What’s the Difference Between a PCA and CNA and HHA?

Published May 12, 2022

Living with a terminal illness such as cancer, dementia, or heart disease is extraordinarily challenging, both for the patient and their loved ones. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, you should know that there are caretaker professionals who can make life at home more comfortable:

  • Personal care aides (PCA) provide ill patients with the assistance and relief they need to live comfortably in their home.
  • Home health aides (HHA) work with patients that need constant care, beyond what a PCA can provide, but who don’t have severe health needs to tend to.
  • Certified nursing assistants (CNA) help patients and nurses with complex tasks necessary for effective patient care.

While each profession has distinct training requirements, choosing the right home care provider for you or your loved one can be confusing. Read on to learn more about the differences among home care providers so that you can secure the appropriate level of care.

What is a PCA (Personal Care Aide)?

Personal care aides can perform a variety of at-home tasks for patients such as doing the laundry, cleaning, running errands, preparing meals, and more. They can also escort patients to medical appointments, provide overnight patient monitoring, remind patients to take medication, and aid with physical therapy.

PCAs are a good option for individuals who can’t live independently, but also don’t require constant medical care.

What is an HHA (Home Health Aide)?

A step above PCAs, home health aides work with patients that require constant medical care but don’t have severe immediate health needs. They work to maintain the patient’s health, and also help with household tasks the patient might struggle with like dressing and using the bathroom.

HHAs can also perform medical tasks such as attaching and removing artificial limbs and braces, checking skin and providing skin care remedies, and monitoring dietary needs.

What is a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)?

Certified nursing assistants help nurses with advanced patient care tasks as well as their physical needs, and are perfect for anyone who needs around the clock medical assistance. They can perform medical tasks such as measuring patient vital signs and setting up medication drips and oxygen supplies, along with household tasks, like preparing food and cleaning.
While CNAs are certified to monitor their patients at home, they can also work with you or your loved one in a hospital, rehabilitation facility, and even adult day centers.

Difference between HHA and PCA and CNA

Now that you understand the fundamentals of the different home care practitioners, it’s important to understand how they differ from one another so that you or your loved one receives proper care.


Personal care aides and certified nursing assistants both work in the home, so they’re sometimes thought of interchangeably. However, CNAs can also work in hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient clinics, so they can perform medical tasks which PCAs cannot. CNAs require supervised clinical training, must pass a state exam, and must be certified from an accredited program—and all that experience means they generally receive a higher hourly rate. Conversely, because PCAs only need a high school diploma and between 40 and 75 training hours from a vocational school in CPR, first aid, feeding, elderly care, grooming, and blood pressure checking, they typically charge less.

CNAs are an attractive option for someone who can’t live independently, but needs more extensive home care than a PCA can provide.


Home health aides have more formal training than a personal care aide, usually from a vocational school or community college, and have passed a state-certified exam, making them more expensive. HHAs may perform some medical tasks under the supervision of a registered nurse or nurse practitioner; PCAs cannot do these since they’re limited to patient, not medical, care.


Home health aides help with the same daily living tasks as CNAs, but additionally help with medical functions such as monitoring a patient’s vital signs and administering medication. HHAs must pass a state certified exam, and they usually have training from either a community college or a vocational school, whereas CNAs are trained through an accredited program. This formal training can make hiring a CNA more costly than hiring an HHA.

How Coventry Direct Can Help

Facing the pressures of a terminal illness can still be stressful and all-consuming; getting the right level of care can make a big difference—both for you and your loved ones’ emotional and financial well being.

But there are ways to lessen some of the stress and worry. Selling an active life insurance policy for cash can alleviate some of the financial concerns that come with terminal diagnosis. If you have a life insurance policy, learn whether you qualify to sell your policy, and how much your policy is worth with expert guidance from Coventry Direct today

Share this article:

Sell your life insurance policy for cash.

See if you qualify now.

We’re here to help. Speak with a Policy Specialist today at 1-800-COVENTRY