Training Overview

Introduction: smiling patient and homecare worker
Welcome to the online training program that will help you learn the basic skills and information to become a personal care home direct care staff person. It is important to participate in each module because the exam at the end will include questions from each of the modules. You can spend as much time as you like on any of the modules. You may return to and review any of the modules at any time.

At the end of the training, there will be an online test. The test will have 50 questions. You will need to score 70 percent or above. In order to score 70 percent, you must get 35 questions correct. You can take the test as many times as you like. Each time you take the test the questions will be different. Once you pass the test, you will receive a “certificate of completion” that you will show to employers. This training must be completed before you can begin to provide unsupervised activities of daily living at a personal care home in accordance with § 2600.65(d)(2) and (d)(3) (relating to direct care staff person training and orientation).

What is a personal care home?

A personal care home is a place in which food, shelter and personal assistance or supervision are provided to individuals who require assistance or supervision in self-care, called activities of daily living, or more complicated activities, called instrumental activities of daily living. In Pennsylvania, personal care homes provide assistance with all or some of the following services: eating, drinking, ambulating, transferring in and out of a bed or chair, toileting, bladder and bowel management, personal hygiene, securing health care, managing health care, self-administering or administering medication, proper turning and positioning in a bed or chair, doing laundry, shopping, securing and using transportation, managing finances, using a telephone, making and keeping appointments, caring for personal possessions, writing correspondence, engaging in social and leisure activities, using a prosthetic device and obtaining and keeping clean, seasonal clothing. Some personal care homes provide services in addition to the required services listed above, such as recreational therapy, special care for people with dementia or mental health services.

When you begin employment, ask the administrator (an individual who is in charge of the home) or an appointed staff member to review the services provided at the home. It is important to learn what these are so you can accurately talk with residents about them.

What are the major responsibilities of personal care home direct care staff persons? smiling patient and homecare worker
Personal care homes have several kinds of employees. For the home to run smoothly and residents to receive the best care, each individual needs to fulfill their responsibilities. When you begin working, it will be important to get to know the other workers who make up your shift or team. Equally important is knowing what your responsibilities are and carrying them out. Direct care staff persons are extremely important to the day-to-day operation of the home and to the residents themselves. When you are scheduled to work, the entire team is depending on you to be there, including the residents who depend on you for their basic care. Think of it like a car that has a flat tire. It cannot move smoothly or quickly. When staff calls off, it slows the whole team down and often makes it harder to get the job done. Direct care staff persons are important because they provide direct care for residents. When you come to work you can expect to be doing a wide range of tasks. The facility that hires you will specifically outline the tasks you are responsible to accomplish while on your shift.

What is an appropriate term for individuals who live in a personal care home?

Individuals who live in a personal care home are called residents. However, when speaking directly with them it is important to use their proper name. Some residents may ask that you call them by their first name. Others may prefer that you address them by Mr. (last name) or Mrs. (last name). In order to remain professional, you should not call residents nicknames such as “honey” or “pops.”

The regulations for operating personal care homes:

In Pennsylvania, personal care homes are regulated by the Department of Human Services (DHS). Requirements to operate a personal care home are described in the Chapter 2600 regulations. These regulations are printed in a book with a cover that is pink so it is sometimes called the “Pink Book.” The purpose of these personal care home requirements is to protect the health, safety and well-being of personal care home residents. Your administrator works directly with DHS to make sure the home meets state regulations. If a personal care home doesn’t follow the regulations, it may have to stop operating.

The regulations include requirements for staff qualifications, abuse reporting, resident’s records confidentiality, resident rights, physical site safety, fire safety, nutrition and medications as well as other important safety protections for residents.

If you would like to see a copy of the state regulations, you can find them online. The website address is:

What is a support plan?

“Support plans” are your direct line of communication with other members of the care team involved in the day-to-day care for residents. The support plan is the tool that helps you to understand how to care for each individual resident who lives in the home. The plan gives information to the direct care staff on the services needed by each resident. Think of it as a recipe card or blueprint for how to care for each resident. Anyone should be able to pick up a support plan and know just how to care for the resident. The support plan will give you a clear picture of the residents’ needs and preferences. Support plans are critical to direct care staff persons.

What is the goal of a personal care home?

Personal care homes provide a home for individuals who need assistance with a variety of daily care needs. It is the goal of the personal care home to provide necessary services for individuals to live as independently as possible. Personal care home staff must respect and honor the uniqueness and choices of each resident and allow individuals to be involved in decisions that impact their lives. The following general rules should be followed when working with residents of a personal care home:

  • Respect each resident as an individual by calling him/her by name rather than by disability or room number.
  • Ask the resident what he/she wants and needs, his/her preferences, likes and dislikes.
  • Know each resident’s health conditions so you can know how to appropriately encourage physical and social independence.
  • Emphasize what the resident likes and can do rather than his/her deficits or difficulties.
  • Encourage each resident to be active in his/her care, both physically and in making decisions.
  • Acknowledge the resident’s cultural traditions, memories, experiences and values.
  • Ask the resident if he/she wants help rather than just doing it for him/her.
  • Treat the resident with respect in the tone of your voice and in your behavior toward him/her.
  • Provide privacy to each resident when dressing and bathing; knock and ask before entering a resident’s bedroom.
  • Don’t talk to the resident as if he/she was a child. Speak with respect in an adult manner.

In providing care in a personal care home setting, it is important to try to help residents to feel respected and independent. They may not be able to do everything for themselves, but they can make decisions about how much others help them.

Remember to assist residents in living their own lives by being independent and allowing them to control as much as they can. Simple choices help residents maintain control within safe bounds.

Communication is important: smiling patient and homecare worker
As you have seen through the introduction, “what you say” and “how you say it” is important to your success as a direct care staff person. Being able to comfortably talk with and listen to residents opens the door to cooperation and positive relationships. As you proceed through the modules you will find more communication skills reviewed.

One critical skill that every direct care staff person needs is the ability to introduce themselves. You will be doing it many times throughout your workday, especially in the first few weeks of work. Here are a few reminders about how to introduce yourself to a resident.

  • Use your first and last name. You may wear a name badge to help residents remember your name until they become familiar with you.
  • Call the resident by Mr./Mrs. and their last name. Residents who want you to use their first names will tell you their name or nickname.
  • Avoid using terms like “sweetie” or “dear.” Residents may be offended by these terms.
  • Use a relaxed and friendly tone of voice. This will help relax both you and the resident. A relaxed tone will increase the resident’s confidence in your abilities. Keep the volume of your voice at a regular level unless the resident is having difficulty hearing you.
  • Remember that your “body language” will say more than words. Body language is the physical clue that we use often without thinking. Some examples of positive body language are smiling, a touch, nodding and making eye contact with the person who is talking. Examples of body language that express displeasure are frowning, raising an eyebrow and folding our arms over our chest. Body language should match what you are saying. Even people with severe memory problems who have difficulty understanding what you say, can still “read” your body language.
  • Establish eye contact with the resident. This means looking at the person to whom you are talking. Eye contact tells the other person you are listening and that you mean what you are saying. Directly face the resident when you speak and get to his/her level (if they are sitting, sit down next to them). Keep in mind, however, that some residents from different cultural backgrounds may interpret direct eye contact differently. You will learn more about this in module #10.
  • Many older people who have difficulty hearing rely on “lip-reading” to understand what others are saying. Never shout; it raises the pitch of your voice. Many older people lose the ability to hear high-pitched sounds. That is why many older people tell you they can understand a man’s voice better than a woman’s voice.
  • Listening is extremely important. It is often more important to “zip your lip” and focus on what the resident is trying to tell you than it is to speak. It takes older people longer to react than young people. Give older people plenty of time to respond to your questions/comments.

Communication is important in all interactions and it is the bridge to learning what a resident needs and wants. From introductions to day-to-day communication, you will establish a relationship with each resident. Through communication you can gather information, reassure a resident, build trust and request assistance.

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