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Personal Care Aide (PCA) Vs. Home Health Aide (HHA): What Are The Differences?

Personal Care Aide (PCA) vs. Home Health Aide (HHA): What are the Differences?

When it comes to finding care for an elderly loved one, the process can seem overwhelming. Like many families, you may not be familiar with the types of caregivers, and you may be unsure exactly what level of care your loved one requires. 

With so many different types of nurses and professionals, it can be hard to know what service is necessary and appropriate. 

Two important categories of caregivers are personal care aide (PCA) professionals and home health aide (HHA) professionals. Both provide important services, but there are significant differences between a personal care aide vs. home health aide.

Personal Care Aides

If everyday tasks are becoming too much for your elderly loved one to handle, a personal care aide can step in to assist. Personal care aides make life easier for seniors with limited mobility by providing more extensive and specialized care than family members who may have been assuming caregiving responsibilities.

Primary Responsibilities 

Personal care aides assist with household duties as well as personal-care responsibilities. They might handle chores such as cleaning, shopping, laundry, running errands, meal preparation, and more. 

These aides also provide companionship, even overnight in some cases, and accompany your loved one to medical appointments, on walks, or during other activities outside the home. 


No federal laws impose specific training requirements for personal care aides. Some states require completion of a training program, but personal care aides are usually educated through on-the-job training. Employers who coordinate the placement of caregivers may also have their own requirements for training.

Personal care aides do not provide medical treatment. That’s why the professional training requirements are less stringent than those for a home health aide who does provide medical care.

When you’re considering a personal care aide vs. home health aide, the most important thing to know is that personal care aides do not deliver health care. If your loved one needs hands-on medical care, a personal care aide may not be sufficient to provide the level of care needed.

Home Health Aide

Home health aides are a great option for seniors who require some level of daily medical care. Home health aides can step in to provide basic medical services and ensure that your loved one is properly cared for in their home.

Primary Responsibilities

Unlike personal care aides who provide a holistic care service, home health aides are more focused on the health and safety of the person they serve. They may assist with daily tasks such as grooming, bathing, and cooking, but they do not generally step in to run errands or do heavy housekeeping. 

Home health aides provide basic healthcare services such as measuring vital signs, assisting with medical equipment, or administering medications. They can also assist with artificial limbs and braces, care for their client’s skin, and help manage special diet requirements.


While there are no blanket qualifications for home health aides, aides who work for a Medicare-certified health agency must meet certain requirements: the candidate must complete 75 hours of formal training through a state-approved program. After completing the course, they must also pass the state’s certification examination.

Home health aides must also complete ongoing education requirements each year to remain certified.

Personal Care Aide vs. Home Health Aide — Which Is Better for Your Loved One?

When you are deciding whether to hire a personal care aide vs. home health aide for your loved one, what’s most important is to consider what level of care they need. 

A personal care aide can be a good option for elderly people who need help with everyday tasks but not with hands-on medical care. In this situation, hiring a home health aide may not be necessary, and you may end up paying for services that aren’t needed.

On the other hand, the last thing you want to do is hire a caregiver who is not qualified to provide the level of care that your loved one needs. Improper training can be unsafe for both the caregiver and your loved one. 

When an elderly person needs hands-on care with personal tasks, it’s important to find a properly trained professional. A home health aide is an appropriate caregiver for these situations.

One thing to keep in mind is that many providers of both personal care aides and home health aides provide in-home assessments and consultations before beginning service. That means they’ll get a chance to know you and your loved one and can better assess what level of care is required.

If you aren’t happy with the services provided or if your loved one needs more or less support than they are getting, you can always change services or providers. It is not uncommon for families to consider or even hire multiple caregivers before finding a good match. 

If you stay flexible and open-minded in considering a personal care aide vs. home health aide, you’ll be able to find a great caregiver fit for your loved one in no time.

If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation.  Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.

Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia CareBed & Wheelchair Transfer AssistanceCompanionshipHousekeeping & Meal PreparationPersonal CareRecovery Care, and Transportation.

Serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater San Diego, Family Matter In-Home Care has offices throughout California including: Campbell, CARoseville, CASan Marcos, CA, and San Mateo, CA.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

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