Free online training for California home health workers | Inquirer

Free online training for home health workers in California

CalGrows has hundreds of free online or in-person classes
/ 06:30 AM March 12, 2024


CalGrows allows home health workers, the backbone of California health care, to earn up to $6,000 for learning and using new skills. FILE PHOTO

If you’re struggling to care for elderly or disabled friends or family, CalGrows has hundreds of free — and paying — online or in-person classes to help.

The state program allows home health workers, the backbone of California health care, to earn up to $6,000 for learning and using new skills. However, time is running out for caregivers to sign up, as the program ends in August.

At a March 7 briefing hosted by the California Department of Aging and Ethnic Media Services, speakers described the caregiving and healthcare program, and the paid incentives that go with it, adding a note of urgency.

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Renita Polk, of the California Department of Aging, cited estimates that by 2030, a quarter of all Californians — 10.8 million people — will be at least 60 years old and require another 3.2 million caregivers and healthcare workers to provide “varying levels of care.”

“This is a tangible investment in caregivers, acknowledging their vital role and representing California’s diverse communities and providing people with the quality care they deserve,” said Polk.

“This is a massive problem,” Dr. V.J. Periyakoil, director of Stanford University’s GE Research Center and its School of Medicine’s Palliative Care Education and Training program. “It’s not a ‘them’ problem, it’s an ‘us’ problem.”


Constantly improving medical care means sudden deaths are fewer and “most of us are eventually going to live for years with a chronic condition, and die of multiple causes,” she explained.

Already, people are surviving cancer diagnoses for years, living with diabetes, surviving strokes, lung disease, kidney problems and much more.

Just to get through the day, some will need help with simple, basic functions such as showering, dressing and toileting.


But asking people with no training or background in the work to provide such services, she said, is like giving an unlicensed driver the keys to an 18-wheeler. And those caregivers are also reporting the depression and burnout that can accompany being constantly on call.

So far, the Department of Aging’s Connie Nakano said that about 6,000 people have completed more than 25,000 courses and earned more than $2 million in incentives while becoming better trained and able to provide the support that seniors and their families need.

Those eligible for the program must be unlicensed caregivers, certified home care aids or certified nursing assistants who live and work in California.

Free career-advancement training is open to those providing unpaid care to older adults or people with disabilities — including friends and family — in a home or community setting, though incentives don’t apply.

Caregivers already paid by an employer which is not In-Home Supportive Services may receive incentives for taking the courses. IHSS employees with a second job elsewhere, or employees with an organization under a county contract to provide IHSS care, are also eligible.

CalGrows is “a comprehensive program,” said Anni Chung, CEO of San Francisco’s Self Help for the Elderly organization, which has been operating since 1966 and currently serves more than 40,000 clients annually with health, educational, social and recreational services.

“It allows us an opportunity to train our staff of 411 employees,” she said, and provide the training updates they need to recertify every two years. And, she said, “it’s an excellent opportunity for newly arrived immigrants to develop career paths,” by providing the knowledge they’ll need to pass state-administered licensing tests.

One such person, Mei Guo, arrived in 2005 and began working as an unlicensed caregiver almost immediately. “I was full of passion, but also felt confused and challenged,” she said through a translator.

But as she began taking courses through Self Help for the Elderly, “I quickly realized this would be a turning point in my career,” Guo continued. “After obtaining my license I was able to provide higher quality care service to the seniors I took care of, not only improving their quality of life but also giving their family members peace of mind.”

Programs such as this, she added, “Help monolingual, non-English-speaking job seekers, immigrants like me, for whom language barriers are a significant challenge … providing not only professional training, but a bridge for communication and learning, allowing us to find our place in this multicultural society in the United States. Through this training we not only improved our professional skills, but learned how to integrate into this society.”

The courses are offered in nine languages: English, Spanish, Armenian, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, Russian and Vietnamese. Topics include Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, cultural diversity, food safety, infection control and self-care for caregivers, but there are many, many more.

Caregivers can sign up for the program online at, by phone at (888) 991-7234 or by email at [email protected].

“There’s a course out there that can fit anyone’s schedule,” Polk said. They range from short, quarter- or half-hour one-time brush-ups to longer ones that can be completed online, with pauses as needed, to others that are considerably longer. “It’s really just dependent on how much time the student has.”

While the program remains available, one panelist, retired journalist Joe Rodriguez, said he’s signing up right away.

He’s currently caring for his sister, who devoted herself to their parents’ needs while Rodriguez was working for the San Jose Mercury News.

He’s single and his sister, who has no other family, can no longer walk, bathe or cook, and needs help getting almost anywhere, sometimes even at home.

“We’re going to be living together for a long time,” he said. “Her needs are going to be getting more profound. It’s quite scary.”

Years ago, Rodriguez said he wrote a column about his sister’s struggles taking care of their parents, and how she deserved a respite.

“I never got so much hate mail,” he recalled, more than for anything else he’d written, from people insisting elder care was a duty. “It’s going to be a tough haul to improve things, just as it’s going to be a tough haul for me personally.”

The CalGrows program in its current state will end at the end of August, due to the rules that came with the federal dollars that support it.

Polk and others expressed hope that somehow the educational opportunities will remain in place, even if the stipend funding dries up, but this remains to be seen. (Ethnic Media Services)

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TAGS: caregivers, health care, online courses, US-Featured
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