusal (< 1%), don't know (2%), and not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Healthcare and worker's compensation or liability offered (at no charge) to personal care aides by assisted living facilities but only 38% receive life insurance. Many also offer retirement benefits through pensions, 401k plans, and 403b plans.

Does this facility offer to personal care aides life insurance?
Responses of legitimate skip (6%), don't know (< 1%), and not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)
Does this facility offer to personal care aides a pension, a 401(k), or a 403(b)?
Responses of legitimate skip (6%), don't know (< 1%), and not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Typical Day of Personal Care Aide

Duties of Aide
Duties of Aide

Here are few examples of the typical day of a personal care aide in assisted living, a true story by a professional caregiver.

"I work in assisted living both in the regular unit as well the dementia unit. We have 8 hours shifts.

For the regular assisted living the typical day goes as follows:

  • Receive report
  • Start 2-3 loads of laundry
  • Stock rooms with towels and supplies and remove trash
  • Take few people (maybe 2-3 to the bathroom)
  • Check oxygen tanks
  • Bring/call residents to the dining room
  • Help with serving food
  • Clean up dining room
  • I go to lunch
  • Start a few more loads of laundry
  • Begin PM care (we typically have 2-3 showers each a night)

We have about 25 residents per personal care aide, which sounds like a lot! However quite a few residents are fairly independent and we just check on them. Others need simple things like having their stockings removed. Other than the showers we only have 2-3 that need a decent amount of assistance getting ready. Then we finish up the laundry and do our paper work. Oh! And I answer call bells, they go off constantly over there!

I work in an assisted living facility. Honestly, I do love my job but the workload is a bit crazy. In addition to doing laundry, vital signs, blood sugars, toileting, showers, serving dinner (I work the 3-11 shift), etc. we have a LOT of residents that are needing more and more complete care each night. We even have some residents who can only be transferred with a hoyer. Some nights are crazy & you don't even have time to pee or eat something. Other nights are more relaxed, and you actually have some downtime at the end of the night.

I do love my job, I just wish we had more staff to care for our residents! But that seems a common complaint in nursing, and something I don't see changing anytime soon."

Real caregiver stories at AllNurses.com

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.