The need for personal and home care aides, commonly called companions, is expected to increase 46 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. Companions work for families and private and public agencies to take care of elderly, disabled or ill clients. Under the supervision of registered nurses, managers or social workers, companions perform a variety of duties for patients living otherwise independently in their homes.
Companions provide basic health care duties per their employer’s instructions, such as checking vital signs -- temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure. Companions give patients their prescribed medication according to specific schedules. They may lead patients in prescribed exercises, assist with bathing and grooming and change wound dressings. Companions taking care of patients who can’t walk assist them in moving from one place to another.
Personal and home care aides’ duties often include transporting or traveling with patients to doctor or therapy appointments. Companions may also accompany clients to social events, such as parties, baseball games or dinners. Some companions run errands for their clients, such as shopping for groceries and household supplies.
Companions stay with patients so they aren’t alone throughout the day, talking with them, watching television, playing cards or board games, completing crossword puzzles and reading to them. According to StateUniversity.com, companions sometimes assist patients in conducting their business affairs, such as organizing bills, writing out checks and mailing letters. Besides being a companion to patients, personal and home care aides’ duties include light housekeeping tasks, such as dusting, washing dishes and changing bedding.
StateUniversity.com explains that companions may live in a patient’s home if they have only one client. Most companions, however, have five or six clients that they visit every day, one time a week or every two weeks, according to BLS. Such jobs usually don’t have specific educational or licensing requirements, but some employers may prefer candidates who have a high school diploma and/or work experience. The BLS reports that the median salary for companions was $20,280 a year, as of May 2009.