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What Type of Home Care Worker Can Help My Loved One? Exploring Different Home Caregiver Roles and Qualifications

7 minute readLast updated December 3, 2022
Written by Leah Hallstrom
Medically reviewed by Amanda Lundberg, RN, family medicine expertAmanda Lundberg is a registered nurse with over 10 years of experience in clinical settings, working extensively with seniors and focusing on wellness and preventative care.
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While being a caregiver for an elderly loved one can be rewarding, their worsening medical conditions and the natural, progressive aging process can eventually make the work overwhelming for you. You may begin to feel that help from outside would benefit both you and your loved one. Whether you need a few hours away each week to run errands or your loved one requires more comprehensive nursing support, in-home care services can help. Read on to learn about the different types of home care and home health care workers.

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Key Takeaways

  1. In-home care services can help seniors age in place. Nearly 80% of seniors hope to stay in their current residence as they age instead of moving to a senior community.
  2. Identify your loved one’s medical and social needs to determine what type of home caregiver is a good fit. Home health care workers are trained to provide medical or nursing services, while home care workers offer nonmedical support like personal care and companionship.
  3. There are different types of at-home care providers that offer a range of services. From home health nurses to personal care aides, in-home care workers have unique skill sets and education levels to match their patients’ needs.
  4. Seniors and their families can use home care employment agencies or hire an in-home caregiver independently. A Place for Mom and other home care agencies can connect you with home care services easily, but some families choose to hire private caregivers on their own.

How can a home caregiver help my aging loved one?

Nearly 80% of seniors wish to stay home for as long as possible [01] and age in place where they’re most comfortable. In-home care can make their dream a reality. Provided in a patient’s personal residence, in-home care services range from companionship to medication management. They also include transportation, assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), and even specialized medical support.

Home care workers can help seniors who:

  • Require assistance with ADLs like bathing, toileting, dressing and other essential tasks
  • Want opportunities for socialization and companionship
  • Need a hand with household chores like cooking, cleaning, and pet care
  • Can no longer drive themselves to appointments or errands
  • Have chronic or progressive medical conditions
  • Are recovering from surgery or an illness

Hiring an in-home care worker can help your parent retain their independence while also receiving top-notch support. Depending upon your loved one’s medical condition and what services they hope to utilize, there are in-home caregivers to fit their unique needs.

Is home care the right fit?

Let our free assessment guide you to the best senior living options, tailored to your needs.

What are the types of in-home caregivers?

Professionals providing care services at your place of residence are classified as in-home caregivers, but there are many types of home caregivers. A home health care worker is trained and certified to provide medical or nursing services, while a home care worker offers nonmedical support like personal care and companionship. The distinction may seem small, but the services offered are very different.

When you’re considering your parent’s needs, it may be obvious what type of care they require. However, many families find that a combination of home care and home health care is most beneficial for their aging loved one. That’s ok, because most home care agencies employ both home health and home care workers, simplifying the process for you.

Home health care workers

The services offered by home health care workers support seniors who are in need of medical support. If your parent is recovering from an illness, injury, or surgery, home health care workers can provide expert care. For seniors with chronic or progressive conditions, home health care services are extremely beneficial as they don’t require your loved one to leave the house to receive care. While home care agencies often have home health caregivers on staff, you can also hire in-home medical caregivers through local hospitals and clinics or Medicare offices.

Explore the following home health care worker qualifications and roles.

Home health nurses

For seniors who need basic or advanced nursing care, a home health nurse can help. The types of home health nurses are described below.

  • Certified nurse assistants (CNAs). CNAs can perform basic nursing tasks for individuals with mild medical conditions.
  • Licensed practical or vocational nurses (LPNs/LVNs). LPNs and LVNs are licensed to provide more intensive support like wound care and management of intravenous therapy.
  • Registered nurses (RNs). RNs coordinate patient care, work with doctors to develop medical plans, and oversee other nurses on their care team.

Background and qualifications:

  • CNAs have completed a nursing assistant training program and passed a state-certified exam.
  • LPNs and LVNs are required to earn a Practical Nursing Diploma and pass a licensure examination.
  • RNs have either an associate’s degree or a bachelor of science in nursing and are exam-certified professionals.

Home health aides

Under the supervision of a home health nurse or another medical professional, a home health aide (HHA) can help with basic health care tasks. HHAs can provide assistance with ADLs, take care of meal planning and preparation, monitor vital signs, and more.

Background and qualifications:

  • Although they don’t have formal medical training, HHAs employed by Medicare-certified agencies have specific certifications and training.
  • Most states have their own specific guidelines and rules for obtaining a home health aide position. For example, they might have to complete a 20-hour, state-approved HHA program and have some volunteer hours.
  • Inquire with the home care agency about what education and experience they require.


If your parent is recovering from an illness or injury or navigating a chronic illness, their doctor may recommend home therapy. Physical, occupational, and speech therapists are specialized professionals that can help seniors maintain or regain certain abilities.

Background and qualifications:

  • Therapists are highly trained medical professionals.
  • Physical therapists must have earned a doctorate of physical therapy.
  • Occupational therapists must have graduated from an occupational therapy master’s degree program and have passed the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

Home care workers

Home care aides don’t offer intensive medical support. Home care services are ideal for seniors who want to retain their independence but need a little extra help or are experiencing isolation and loneliness. Whether your parent wants a friend to play a game of cards with or requires help with bathing and grooming, home care workers can meet their needs with a wide range of services. Home care agencies generally employ every level of caregiver, including home health nurses and aides, so they’ll be able to easily match you with local options that fit your loved one’s needs.

Explore the following home care worker qualifications and roles.

Home care companions

Companion care is focused on socialization and engagement. A home care companion will enjoy participating in a senior’s favorite activities, from playing games and reading together to going for walks or to local events. Companion services may also include the following:

  • Light housekeeping services like cleaning and cooking
  • Running errands and providing transportation
  • Attending medical appointments and taking notes for family members
  • Caring for pets

Background and qualifications:

  • Some agencies require home care companions to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
  • Home care agencies are mainly looking for individuals who are passionate about senior care, have a valid driver’s license, and can perform physical tasks like lifting patients.
  • Passing a CPR training course or having prior caregiving experience is a plus.

Personal care and home care aides

Many seniors will require a caregiver to help with personal needs and ADLs like bathing, toileting, and eating. Personal care and home health aides can help with these hands-on tasks. They can also perform housekeeping tasks like cleaning and meal prep. Some may be authorized to monitor vitals and administer medications under the supervision of a medical professional.

Background and qualifications:

  • Typically no formal education is required to be a personal care or home care aide.
  • Certain states have unique regulations for hiring, and many agencies and hospitals require specific training courses or additional certifications.
  • Personal care aides who work for a Medicare-certified agency are required to have at least 75 hours of training and pass an assessment.

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How do I hire in-home care?

Once you’ve determined what kind of in-home caregiver would best support your aging parent, it’s time to kick off the hiring process. Whether your parent needs full-time care or short-term respite support, in-home caregivers will work to develop a plan and establish a schedule that meets your loved one’s unique situation. Our step-by-step guide to hiring a home caregiver can assist you throughout the planning process.

If you’re simply not sure how to start creating a home care employment plan, we can help. At no cost to your family, A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors will work with you to find the right care option for a loved one. From compiling a list of local in-home caregivers to arranging interviews, our experts aim to make this process as seamless as possible for caregivers and their loved ones.


Meet the Author
Leah Hallstrom

Leah Hallstrom is a former copywriter and editor at A Place for Mom, where she crafted articles on senior living topics like home health, memory care, and hospice services. Previously, she worked as a communications professional in academia. Leah holds bachelor’s degrees in communication studies and psychology from the University of Kansas.

Edited by

Danny Szlauderbach

Reviewed by

Amanda Lundberg, RN, family medicine expert

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