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What Are the 4 Types of Caregivers?

Summary: There are many different types of caregivers. Some are more directly involved, while others retain secondary roles. Family caregivers, professional caregivers, assisted living caregivers, and hospice caregivers all have different roles. However, there are several additional caregivers because healthcare needs can vary greatly from person to person. Estimated Read Time: 5 mins

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Table of Contents:

  1. Family Caregivers (Informal Caregivers)
  2. Primary Caregivers and Secondary Caregivers
  3. Professional Caregivers (Private-Duty Caregivers)
  4. Assisted Living and Nursing Home Caregivers
  5. Hospice Caregivers
  6. Nursing Caregivers
  7. Virtual Caregivers
  8. Assistant Caregiver
  9. What Is the Duty of a Caregiver?

There are many different types of caregivers. The main four are family, professional, assisted living, and hospice caregivers. But everyone has different healthcare needs, including different needs at different stages of life. Therefore, it’s important to recognize there are actually more than four types depending on your needs.

Categorizing each type of caregiver can help us to better understand their roles, responsibilities, and relationship with the care recipient and others involved in the healthcare process. In this article, we review some of the many types of caregivers
in great detail.

Family Caregivers (Informal Caregivers)

Family caregivers are also known as informal caregivers. Family caregivers are typically not formally trained to help provide support. However, they are led into the role by obligation to their loved ones. In total, the United States is home to 65.7 million family caregivers, many of whom may not even realize they fulfill this role.

Rather than seeking recognition or even compensation, informal caregivers often take on responsibilities related to activities of daily living (ADLs) and other non-healthcare-related needs for family members out of love and duty.

Primary Caregivers and Secondary Caregivers

As a family caregiver, you’re likely going to fall into one of two subcategories: primary or secondary. They both have important roles in helping your loved one retain a higher quality of life. Here’s a breakdown of the two:

  • Both primary and secondary caregivers are going to help ensure that ADLs are completed in most cases. However, this responsibility typically falls on the primary caregivers first before the secondary caregivers.
  • A primary caregiver is also going to advocate for their patient and be more hands-on in affairs outside of the realm of healthcare.
  • Secondary caregivers can act as respite caregivers to alleviate a family member or provide care when the primary caregiver isn’t available.
  • On average, primary caregivers are older in age and the spouse of their patient, whereas secondary caregivers are younger and have a paying job outside of their caregiving duties.

Professional Caregivers (Private-Duty Caregivers)

A professional caregiver is usually hired to help provide support for your loved ones.

There are two main types of professional caregivers available:

  • Agency Caregivers
  • Independent Caregivers

Agency caregivers work for businesses, providing the duties of a caregiver to those with a medical need. There may be people with medical backgrounds working for agencies, but they should not be confused with licensed nurses or doctors.

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On the other hand, independent caregivers are similar to agency caregivers, but they are not going to be tied to a larger organization. You will need to hire these professionals directly in order to receive their services.

When dealing with a private-duty caregiver, both independent and agency alike, it’s important to review your state’s licensing, insurance, and medical training standards before hiring anyone to care for your loved one.

Even a family individual caregiver may collaborate with a private-duty caregiver for respite care. Therefore, understanding the necessary guidelines professionals must follow can provide peace of mind that your loved one is in good hands.

Assisted Living and Nursing Home Caregivers

Sometimes, our loved ones require more care than we can provide. Other times, our loved ones may wish to retain some sort of independence and not feel as if they are a burden to others. This is where assisted living communities and nursing homes can come into play.

The types of caregiver jobs in these facilities will be similar in nature, but the environment in which they work is where you’ll find core differences. Caregivers at assisted living facilities are more likely to help with management and memory issues, while nursing homes take on overcoming more physical ADLs loved ones struggle with.

Hospice Caregivers

Hospice care provides specialized care for patients who are nearing the end of life. Terminally ill patients require different needs than others. Caregivers providing palliative care to those at the end of their lives may help with ADLs but also assign things such as running errands and simply doing whatever they can to make sure the care recipient is comfortable.

According to Medicare, a patient is eligible for hospice care when they have six months or less to live. These patients may be suffering from chronic conditions such as:

  • ALS
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Cancer
  • Dementia
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Parkinson’s
  • Stroke

Nursing Caregivers

A nursing caregiver encompasses nurses found in hospitals, in homes, and in other facilities assisting elders with ADLs.

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The key distinction here is that these professional nursing caregivers will have training that is not only mandated by the state for specific certifications but has also either completed or is in the midst of completing a formal degree in nursing school.

Virtual Caregivers

Virtual caregivers provide telehealth services online instead of in a healthcare facility and have become more popular since COVID-19. They are great solutions for people in need of care but in an isolated location, unable to travel, or simply looking to avoid seeing healthcare professionals in-person. Here are some pros and cons when using their services:

Pros Cons
Provides healthcare to those who may not be able to travel May not be applicable for all healthcare needs
Healthcare monitoring, prescription management, and more Misdiagnosis is possible because it’s online instead of in front of a professional
Patients and caregivers don’t have to expose themselves to illnesses You’ll need to have a strong internet connection to video call
Visits are typically easier to work around than an in-person visit Even good Internet connections can have disruptions

Assistant Caregiver

An assistant caregiver or caregiver assistant is a role operating in assisted living facilities to help the elderly complete ADLs such as chores and personal hygiene. Often, this specific role of caregivers for older adults helps seniors who have mobility issues get around, conduct everyday activities, and/or engage in exercise of some sort.

What Is the Duty of a Caregiver?

Different types of caregivers may have several individual duties, and specific responsibilities of these caregivers will change depending on the patient and their needs at the time. However, the job of a caregiver is to provide the necessary help to their senior in any way possible, with love.

You are going to find that caregivers have many duties and roles working together to ensure the best possible care for your loved one.

Keep reading to discover the roles of caregivers and how they affect your patient.


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  1. 12 Different Types Of Caregivers And Their Duties, Helpful Professor. Accessed November 2023.
  2. Who Are Family Caregivers?, APA. Accessed November 2023.
  3. Primary and Secondary Caregivers of People with Dementia (PwD): Differential Patterns and Implications for Psychological Support, NIH. Accessed November 2023.
  4. Hospice, Cleveland Clinic. Accessed November 2023.
  5. Top 10 Most Common Diagnoses in Hospice, Superb Hospice. Accessed November 2023.
Kayla Hopkins

Kayla Hopkins

Content Editor
Kayla Hopkins is an accomplished writer and Medicare guru serving as the Editor of MedicareFAQ.com. Upon completing her Communications degree from Ohio University, Kayla dedicated her time to understanding the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare. With her extensive background as a Licensed Insurance Agent, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her writing.
Ashlee Zareczny

Ashlee Zareczny

Compliance Manager
Ashlee Zareczny is the Compliance Manager for MedicareFAQ. As a licensed Medicare agent in all 50 states, she is dedicated to educating those eligible for Medicare by providing the necessary resources and tools. Additionally, Ashlee trains new and tenured Medicare agents on CMS compliance guidelines. Ashlee is a Medicare expert who specializes in Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D education.


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