Older adults living in residential long-term care or nursing homes have increasingly complex needs, including more dementia than in the past, yet we know little about the unregulated workforce providing care. We surveyed 1,381 care aides in a representative sample of 30 urban nursing homes in the three Canadian Prairie provinces and report demographic, health and well-being, and work-related characteristics. Over 50 per cent of respondents were not born in Canada and did not speak English as their first language. They reported moderately high levels of burnout and a strong sense of their work’s worth. Few respondents reported attending educational sessions. This direct caregiver workforce is poorly understood, has limited training or standards for minimum education, and training varies widely across provinces. Workplace characteristics affecting care aides reflect factors that precipitate burnout in allied health professions, with implications for quality of care, staff health, and staff retention.