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Personal Care Attendants/Personal Assistants*

Many individuals with significant disabilities are unable to complete some or all activities of daily living, such as bathing, toileting, dressing, eating, or communicating (ADL's). In addition, an individual with severe mobility limitations may often need help with ambulation and/or transfers. A personal care attendant is often required by the individual to perform some or all ADL's. This assistance allows the person to function more fully at home and in the community.

A personal care attendant (PCA) may be a family member or (more typically) an employee of the person with a disability. Occasionally the PCA has been hired by a family member. In some cases the PCA is a licensed care provider, such as a nurse, depending on the level of care required.

It is important to remember that the role of the PCA is to assist the person with the disability in the way that person sees fit. The PCA's role, however, should not be to make decisions for, or speak for the person in their care. Healthcare providers should direct their questions to the individual requesting service. The only time that the PCA should speak for a person is when interpretation is required, such as in sign language use, or when severe cognitive impairment precludes meaningful communication. Personal care attendants may also help others speak with the person by instructing them in the use of assistive communication devices.

*The title of Personal Care Attendant is being replaced within the discipline by personal assistant. Personal assistant more positively and accurately reflects the functional support provided by such individuals.

Barrett, J.C. (2003). Being an effective workplace assistant. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 18, 93-97.

Glendinning, C., Halliwell, S., Jacobs, S., Kirstein, R., & Tyrer, J. (2000). New kinds of care, new kinds of relationships: How purchasing services affects relationships in giving and receiving personal assistance. Health and Social Care in the Community, 8(3), 201-211.

Hagglund, K.J., Clark, M.J., Farmer, J.E., & Sherman, A.K. (2004). A comparison of consumer-directed and agency-directed personal assistance services programmes. Disability and Rehabilitation, 26(9), 518-527.