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Caretaker VS Caregiver

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If you’re trying to find someone to take care of an elderly loved one, you’ve probably come across the terms “caretaker” and “caregiver” quite a bit. But, you may be wondering: what is the difference between these two roles?

When it comes to caring for people, there are a lot of similarities between a “caretaker” and a “caregiver.” Both positions describe people who provide in-home personal care services for someone else. The main difference between the two is that a caretaker is always a hired individual, while a caregiver may be an adult family member or close friends with the person.

Below, we’ll discuss more information on what exactly caretakers and caregivers do. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

What Is A Personal Caretaker?

A caretaker is defined as anyone who is hired to look after the care of a place, a specific person, animal, or the care of a thing (inanimate objects). To be precise, a personal caretaker is someone hired to look after and provide for the care of a person, usually in the care recipient’s own home.

A personal caretaker may be hired either by the individual who is in need of assistance or by the adult children of older adults. Depending on the situation, they primarily provide physical support, but they may also offer emotional support and companionship. 

While a caretaker’s duties will vary from person to person, they generally include the following:

  • Providing transportation
  • Offering medical assistance
  • Performing household tasks
  • Assisting with activities of daily living (dressing, bathing, etc.)

What Is The Difference Between A Caregiver And A Caretaker?

If you are having trouble understanding the difference between a caregiver and a caretaker, it’s probably because these roles are similar, in that they imply the person takes care of something.

It’s worth mentioning that part of the confusion relates to how the use of this word can vary between countries.

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries define a caretaker in American English as “a person such as a teacher, parent, nurse, etc., who takes care of other people.” In British English, they define it as “a person whose job is to take care of a building such as a school or a block of flats or an apartment building” in the owner’s absence.

Clearly, there is a significant difference between the caregiving situations involving an elderly parent versus keeping a building in good repair!

The key difference is that, while a caretaker (for both people and items) is always a hired individual, a caregiver may be a member of the family, a neighbor, or a close friend. 

Characteristics Of Caregivers

Caregivers, unlike caretakers, may not be paid for their assistance. An informal caregiver can be a loved one who spends a good amount of their time helping out a relative or friend with cooking, cleaning, and activities of daily living. 

Home caregivers often provide more emotional support and companionship than caretakers. This is usually due to their close, personal relationship with those they care for. While caretakers are typically skilled professionals, caregivers may not be.

Some of the people who could take on the role of a caregiver include:

  • A parent
  • A brother or sister
  • A child or grandchild

Characteristics Of Caretakers

Caretakers typically provide direct care to children, to elderly people, or to disabled individuals.

A caretaker may be hired by the client themselves or by the client’s family. In some cases, a family caregiver will hire a professional caretaker on a short term basis to give themselves respite if their caretaking role takes place in a difficult situation.. 

While some families find caretakers through an agency, others search for qualified individuals by placing an ad. Nurses, certified nursing assistants (CNAs), and social workers are often hired as caretakers. 

What Does A Caretaker Do For The Elderly?

A personal caretaker for older people is generally tasked with providing physical support for the care receiver. Because they typically work in a client’s home, they may also help with light household duties.

While it may not be a job requirement, many caretakers also develop close friendships with their elderly clients. 

Depending on the situation, a caretaker may offer one or more types of services to an elderly client. Let’s look closer at some of these common tasks.

Helps With Activities Of Daily Living (ADLs)

As people get older, they sometimes start to lose their mobility. However, it’s crucial for a client’s physical and mental well-being to keep up with the tasks that come along with day-to-day life. These are often referred to as “activities of daily living,” or ADLs.

Some ADLs include:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Combing your hair
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Using the bathroom

A personal caretaker assists clients with one or more of these things, depending on the person’s unique situation.

Does Light Household Duties

Most of the time, an inability to keep up with household tasks is what forces elderly individuals to move into an assisted living community or nursing facility. In order to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, many people decide to hire professional assistance to help take care of their homes.

In such situations, the household duties a caretaker can help with include:

  • Doing laundry
  • Washing dishes
  • Grocery shopping
  • Checking the mail
  • Sweeping or vacuuming

Provides Transportation

Many people get to an age where they just don’t feel comfortable driving any longer. Having reliable transportation is important for an elderly person, especially when they have doctor’s appointments.

A personal caretaker will often provide transportation to and from the store, medical appointments, physical therapists, senior centers, or anywhere else the client would like to go.

Gives Medical Assistance

As people age, they tend to experience more and more medical conditions. Depending on the situation, this can all get overwhelming very quickly. Thankfully, private duty caregivers can provide different levels of medical assistance based on their level of expertise.

Some of the things they may be able to help with include:

  • Wound care
  • Blood sugar checks
  • Blood pressure checks
  • Medication administration

Offers Companionship

As the caregiver and client work together, they may develop a close friendship. Maintaining social interactions is of utmost importance as we age because it prevents feelings of isolation and loneliness. 

Caretakers may have conversations with their elderly clients about their family members, past experiences, or even neighborhood gossip! Although it may not necessarily be what they were hired for, it can mean the world for a client to forge a relationship with their caregiver. 

What Makes A Good Caretaker?

It takes a lot more than you may expect to be an effective personal caretaker. Overall, a good personal caretaker should be reliable, positive, and considerate of the entire family’s emotions. 

Read our article, How To Become A Companion For The Elderly.

Some of the things a good caretaker always makes sure to do include:

  1. Arrive on time each and every day.
  2. Exhibit a positive and kind demeanor.
  3. Respect a client’s boundaries, privacy, and dignity.
  4. Communicate fully with both the client and their family.
  5. Fulfill all the necessary duties and tasks while on the clock.

In addition, a good care provider should do everything they can to better themselves as time goes on. This means attending any trainings offered by their company and looking for opportunities to earn additional certifications to provide better care. 

The Bottom Line

Although the two terms are incredibly similar, there is one main difference between a caregiver and a caretaker. While a caregiver can refer to nearly anyone who spends time caring for an elderly or disabled individual, whether paid or not, a caretaker is always a paid employee. 

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