Mental disabilities can affect a person’s ability to care for herself, make a living or manage her behavior, and many individuals need caregivers to meet their needs. Birth defects, developmental delay and mental illness can all cause mental disabilities. Caregivers in the field might be home health aides, personal care aides, psychiatric aides or teacher’s assistants.
In many cases, a mentally disabled person can continue to live in a home setting with adequate support and supervision. Home health aides might be responsible for much of the care, and in some states can perform tasks such as giving medications. On-job training is the norm, but formal education is also available from some community colleges or technical-vocational schools. Aides who work for home health agencies that accept Medicare and Medicaid funding must have formal training and pass an exam or be certified. Demand for this occupation is very high. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an employment growth rate of 48 percent from 2012 to 2022, more than four times the average. However, pay is on the low side. The BLS notes the median salary for home health aides was $20,820 in 2012, well below the median of $34,750 for all occupations.
Personal care aides are similar to home health aides, but their duties focus more on daily support. A personal care aide might perform housekeeping or cooking tasks, for example, organize the client’s schedule and assist her in traveling to appointments. Formal educational requirements for personal care aides are limited to a high school diploma in most cases, and skills are learned on the job. Some states might require formal education, background checks or competency evaluations, especially in certain settings. This is another occupation with high demand and a BLS-projected growth rate of 49 percent from 2012 to 2022. The median salary was $19,910 in 2012, according to the BLS.
Mental Health Care
Some people with mental disabilities must be hospitalized temporarily or might need to be permanently institutionalized. In those settings, caregiver duties are normally performed by psychiatric aides. Psychiatric aides work in psychiatric hospitals, residential mental health care settings and related facilities. They provide direct care such as helping an individual bathe or eat, change soiled linens and transport patients. An aide must have a high school diploma, according to the BLS, and may have taken courses in mental health or psychology. He typically receives on-the-job training. Demand for this occupation is low, with a projected growth rate of 5 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. The median salary was $27,440 a year in 2012.
Mentally disabled children are still entitled to obtain an education within their limits. Teacher’s assistants provide physical care such as assistance with eating or physical hygiene, and help the student learn under the supervision of a teacher. The teacher’s assistant might work in a regular classroom or in special education classes. Educational requirements vary from a high school diploma to an associate degree or at least two years of college. Some states require teacher’s assistants to pass a competency test. Average demand of 9 percent is expected for this occupation from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS, and the median salary was $23,640 in 2012.