Personal Care Assistants: Alaska needs more

Alaska’s senior population has grown 7 percent since 2000. The publication Alaska Economic Trends states the number of Alaskans over the age of 70 will grow 60 percent in the next several years. More than 130,000 baby boomers will reach retirement age (65) in Alaska over the next 16 years. (Alaska Economic Trends, 2014). In fact, Alaska ranks first in the nation on a per-capita basis of states with a resident population 65 years or older, according to the Alaska Commission on Aging.

As seniors age they become increasingly susceptible to chronic conditions and require assistance with daily activities. This assistance will likely be provided by either a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Personal Care Assistant (PCA).

CNAs are certified by the State of Alaska and work under the supervision of a registered nurse. The average hourly wage of a CNA is $17 per hour. CNAs generally work in nursing homes, hospitals or long term care facilities and assist with all manner of care including clinical tasks such as changing wound dressings and taking vital signs.

Personal Care Assistants (PCA) are the health givers generally providing services in family homes and assisted care facilities. The PCA helps with daily activities such as household chores, bathing, dressing, managing medication, etc. PCAs make up approximately 83 percent of senior care aides in Alaska and earn an average of $13.50 an hour.

Most seniors want to stay in their home as they age and as a result the need for more PCAs is a certainty. The minimum requirements to become a PCA are:

1. Must able at least 18 years of age.

2. May not have been denied a health care provider license or certification for a reason related to patient services, or ever had a license or certification revoked.

3. Must be able to independently assist the recipient with the specific activities of daily living (ADL) and services to the patient.

4. Pass a background check, submitted through the hiring PCA agency.

5. Provide proof of having and maintaining a certificate in first aid and CPR.

The cost of PCA training is approximately $500 to $700 and can be obtained through agencies such as the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Access Alaska in Anchorage or the Mat-Su, Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center, among others. More information is available on the state website at

One ready pool of potential PCA workers is healthy, retired seniors.

Daniel Strong’s article in the Alaska Economic Trends is referred to in this column.

Leonard T. Kelley is the Older Persons Action Group board president.

Roar Online Publication Software and content management solution. Lions Light offers cutting edge software for newspaper and magazine websites.