FAQ: What's the Difference Between an Elder Companion and a Personal Aide?

5 answers | Last updated: Dec 30, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

What's the difference between an elder companion and a personal aide?

Expert Answers

Jennifer Voorlas is a geriatric care manager in Los Angeles, California, and president of Geriatric Care Consultants. She has a master's degree in gerontology from the University of Southern California and is certified by NACCM, the National Academy of Certified Care Managers.

Although people often use the terms interchangeably, there's a difference between an elder companion and a personal aide in terms of both responsibilities and training.

An elder companion, also called a companion/homemaker, has less training than a personal aide. A companion prepares meals, does light housekeeping, and offers companionship. A companion may also help with laundry, do grocery shopping, and drive the older adult on errands. There are no training requirements for a home companion, but you want someone who's able to be caring and is a good personality match with the client.

A personal aide, also called a personal care assistant, may do all the same tasks as a companion but is also qualified to provide personal care, such as bathing, grooming, and dressing. Often a personal aide is required to have a home health aide certification, which involves competing a 76-hour, nurse-supervised training program.

Another difference is in scheduling. A companion can be hired for any combination of hours and usually works part-time. Sometimes companions are hired for just a few hours a week. A personal aide is more likely to work set shifts of daytime or evening hours.

One caution: When hiring someone, keep in mind that your situation is likely to change over time. Your loved one might be relatively healthy today and have a health issue tomorrow. If you anticipate hiring this person long-term, you might be better off with someone who has training and certification.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Where is the best place to find these caretakers?

Caring community answered...

Hello 'anonymous',

A great place to find these types of caretakers, along with other types of care providers (e.g. assisted living communities, memory care, retirement communities, etc.) is through Caring.com's Senior Living Directory.

In-home care agencies offer assistance with activities of daily living"”everything from grocery shopping and meal preparation to nonmedical personal care, such as toileting, bathing, and so on. Home care assistant costs range from minimum wage to about $20 an hour, depending on location, experience, and services provided. Personal home care is best for those who need nonmedical help with some or many aspects of daily living. Home care assistants can also benefit family caregivers who need a break. You can search for In-Home care in your area here: https://www.caring.com/local/in-home-care

Home health aides offer personal care such as bathing, toileting, and feeding, along with minor medical care and limited housekeeping, such as changing sheets. Home health agency costs range from about $15 to $40 an hour, depending on location, services provided, and training"”certified aides, who have more medical training, earn more. Home health agency costs may be covered short-term by Medicare if deemed medically required, and longer term by Medicaid. Home health agencies are best for those who need some personal or light medical care in order to stay in their home. You can search for Home Health Aids in your are here: https://www.caring.com/local/home-health-agencies

If you have experience with professional care providers, we encourage you to write a review of the provider in our Senior Living Directory too! We know finding the right fit is different for each family and individual, and we believe ratings and reviews from those with firsthand experience are valuable to others with similar needs and preferences -- and helpful to service providers as well. If you feel so inclined to write a review, you may do so here: https://www.caring.com/review_submissions/new?utm_source=community

Getting played answered...

Do you think it's fair to get paid companion wages and get sent out on CNA duties. That is how 85 % of the agency's operate.

A fellow caregiver answered...

My father, suffering from dementia, needed to be looked after, but in his state, family had become 'the enemy. A cousin moved him from one home to another, and decided to try having Dad live with him, and it worked! While the relationship is slowly degrading, because to Dad everyone else is nuts, it has been a couple years of stability. While Dad is still highly-functional, his nephew is basically a companion, and a few hours a week, a respite care provider comes in to help. If you can find a family member who is willing, responsible, and isn't already committed to a job or family, it is worth a try, to delay the full-blown assisted-living situation. Anything you try might be temporary, be flexible.