Direct Care is assistance given to someone with a disability or chronic illness in the setting of that individual's private residence or group home. This differs from a paraprofessional who provides assistance in a classroom setting. Someone providing Direct Care is known as a caregiver, a Personal Care Assistant (PCA), or a Home Health Aid (HHA).
Some areas have state-run programs which provide those in need with Direct Care workers. In such instances it may be up to the individual needing care to hire and select their help on their own. Many areas have no such programs and those needing care will have to turn to a private agency. In such cases, a private agency will screen applicants for Direct Care work and may also require training or certification.
Direct Care work often involves a high level of stress but the work is more likely to provide a strong sense of personal satisfaction than a "normal" job such as working retail. Most caregivers receive a wage which may just barely be considered a living wage. Also, it may be difficult for a Direct Care worker to meet their own financial obligations if they only have one job.
The hours for Direct Care work are determined by the individual needing assistance. Often the times in which help is needed would be during some meal times and in the morning and evenings. The length of the shifts for Direct Care work may vary greatly but are not usually more than four hours at at time. Sometimes an individual may need very little at a certain time, in which case a Direct Care worker may end up doing less than an hour's work—in such instances the worker is typically paid for a full hour.
When the primary caregivers are the relations of the individual needing care, the possibility of caregiver syndrome becomes more likely. In such instances it is important for those providing care to rotate their shifts so that all the caregivers can have at least one full day off. It may be necessary to hire Direct Care workers from an agency in order to provide respite care.
Some caregivers live in the homes of their clients, which can be a beneficial situation for both parties.
Every Direct Care work situation will be unique, as every person's needs are unique. People needing care are often lonely. Direct Care workers must walk a fine line between being open and friendly with those they are helping while also remaining a professional relationship with their client.
Direct Care work may include any of the following: helping the client get in and out of bed, running errands such shopping, cleaning, dressing, cooking, feeding, administering medications, accompanying the client to appointments with a doctor and assistance with hygiene. If a client is unable to do anything on their own, the Direct Care worker provides what is known as Total Care. Again, it is possible for these skills to be learned in a class or special program, but more often they are learned on the job.
If you are looking for a more emotionally fulfilling job with flexible hours, consider Direct Care work.