What Is a Caregiver?

By Michael Watson

"Caregiver" or "caretaker" refers to anyone who provides care for another person. There are different types of caregivers that provide specific care, like family caregivers and respite caregivers. Caregivers can help relieve burdens and support individuals in need. They may help for a long time or just a short time, but their care is always important. Let's take a closer look at what a caregiver's role is.

Caregiver vs. Nurse

Most people never think about the differences between a nurse and a caregiver, but it's a difference that can be instrumental in getting your loved one the proper care.


Nurses are licensed to perform skilled care (tube feeding, regular injections, IV therapy, medication administration, etc.). So, if your loved one requires skilled care, you'll likely need a nurse on hand. 

Nurses are generally only in the home a few hours per week. Nurses are usually in charge of implementing specific instructions set forth by a doctor. Nurses also use assessment skills to help monitor the progress of a patient as they recover from serious illness or injury.

Nurses have strict educational requirements. There are several types of nursing degrees, including Licensed practical nurse (LPN), Associate degree in nursing (ADN), and Bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). Nurses start as an LPN and work up to a BSN. Each of these types of nurses have different certifications and courses they must take. 


Caregivers, on the other hand, are there to help with activities of daily living as well as to provide companionship for their clients. They do not perform medical care. Instead, caregivers have a personal touch. They develop close ties with those in their care as they help with the day-to-day needs that a senior might not be able to do on their own any longer. Whether it's bathing, or grocery shopping, or even cooking their meals, a caregiver can help fill in the gap for seniors who otherwise would not be able to continue living on their own.

The professional you need for your loved ones will depend on their needs and unique situation. A senior may need both a nurse and a caregiver or just one to come into the home each week. 

Types of Caregivers

Because "caregiver" and "caretaker" refer to anyone who provides care, there are different types of caregivers. When it comes to senior care, these are the types of caregivers that you may hear about.

  • Private-duty caregiver: Private-duty caregivers are hired through an agency. These caregivers are typically screened through the agency, bonded, and insured. Working through a caregiver agency, families can get a backup caregiver if their scheduled caregiver can't make a shift.

  • Independent caregivers: These caregivers are also known as private caregivers, but they should not be confused with private-duty caregivers. Independent caregivers do now work through an agency. While the cost can be cheaper, families paying for these caregivers take on the liability of letting someone in their home.

  • Family caregiver: Family caregivers are members of the family who choose to care for a loved one. These caregivers may be children, spouses, or other family members. They may work another job in addition to their responsibilities and usually don't receive compensation for their service.

  • Respite caregiver: A respite caregiver provides care for a period of time to give a family caregiver a break. These caregivers can be private-duty or independent caregivers, but the role implies that they are not long-term caregivers.

Caregiver Qualifications

Caregiver requirements vary from state to state, so there is no set education level or certification required for all caregivers.  For example, some caregivers are only required to have 40 hours of training, while other states require 120 of education and training. Caregivers can work for agencies that have their own set of standards as well. 

Private-duty caregivers usually undergo a thorough background check and a rigorous interview process to be hired at an agency. That's why it's so important to research the caregiver agency or the independent caregiver you are hiring.

At Caring, we even go a step further and ensure that our caregivers have the qualifications and the personality to care for seniors. We've found that the best caregivers are patient, empathetic, dependable, and flexible. But these are just some of the caregiver qualities we look for. Additionally, we provide ongoing training to make sure that our caregivers are always up-to-date on best practices.

Benefits of a Caregiver

Caregivers provide many benefits to seniors and their families. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Independence: In-home caregivers give seniors the independence they want to age in place. Caregivers can help with laundry, cooking, medication reminders, personal care, and more so that seniors can remain at home and continue their daily routine. Many seniors don't want to move into a facility, and a caregiver gives them the option to remain at home.

  • Peace of mind: Many family members may worry about their loved ones, especially if they don't live nearby. A caregiver can provide family members and seniors the peace of mind they deserve. Caregivers can be with seniors to help keep them safe and healthy. Having a caregiver you trust with your loved one can be a huge relief.

  • Cost: Hiring a caregiver 24/7 is often cheaper than moving into a facility. Seniors can also choose to hire caregivers for specific hours, so they get care when they need it instead of paying for hours of care that they might not need. In-home care may be covered in your insurance policy, lowering the cost even more.

Whatever your reason is for hiring a caregiver, we know that in-home care is a great option for seniors looking to age in place. At Caring, our team of experts is here to help you or a loved one with the difficulties that come with aging. Feel free to reach out to our team at a location near you to get more answers about caregiving. 

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