Direct-care workers provide basic care to their mentally disabled, physically impaired or elderly clients. Most work in private homes, assisted-living facilities, nursing homes or hospitals. According to the Alliance for Health Policy, there are an estimated 3.27 million direct-care workers as of 2016. Direct-care aides might work an entire shift with a single patient, or they might work with several patients at once. Some work rotating shifts while others work the same shift every week.
Education and Training
The minimum education required from direct-care workers is a high school diploma or equivalent. In most states, aides must complete an educational course and pass a certification examination before they can work independently. Instruction covers areas including safety, basic first aid, working with clients with dementia, recreational activities, infection control and caring for people with mobility needs. Once hired, nurses, senior aids or supervisors provide on-the-job training in areas such as meal preparation for clients with certain dietary restrictions.
Those choosing a profession in direct care must be detail-oriented, following rules and institutional procedures to ensure safety and quality. They must enjoy working with people, maintain a positive attitude and friendly demeanor can encourage and alleviate a client suffering from pain, confusion or anxiety. Because the job is physically demanding, they must be physically capable to move and lift disabled clients or heavy equipment. There are many tasks involved in the average day of a direct-care worker, so good time management skills is an asset.
Direct-care workers assist their clients with daily activities, which can range from eating, using the toilet to light housekeeping. They help clients maintain good hygiene, dressing themselves or assist household chores. They may also assist their clients in securing and managing their health care, obtaining and using transportation, managing their finances and scheduling doctor’s appointments.
Salary and Outlook
Despite its many demands, this profession does not pay well and the turnover rate is high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of direct-care workers was $21, 920 as of May 2016. With an aging baby-boom generation, the demand for direct-care workers is expected to grow by 26 percent from 2014 to 2024.