Are you looking for a career where you can help people? Where going to work is more than just a job? Where you can help an older person or a person with a disability live a full life?
If so, have you thought about a job as a direct support worker? Other names for direct support workers are home care aides, home health aides and personal care attendants. These jobs are among the fastest-growing in the nation. And they are expected to be in demand for quite some time.
If you think this type of work might be right for you, please watch the videos below and then read the rest of the information on this page.
Job Preview Videos
- Click here to watch "Direct Support: Working with People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities." In this video, direct support workers describe their jobs and speak frankly about the rewards and challenges of doing this type of work.
- Click here to watch "Direct Support: Working with Older Adults and People with Physical Disabilities." In this video, direct support workers describe their jobs and speak frankly about the rewards and challenges of doing this type of work.
What is Direct Support Work?
If you choose direct support work, you might work in someone's home, a small group home or a large residential facility. As a direct support worker, you might help with:
- cooking or cleaning;
- feeding, bathing, dressing, grooming or toileting;
- driving people to appointments;
- giving medications;
- providing support at work, school or in the community; or
- being a companion.
What you actually do will depend on the needs of the person(s) you work with.
What Skills Do You Need?
The skills you will need will vary based upon the person(s) you will be supporting. Your employer will train you on your specific job duties. When hiring entry-level workers, many employers have said they are looking for people who:
- are interested in helping others,
- are reliable, and
- can pass both a criminal history background check and a drug test.
What Are the Advantages?
Many direct support workers find their work to be more than "just a job" because of the satisfaction they get in helping others. Other attractive aspects of this work include:
- the close connections that many workers make with the people that they support,
- the flexibility of their job duties and hours, and
- the sense of accomplishment they feel when a client learns or regains abilities.
What Are the Challenges?
Direct support work can be challenging. You may have to do things that you find awkward at first, such as helping someone go to the bathroom or take a shower. For most direct support workers, this gets easier over time.
One ongoing challenge may be working with someone with aggressive behaviors. Your employer should train you on how to redirect, manage and diffuse aggressive behaviors.
Pay and Benefits
How much you will get paid and which (if any) benefits you'll get will depend on:
- where you work,
- how many hours you work and
- the type of work you do.
Benefits may include health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, paid sick leave or paid vacation time.
During your job interview, be sure to ask questions such as:
- What is the condition of the person I will be supporting?
- What are his or her major needs?
- What are his or her major activities and interests?
- What will my specific job duties be?
- What are the work hours?
- How much will I be paid?
- Will health insurance and any other benefits be available?
- What type of training will I receive?
- Can I meet the people I will be helping to support—
This will help you figure out whether the job duties, pay and benefits are acceptable and if you will be a good match for the person you will be working with. A good personality match between you and the person you support will increase your job satisfaction.