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Caregiver VS CNA

CNA is short for a certified nurse assistant or simply a nursing assistant. Although they provide care to the elderly, their role is not the same as that of a caregiver.

What are the differences between a caregiver and a CNA?

CNAs can provide medical assistance due to their educational background, certification, and medical training. Caregivers lack any certification, which limits the services they can offer to an elderly patient. 

In this article, we’ll explain further the differences between CNAs and caregivers, including the roles that a CNA can take on that a caregiver cannot.

By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know whether a caregiver or a CNA is more suitable for your senior parent or loved one. 

Is A Caregiver The Same as A CNA?

No, they are actually two different roles.

A Caregiver is a person who provides care to an individual that needs assistance with daily living activities such as bathing, meal preparation and personal hygiene.

They may also provide emotional support and companionship.

A CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) is a lower-level medical professional who assists nurses and doctors in providing medical care to patients.

They monitor patient health and provide direct care such as taking vital signs, dressing wounds, documenting treatments and helping with activities of daily living.

Both Caregivers and CNAs are important roles in the medical field, but they require different skillsets and certifications.

A caregiver can be almost anyone.

If you’re an adult child who’s caring for your senior parent or loved one in your own home or theirs, that technically makes you a caregiver.

Your siblings as well as other members of your family might be caregivers too.

If you have neighbors, friends, or community members who step in with the care of older adults, they’d be caregivers as well.

Anyone caring for a family member is a family caregiver. In professional contexts, there are also independent and private-duty caregivers.

Independent home caregivers are not associated with home care agencies, and a private-duty caregiver works in private homes. 

Read our article, What Are The Duties Of A Caregiver.

So, a caregiver is not the same as a certified nursing assistant or CNA.

These are two different career paths and the main differences are a caregiver’s lack of certification and formal training. 

We’ll talk more about this later, but CNA candidates go through a training program that includes hours of education and clinical experience to do the job they do.

They must go through a certification process, and pass both a written exam and a practical exam to earn their CNA certification.

They’re more medically qualified than a caretaker and thus can take on roles and responsibilities that a caretaker should not. 

A caregiver, especially if it’s a friend or family member, may not always be compensated for their work.

That is not true of professional caretakers though. CNAs work for compensation, and that’s another difference between these two roles. 

The Top 10 Ways That A CNA Can Help Aging Adults

1. Provide companionship – A CNA can provide company to an aging adult and engage in activities such as reading, going for walks or playing board games. This helps to reduce feelings of loneliness, depression and enhances their overall quality of life.

2. Assisting with bathing and dressing – A CNA can assist an elderly person with the activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing. This can help them maintain their independence and dignity by providing assistance where needed.

3. Keeping track of medications – A CNA can ensure that an elderly person takes their medications correctly and on time. This is especially important for those who are taking multiple medications as it helps to alleviate potential drug interactions or overdose.

4. Monitoring nutrition and hydration – Proper nutrition and hydration are essential for maintaining health in the elderly population. A CNA can ensure that an elderly person is getting proper amounts of both, as well as encouraging them to eat healthy foods and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

5. Offering emotional support – Living with chronic health conditions can take an emotional toll on elderly individuals. A CNA can be available to lend a listening ear and provide understanding and empathy during difficult times.

6. Assisting with mobility – As the body ages, maintaining proper mobility becomes increasingly important. A CNA can help by providing guidance in performing safe, comfortable exercises that help maintain mobility.

7. Helping with daily activities – Doing routine household tasks like laundry, dishes, and meal preparation can be difficult for elderly individuals. A CNA can assist with these tasks to help give the elderly individual more time to relax and enjoy life.

8. Monitoring health – CNAs are trained to take vital signs such as their patient’s temperature and blood pressure. They can also monitor for any signs of illness or infection and report them to the proper medical personnel.

9. Light housekeeping – Part of their duties is to help maintain the environment that their patients are living in. This is true whether they are in an assisted living facility, a nursing home or in their patients’ homes.

10. Help their patient follow through with daily exercises – For physical and emotional well-being, it is important for elderly individuals to stay active. CNAs can help their patients stick to their exercise regimen through reminders and support. A CNA’s assistance with these tasks goes a long way in helping elderly individuals live better

A CNA is an invaluable asset to any aging adult’s life, providing the necessary care and companionship that allows them to live a comfortable and rewarding life.

Their training and expertise provide personalized care that can greatly improve an elderly person’s quality of life.

With their support, elderly persons can receive the medication they need, remain safe while living independently, access nutritious meals, and enjoy recreational activities.

CNAs are also a vital source of emotional support and can help aging adults find companionship, engage in meaningful conversations, and connect with their families or other sources of support in order to maintain good mental health.

With the assistance of a CNA, elderly individuals can stay independent and safe for as long as possible.

What Can CNA’s Do That Caregivers Cannot?

While a CNA can do everything that uncertified caregivers can, the opposite is not true. There are roles exclusive to a CNA.

As you’ll see in this section, these areas of care are more centered on medications and treatments and are available to CNAs due to their advanced medical backgrounds.

Certified nursing assistants are required to complete specific classroom and clinical training courses and then pass a certification examination.

This training gives them certain skills that caregivers do not have.

Therefore, CNA’s tend to provide a higher level of care than caregivers.

CNA’s have specialized training in areas like infection control, personal hygiene, vital signs monitoring, transfer techniques, and medical terminology, which caregivers typically do not have.

In addition to providing direct patient care as mentioned above, CNA’s are trained to take vital signs and monitor patients for signs of infection, illness or injury.

These skills can be extremely beneficial during daily tasks such as bathing, dressing and toileting. It’s often during these tasks that patients experience problems with blood pressure, pain, etc.

CNA’s can then report their findings to the patient’s nurse and/or document the information in the patient’s medical chart.

Here are some roles that a CNA can also do.

Act As a Liaison To The Senior’s Healthcare Team

A CNA is like the bridge between your senior and their healthcare team.

The CNA will communicate with your senior’s doctor’s office, nurses, and other medical staff to ensure the senior is staying on top of their medications and other care.

Administer Care

Since CNAs see seniors so often, they’re usually the first ones to notice when something is amiss.

For example, perhaps the senior’s urine is darker than usual or even tinged with blood. The senior could have unexplained scratches or bruises.

Not only can a CNA determine the source of these injuries (to the best of their abilities), but they can admiinister care, even complex treatments.

Keep The Environment Clean

A CNA will use sanitizing techniques as seen in hospitals and other medical facilities to disinfect a senior’s room or environment inside and out.

From the senior’s bed to their bathroom and everywhere in between, you won’t have to worry about germs in your senior’s environment with a CNA around.

Take Vital Signs

A CNA can track a senior’s temperature, pulse, and blood pressure throughout the day or when needed.

After tracking a senior’s vitals, if something seems off, the CNA can discuss their findings with a supervisor. This may result in further testing and eventual treatment for a senior.

Move A Senior

CNAs know the proper technique for lifting a person and transporting them, such as from the bathroom to the bedroom or the kitchen to the living room.

The CNA can put the senior on an examining table or in a wheelchair without causing injury or pain. 

If a senior is bedridden, then the CNA will turn them over at the appropriate times to prevent bedsores and other issues.

Find out the differences between a Caretaker VS Caregiver.

What Are The Requirements To Become a CNA?

You may be leaning towards hiring a CNA over a caretaker, but there’s probably still more you want to know. How does a person enter this role? What kind of education and additional training requirements do they need? 

The first step for an aspiring CNA is to have at least a high school diploma as well as training as a nurse assistant.

This will have required spending time at a trade school, vocational schools or community colleges. This training may also be available online or through the Red Cross.

Then they’ll enroll in a CNA course approved through the National League for Nursing Accredited Commission or NLNAC, as well as the nursing board in their state. 

After finishing their education program training, the soon-to-be-CNA will have to take an exam known as the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program or NNAAP exam.

The exam combines both oral and written elements. The written part of the exam lasts for 90 minutes and the oral part of the exam for a half-hour. 

If they pass, then the aspiring CNA will receive their license. T

hat license is only valid in the state they call home and each state has their own requirements for certification or granting a CNA license.

Find out how to become a companion for the the elderly.

How Many Months Does It Take To Become A CNA?

Assuming a CNA has already received their GED or high school diploma, how long will they spend training to become a CNA?

That varies on a state-by-state basis. An aspiring CNA might undergo training for upwards of a month (four weeks) or three months (12 weeks).

In some instances, training is prolonged, and the CNA-in-training will receive instruction for six months before they take their exam. 

It all depends on the training course offered in an aspiring CNA’s state and how in-depth the instruction goes. 

To register for the NNAAP exam, aspiring CNAs must have completed 75 or more hours of schooling in a program accredited by their state.

Some states require more hours of training but shouldn’t demand fewer hours. 


Caregivers and CNAs may share some responsibilities in a senior’s care, but the two roles are not the same. A CNA undergoes more training and has a license that allows them to provide additional support and administer more skilled care than what a caregiver can provide. 

Both CNAs and caregivers can have their place in a senior’s life!

You may also want to know what the differences are between a caregiver and a caretaker.

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