Different Types of Caregivers [Expert Explanation]

Different Types of Caregivers [Expert Explanation]

When looking for a caregiver, considering the different types of caregivers can help you choose the right care. Knowing the various care options available can also make the decision-making process less overwhelming. Whether considering a nursing home or in-home care, matching the caregiver types to your needs or loved ones’ is an ideal starting point.

Seniors’ preferences vary when it comes to choosing a caregiver type. According to a 2021 survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 79% of seniors in the US own the homes they live in. Out of this, three-quarters of these people aged 50 years and above preferred to continue staying in their homes during care. That makes in-home care a more popular option among older people. Does that mean you should go with what everyone else prefers?

Let’s dive into the various types of caregivers available so you can answer this question in a well-informed way.

What are the Primary Differences Between the Terms “Caregiver” and “Professional Caregiver”?

The different types of caregivers can be grouped into two main categories and terms: professional caregivers and informal caregivers (commonly called caregiver). The latter category refers to those without formal caregiving training and rely upon intuition to provide care. These are family members, friends, or other volunteers who perform housekeeping while providing companionship to the seniors. As such, care is provided at a senior’s home and therefore may need some modification to fit their conditions.

Professional caregiver definition encompasses individuals who have undergone formal training or education in nursing, caregiving, and related fields. In most cases, they hold certifications and or licenses of practice. These caregivers have a wider scope of service, which can include non-medical and medical tasks. These include administering medication, nursing, and providing specialized assistance.

Professional caregivers usually provide their services in structured care facilities such as personal care homes, nursing homes, and hospitals. Their services, which include personal care, medical care, and companionship, are often compensated through insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or direct payment. Additionally, professional caregivers can start assisted living facility businesses to offer comprehensive care and support, ensuring residents receive the necessary assistance.

What Are The Different Types Of Caregivers?

What Are The Different Types Of Caregivers? A professional caregiver helping elderly.

Now that we’ve looked into the two main categories of caregivers, let’s break down each category to know the types of caregivers.

Different Types of Informal Caregivers

These caregivers often provide care in a senior’s home setting; therefore, they’re also referred to as in-home caregivers. They offer assistance for the various caregiving stages that a senior requires. Under the category of informal caregivers, there are also different types of caregivers. Let’s look at the most common types:

Family caregivers

These are family members who offer to look after their older loved one at home. It could be children looking after an old parent or a spouse looking after their partner. As per a report by AARP, more than 48 million people in the US offer caregiving to a family member or friend without pay. Although family caregivers often work without payment, some of the caregiving expenses can be reimbursed under Medicaid. You can know more about the pay from this discussion on how much do family members get paid for caregiving.

Independent caregivers

At times, all the family members of a senior may not have the time to provide care to their loved ones. also, the finances to cater to the cost of hiring a professional caregiver may be too high for a family. In such an event, families may opt to hire independent caregivers.

These caregivers are not affiliated with any caregiving agency but operate independently. An important distinction to note is that they could be trained professionally, but only that they are not under an agency. Independent caregivers provide any necessary care in conjunction with the family members, who determine the needs of their loved one. Here is more on how to become an independent contractor caregiver.

Volunteer caregivers

These are people who choose to offer caregiving to seniors without expecting pay in return. They could be related to the senior person, such as a distant relative, extended family member, or friends. Volunteer caregivers can also be unrelated to the senior, such as community volunteers.

Different Types of Professional Caregivers

Professional-Caregivers posing beside elderly

When looking at the different types of caregivers, professional caregivers are ideal if you need holistic care. This means both non-medical and medical needs are taken care of by a professionally trained caregiver. The caregiver can work with the recipient in their home or a care facility. A professional caregiver can be affiliated with a caregiving agency, so they’re assigned when you choose to work with an agency.  They also work at various caregiving facilities as professionals.

The following are some types of professional caregivers that you may opt for depending on your needs or those of a loved one:

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)

A CNA’s primary task is carrying out medical-related care. Their caregiving examples include administering medication, controlling infections, and changing dressings, among others. CNAs can provide care to a recipient at rehabilitation hospitals, nursing facilities, or daycare centers under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN).

Home Health Aides

Home Health Aides (HHAs) are professional caregivers who have undergone specific training to provide care to recipients. They provide personal care at the recipient’s home, but can also work in assisted living facilities, retirement communities, or group homes.

Agency caregivers

Typically, caregiving agencies employ and contract most professional caregivers to private clients, nursing homes, and hospices. In many cases, agencies collaborate with CNA-licensed caregivers to deliver professional care to recipients.

Nursing home caregivers

If an injury or illness prevents you or your loved one from leading a normal life, considering a nursing home is advisable. In this scenario, nursing homes assign caregivers to provide necessary long-term or short-term care. Beyond regular care, nursing homes offer additional types of caregiving, including medical assistance, rehabilitative therapy, and higher-level aid.

Assisted living facility caregivers

While checking out the different types of caregivers, it’s also a great idea to consider assisted living facility caregivers. These are professional caregivers who take care of older people with certain physical or cognitive impairments. Their role is to help these seniors live a semi-independent life while receiving extra nursing assistance during the week.

Non-medical caregivers

Non-medical caregivers sitting and taking to elderly

These are professional caregivers whose role is to offer low-touch care and support to disabled patients and seniors. Non-medical caregivers include Personal Care Attendants (PCAs), companions, and homemakers. They help care recipients with activities of daily living (ADL) such as cooking, bathing, personal grooming, walking, et cetera.

These caregivers best suit older adults who are semi-independent and need moderate assistance to lead a normal life.

Virtual caregivers

These are caregivers who rely on telehealth services to offer caregiving to recipients who do not need the physical presence of a caregiver. They routinely contact recipients or hold online video meetings to chat about various challenges or needs. Virtual caregivers can call to remind recipients to take their medication. They also guide about home modifications to enhance a client’s quality of life.

In some cases, virtual caregivers may also visit care recipients to perform physical assessments.

Hospice caregivers

Hospice caregivers provide care and support to improve the quality of life for recipients nearing the end of life.  These caregivers work with the family members of a senior to lessen their suffering as they approach their final days of living.

When To Choose Professional and Informal Caregiver

Cost often guides the choice between a professional or informal caregiver. Many people express concerns about expenses and inquire about insurance coverage for caregiving bills. While the issue of cost often takes precedence when looking at different types of caregivers, it’s important to look beyond this.

The decision to choose between informal and professional caregivers often depends on several factors. These include the care recipient’s needs, the complexity of required care, and the preferences of the caregiver and care recipient.

When to Choose An Informal Caregiver

  • Existence of a strong personal relationship: If the care recipient shares a close personal relationship with the caregiver, informal caregiving may offer comfort and emotional support.
  • Care recipient’s preference for familiar surroundings: Some care recipients prefer to stay in a more familiar and comfortable environment. If that’s the case, then an informal caregiver may be an ideal option for the recipient.
  • Non-medical care requirements: For care recipients who mainly require assistance with ADLs or companionship, informal caregivers may be a more suitable choice.
  • Financial considerations: Informal caregiving is more affordable compared to professional caregiving. As such, it may be a suitable option if the recipient or their family has financial constraints.
  • Availability and flexibility: Informal caregivers may be more available and flexible to meet the care needs and schedule of a care recipient.

When To Choose a Professional Caregiver

  • Medical care requirements: If a care recipient needs complex medical attention, or specialized care, or suffers chronic health condition, a professional caregiver is a more suitable choice.
  • Advanced care requirements: Professional caregivers like HHAs and CNAs are trained and equipped to offer advanced care services. If a recipient needs their health monitored, medication administered, and medical equipment managed, opt for professional caregiving.
  • Therapy or rehabilitation required: Care recipients undergoing therapy or rehabilitation require the services of a professional caregiver with certain therapeutic skills.
  • Safety concerns: Where a care recipient has problems with mobility and needs assistance to move, a professional caregiver can ensure their environment is safe.
  • 24/7 supervision: In cases where recipients need continuous supervision, such as where they have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a professional caregiver can provide 24/7 care.

Conclusion on Different Types of Caregivers

When searching for a caregiver for yourself or a loved one, actively research the various available caregiver types. This helps in making informed decisions and reduces the overwhelming nature of the process. Whether to consider a professional or informal caregiver entirely depends on the recipient’s specific needs. Family members should collaborate and communicate openly and involve the care recipient in choosing the right caregiver.


Below are short answers to most asked questions regarding types of caregivers.

What are the four types of people caregivers?

Family caregivers, professional caregivers, volunteer caregivers, and independent caregivers.

What is the most common type of caregiver?

Family caregivers are the most common type, often providing care to loved ones without financial compensation.

How many types of caregiving are there?

There are two main categories: informal caregivers (family, friends, volunteers) and professional caregivers (trained and certified individuals).

What are the styles of caregivers?

Caregiver styles vary but commonly include authoritative, collaborative, and supportive approaches.

What are the 4 principles of caregiving?

Compassion, communication, competence, and commitment are fundamental principles in caregiving.

Who is a professional caregiver?

A professional caregiver is trained and certified to provide various caregiving services, often working in healthcare settings or private homes.

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